If you’re familiar with VPNs, you’ll likely have heard of Private Internet Access, or PIA for short.
PIA is a Virtual Private Network (VPN) based in Colorado, USA. The parent company is London Trust Media, Inc.
Right off the bat, that might be a big “no” for many users simply because of the jurisdiction implications; the USA is part of several groups, namely the Five Eyes which allows other members of the group to share surveillance data.
PIA still somehow manages to make the best VPN list on pretty much all VPN review sites (and ranks quite high too). How come?
It’s due to the fact that PIA is the only VPN service with proof of not storing and retaining customer data. No other VPN services have achieved this feat. More on this below.
PIA is an extremely well-known VPN service that started operating in 2010, so it’s had 9 years to figure out how to deliver a great service. Over time PIA has reached a significant number of users, and received global recognition for its services:
Here’s a 5-minute video review we made (but keep reading because our written review is more in-depth):
PIA VPN Pros
Privacy and Security: Praises all-around. Absolutely zero logging policy.
When it comes to privacy and security, the situation may not seem ideal because of the fact that PIA is US-based.
However, Private Internet Access has a strong policy when it comes to protecting customer information.
Besides the fact that this company maintains a no-logging policy, it has not only once but twice proven loyalty to its customers.
PIA has proved its no-logs claim in court, twice.
Not many VPN providers can boast that they’ve never revealed any information about subscribers to the authorities. In fact, the closest second in terms of proving their no log policy is probably a three-way tie between NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and VyprVPN since they’ve all gone through independent third-party security audits.
PIA definitely deserves credit and declaration as a secure VPN option for providing clear evidence of its commitment to user anonymity and security.
Servers and Locations: Plenty to choose from
Today, Private Internet Access VPN has over 3300 servers in 32 countries.
Although the number of servers is inferior compared to other premium VPN providers, offering over 3300 servers is impressive nonetheless.
The servers are well-deployed around the globe, meaning a great range of access for users. This number also seems to change ever so often; we’ve seen the server count at 3700+ in March 2019.
This geographical diversity includes North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Put simply, their servers have most of the world covered.
It’s worth mentioning that PIA doesn’t offer any servers in Russia, due to the new VPN laws recently implemented there.
Speed and Performance: Plenty of speed to go around!
When it comes to overall speed, Private Internet Access fares well against its competition.
However, the VPN’s speed depends on a number of factors.
There are a few speed qualifications that need to be taken into consideration.
When it comes to latency, we only saw a small 10% increase in ping from EU to the US – a great selling point for gamers in particular.
PIA handled the download speed test like a champ as well.
The international test score for PIA was reducing download speeds by less than 30% across the US and EU. In the international upload test, Private Internet Access slowed upload speeds by less than 30%, ranking it among the best providers in this scenario.
North American VPN Server Speed Test
(to NA Server)
(to EU Server)
|7 ms (+2 ms)||Ping
|99 ms (+9 ms)|
(-26.1 Mbps, -27%)
(-19.2 Mbps, -22%)
(-27.2 Mbps, -28%)
(-7.5 Mbps, -13%)
European VPN Server Speed Test
(to NA Server)
(to EU Server)
|105 ms (+12 ms)||Ping
|30 ms (+3 ms)|
(-23.7 Mbps, -26%)
(-28.6 Mbps, -29%)
(-18.3 Mbps, -31%)
(-28 Mbps, -28%)
Asian VPN Server Speed Test
(to NA Server)
(to EU Server)
|294 ms (+16 ms)||Ping
|310 ms (+29 ms)|
(-28.6 Mbps, -61%)
(-17.3 Mbps, -30%)
(-3.3 Mbps, -42%)
(-2.4 Mbps, -38%)
All in all, Private Internet Access won’t be setting any records with its speeds, but it’s definitely up there among the fastest VPNs. If you take a look at the overall package with this in mind, then PIA is more than recommendable as a VPN provider.
If speed is your deciding factor though, you’ll definitely find faster VPNs.
Netflix Test – Passed!
Our test revealed that Netflix (US) works on PIA’s servers. In fact, the very first server we connected to worked flawlessly.
You can watch our video on the bottom of this VPN review for additional proof. There are also hundreds of user reviews on various forums and the like on the matter.
With PIA VPN you can surely get US Netflix access. There may be minor hiccups but you’ll get complete, unrestricted Netflix soon enough.
Not only Netflix, but you can unblock various streaming services like YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, etc. PIA isn’t the best for unlocking these services since they don’t guarantee or advertise this feature, but we see that the streaming services are unblocked reliably. The VPNs that do advertise this feature are ahead of PIA in that regard, however.
Private Internet Access offers a wide range of features, and that includes P2P support.
Many of the servers are optimized for peer-to-peer activities and can handle the load.
There were no mentions on the PIA website about any policies concerning torrent downloads, nor were there any indications that they promote it.
Worst case scenario, the user is still technically safe since PIA does not keep logs anyway.
IP and DNS Leak Test: Another pass for PIA!
When it comes to IP leaks, DNS leaks, and WebRTC leaks, Private Internet Access came out squeaky clean in our tests, meaning no leaks of any nature were found.
We ran a leak test for IPv6 after and the results came back clean.
It’s worth bearing in mind that there have been reported cases where users have dealt with the WebRTC bug while using PIA.
