VPN Gate is a free VPN service that certainly entices (on the surface). After all, you can access geo-restricted websites and mask your online identity for free. However, its servers are VPN relay servers operated by people unknown to you. As such, you would not know if you can trust them and the exact encryption standard used each time you use VPN Gate.
About VPN Gate
Established in 2013, VPN Gate is typically an academic project operated by the Graduate School of the University of Tsukuba, Japan. It is open-source and community-based. Hence, using VPN Gate is free. No user registration is required; anyone can use their network of servers (public VPN relay servers) provided by volunteers across the globe.
VPN Gate came about because of the team’s need to overcome the firewalls put in place by the authorities to restrict access to specific websites and streaming platforms. Also, they wanted to give the means to mask your actual IP to preserve anonymity so that no one can trace back to you. Finally, they want to ensure that your online activities are encrypted and safe from prying eyes, especially when using public wireless networks.
How Does VPN Gate Work?
VPN Gate’s heartbeat lies in the network infrastructure provided by volunteers who agree to participate in this global project. To start using VPN Gate, you will need to install the SoftEther VPN software and then connect to one of the VPN Gate servers listed on their website.
|Number of Servers||Varies (Servers list will frequently change)|
|Locations||Mostly in Japan and South Korea|
|Device Compatibility||Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android, Supported routers|
Privacy and Security
For a free VPN, the security standards deployed by VPN Gate are pretty good. It supports SoftEther VPN, L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and Microsoft SSTP protocols. The following are the protocols you can use when connecting:
- Windows – SoftEther VPN (Recommended), L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN, and MS-SSTP
- Mac OS X – L2TP/IPsec (Recommended) and OpenVPN
- iPhone / iPad (iOS) – L2TP/IPsec (Recommended) and OpenVPN
- Android – L2TP/IPsec (Recommended) and OpenVPN
Although VPN Gate recommends you use the SoftEther VPN Client and the VPN Gate Client Plug-in (an expansion module of SoftEther VPN Client), you can also use L2TP/IPsec, OpenVPN Client, or MS-SSTP VPN Client.
Its VPN protocol is also known as SSL-VPN because it uses SSL/TLS encryption and TCP port 443. Hence, making it difficult to distinguish from the regular HTTPS traffic.
VPN Gate emphasizes SoftEther, a free and open-source VPN platform alternative; this is perhaps the unique take that VPN Gate has, compared with others.
SoftEther VPN is a powerful multi-protocol VPN application that can run on popular platforms like Windows, Linux, Mac, Solaris, and FreeBSD. It is easy to migrate from OpenVPN to SoftEther VPN since its functions are similar to OpenVPN. Its highly-optimized SSL-VPN protocol is robust and resilient against most types of firewalls due to its high throughput and low latency capabilities.
Firewalls find it hard to detect SoftEther VPN’s transport packets because the latter deploys Ethernet over HTTPS for camouflage purposes. It is no wonder that VPN Gate had its client and server applications expand SoftEther VPN’s functions.
VPN Gate allows up to 256-bit AES encryption. But, in reality, the encryption you use depends on the server’s operator, in this case, the volunteers. Most servers report deploying AES-128 encryption only – not that safe after all. Whatever it is, you won’t know the encryption standard used by the server you connect to, which is worrisome.
Also, the encryption standard varies from server to server; this makes me feel edgy as I do not know how secure my data truly is.
VPN Gate claims that the connection logs policies are specified and managed by the respective VPN server that you connect to. The details are in the real-time list of servers on their website. Most state that they have a two weeks logging policy.
However, VPN Gate’s policy adds a statement confirming that they keep VPN connection logs of the public VPN relay servers for three or more months; this tells me that VPN Gate keeps another log file detailing the connections separately. If you’re one for privacy, I am afraid you won’t get much privacy with VPN Gate.
Also, the information recorded includes the raw IP address and hostname of the source VPN client computer (a huge red alert). Although VPN Gate is in Japan, which is not in the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (countries that share surveillance data), its servers are distributed worldwide; this can include countries in the said alliance region.
