The Swiss company launched ProtonVPN in beta for desktop users back in March, before rolling it out to the public a few months later. Due to high demand, the company had to install a waiting list for the free version of the service, which was removed in September.
ProtonMail offers a number of pricing tiers for its ProtonVPN service, ranging from free through to $ 24 per month depending on your requirements. For example, the top tier serves up ProtonVPN access on up to 10 devices with server access in all available countries, while the free incarnation has a one device limitation and server access in just three.
So far, the company has only offered a native application for desktop users, however given that the service is built on the open source, open-standards OpenVPN, it has been compatible with other VPN clients that support OpenVPN. So while it has been technically possible to access ProtonVPN on iOS or Android devices through installing a third-party OpenVPN app, it hasn’t exactly been friction-free. With a dedicated ProtonVPN app available now on Google Play, ProtonVPN is now open to millions more mainstream users.
VPNs on the rise
By way of a quick recap, ProtonMail was founded out of CERN in 2013 and, after a period in beta, the company launched its encrypted email service globally in March, 2016 with the promise of client-side encryption for all. In the intervening months, ProtonMail has added two-factor authentication (2FA) and support for Tor, while as of last month it introduced support for desktop email clients such as Outlook and Thunderbird.
VPNs have served as popular online privacy tools for years, helping internet users hide their true location to access services usually restricted to other regions. In the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, and growing concerns around digital privacy in general, VPN and encrypted messaging services reported a surge in downloads.
“Strong encryption and privacy are a social and economic necessity,” noted ProtonMail cofounder Andy Yen. “Not only does this technology protect activists and dissidents, it is also key to protecting democracy in the digital age. “There are 2 billion Android users worldwide, and being able to provide each and every one of them access to secure Internet is a major milestone in our mission to make online privacy a reality again for all Internet users.”
There is no shortage of VPNs for sure, but ProtonVPN is striving to address many of the known “security shortcomings” in existing services, such as those that use pre-shared keys or insecure protocols and encryption. ProtonVPN promises a secure core architecture that channels traffic “through multiple encrypted tunnels” to defend against network-based attacks, similar to how Tor works.
Additionally, ProtonVPN isn’t ad-supported and is available completely for free, without any prompts to upgrade to access unlimited data.
“It is important to make the tools that protect online privacy and freedom widely accessible,” added Yen. “For this reason, we are releasing ProtonVPN on Android for free, without bandwidth limits or other data caps.”