Furthermore, VPN Gate agrees to share the logs with the authorities should the need arise. Although they justify this to combat the exploitation of VPN Gate for illegal purposes, the fact that they will disclose your personal information remains; this is worrisome.
Simply put, VPN Gate does monitor your online activity when you use them; this is enough to give me shudders.
VPN Gate claims that because they use volunteer-based servers around the world, these servers are not within the constraints of a data center nor a specific IP address range. As such, the IPs are well-distributed. Also, each VPN server uses a dynamic IP address.
Volunteers often come and go, so the IP addresses regularly change, a feature that emphasizes one of the benefits of a VPN, making it hard for service providers to block your IP. You can then access geo-restricted content and bypass firewalls put in place by the authorities. Check out their list of active servers on their website. Remember to refresh the page.
However, we cannot ascertain the exact number of servers and locations because the servers run by volunteers come and go. Hence, each day, the number of available servers varies. Also, VPN Gate does not provide a complete list of all servers on its website. What you see on their website is only a partial list.
That said, the number of servers is impressive, with most of them located in Asia (mainly in Japan and South Korea).
Most VPN Gate’s servers are in Japan (Asia region). So, if you’re in this region or you connect to a server in Japan, your speeds are good. I ran some tests and obtained a solid 193.96 Mbps download and 134.79 Mbps upload speeds.
I also tried several servers in South Korea and Thailand. Speeds on those were also acceptable at around 100 Mbps.
However, my attempts were unsuccessful when connecting to servers in Russia, Ukraine, and a few other locations. Some servers had slow offer speeds, which proved unsuitable, especially for torrenting or streaming. I finally managed to connect to a server in the US, but the speed registered was dismal.
Overall, the average claimed speeds offered by VPN Gate servers range between 74Mbps to 300Mbps. For a better VPN experience, you should connect to the Japanese servers or other servers in the Asia region.
Media Streaming With VPN Gate
VPN Gate utilizes servers run by volunteers across the globe; this means that the IP addresses will keep changing, a factor that is useful when accessing geo-restricted streaming sites. I was able to access Netflix through VPN Gate, which was great. To enjoy a seamless streaming experience, go for the servers that are in Japan; most offer high speeds.
Can You Torrent With VPN Gate?
When torrenting, one of the crucial factors is speed. VPN Gate offers a praiseworthy number of servers with good enough speeds for torrenting, as shown above. However, we use a VPN when torrenting to preserve our anonymity, and since anonymity is not their strength (they store a lot of data on you), the question is should you torrent using VPN Gate?
Customer Support and Help Channels
VPN Gate has no email, phone, or chat support. They do have a decent support forum, and it is overall actively participated by the community. However, some topics took months for a reply to come in.
Since VPN Gate is a free service, it is not fair to expect the same type of support from any other commercial providers. So, a support forum is good enough for a free service.
VPN Gate Price (It’s Free!)
Using VPN Gate will not cost you a single cent. It is free. Since they operate in the National University of Tsukuba and the Japanese national universities prohibit profitable activities, VPN Gate will remain a non-paying service.
VPN Gate Pros and Cons
Pros of VPN Gate
- 100% FreeOpen-source
- Potentially unlimited number of IP addresses
- Relatively easy-to-use
- Can unblock Netflix
Cons of VPN Gate
- Speeds are mostly not great
- Not ideal for privacy (keeps logs)
- Security dependent on servers manned by volunteers
- Not suitable for torrenting due to lack of privacy
Conclusion: Is VPN Gate Legit?
VPN Gate is open-source and free to use. Its infrastructure is community-powered and manned by volunteers across the globe. However, with most free services, there’s always a caveat. VPN Gate keeps extensive logs on you, and the servers are operated by anonymous volunteers who are not accountable.
So, there’s no way you can fully trust these servers and their operators. I am a total privacy freak, so VPN Gate is not for me. However, whether VPN Gate is good for you depends on your preferences and online activities.