In order to prevent a WebRTC leak, you may need to disable WebRTC in your browser.
Encryption and Protocols: Strong and secure, just the way we like it.
Private Internet Access “uses the open source, industry standard OpenVPN for providing a secure VPN tunnel”.
PIA does offer a few different options, giving customers the freedom to choose the level of encryption for their VPN sessions.
When choosing an encryption option, you need to consider the 3 default options (if you’re super serious about security like us): data encryption, data authentication, and handshake.
Data encryption is the symmetric cipher algorithm itself, used for encrypting and decrypting your data.
The fastest encryption mode is AES 128-bit in CBC mode (due to a lower encryption standard). There is also the possibility of using AES 256-bit (128 x 2) in CBC mode or no encryption at all.
Having this encryption means that your IP will be hidden and your login details will be encrypted. The data, however, will be totally exposed.
Speaking of data authentication, it’s a feature used to protect you from active attacks.
If you’re not concerned about attacks of this type, you might as well turn such authentication off.
The fastest authentication mode is SHA1, more exactly HMAC using Secure Hash Algorithm (160-bit). Another possibility is SHA256 (256-bit).
The Handshake Encryption is actually a secret key shared between you and the server, used to establish a secure connection. PIA offers 6 possible keys: RSA-2048, RSA-3072, RSA-4096, ECC-256k1, ECC-256r1, ECC-521.
The ECC (Elliptic Curve Cryptography) option comes with a warning.
Due to certain NSA revelations, the ECC keys may be susceptible to cracking. Because of the fact that it is not proven that ECC keys lead to endangerment, they are still available at your own risk.
What’s more, PIA has picked the most reasonable default settings and highly recommends to customers to stick with them.
Depending on your needs and ultimate goal, there are 4 options for you to choose from.
Default Recommended Protection
- Data encryption: AES-128
- Data authentication: SHA1
- Handshake: RSA-2048
All Speed No Safety
- Data encryption: None
- Data authentication: None
- Handshake: ECC-256k1
- Data encryption: AES-256
- Data authentication: SHA256
- Handshake: RSA-4096
- Data encryption: AES-128
- Data authentication: None
- Handshake: RSA-2048
Sometimes making the right choice is difficult. With PIA, the 4 options are all pretty solid.
Kill Switch: Kill switch activated for your safety!
One of the many great security features that PIA has deployed is a Kill Switch.
This is very useful on the off-chance that your VPN could leak either the IP address/DNS when losing connectivity; in such cases, the kill-switch automatically disconnects and shuts down every internet connected app and keeps you anonymous.
Pricing & Plans: Affordable and flexible
When it comes to a long-term subscription plan, Private Internet Access is one of the cheapest VPNs on the market.
The price range for PIA’s services used to start from $69.95 for two years (or $2.91 per month) and scaled up to $39.95 per year ($3.33 per month), which made it financially accessible for any customer.
In early 2019 Private Internet Access VPN bumped up their prices slightly:
Then they brought the prices down in the middle of 2019 by giving 3 extra months for free when signing up for 2 years:
PIA, like most other VPNs, offers 3 price plans:
- 1 Month Plan – $9.95/mo
- 1 Year Plan – $71.88 or $5.99/mo
- 2 Years Plan + 3 Months – $83.87 or $3.11/mo
The Monthly plan is the most expensive one, with a price of $9.95 per month, but as you’d expect, Private Internet Access VPN offers significant discounts for long-term contracts.
The Two Year plan works out most cost-effective for customers, costing on average, $3.11 per month; $6.84 cheaper than the Monthly plan (-69% discount).
If you’re determined to opt for PIA, we recommend going for the two-year plan, as it makes the most sense financially.
Apart from these 3 plans, PIA offers VPN for businesses, with rich features such as admin portals and single-sign on with G-Suite.
Private Internet Access provides seven-day money back guarantee, allowing you to try out their service for a week, claiming your money back if you’re not satisfied. As a result, there is no free trial.
On a side note, it seems PIA is following NordVPN’s footsteps in using a countdown timer. This is a psychological tactic to trigger a FOMO response. At the same time, this is the real deal since it’s the lowest price offered. PIA does not really do promotions.
PIA keeps changing their prices around and it’s a little sad to see a bump in the prices. We should remember that they’re a business and price changes seemed to be long overdue. If you’re scared of another price increase, you’d better sign up now while it’s this cheap!
Payment Methods: You can pay with just about anything!
When it comes to paying, PIA accepts all kinds of payment methods. You can pay with a Credit Card, PayPal, Amazon Pay, or MINT, Beam, and WebMoney.
A big bonus to PIA’s payment options is the ability to pay anonymously with many major brand gift cards like Walmart, Best Buy or Starbucks.
The cherry on the top? You can also pay with cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Zcash, Ether, Litecoin, etc.).
Apart from payments being completely anonymous, you’ll receive instant access and 100% security.
Refund Policy: Fast & reliable within 7 days (confirmed)
If you’re not 100% satisfied with PIA VPN, you can get your money back.
We tested this ourselves, just check out how we did it:
As you can see in the email log, the whole process took less than 12 hours. They got back to us with a confirmation of the refund request within an hour.
Although they didn’t delete the account as requested, they did remove the payment information and the account is no longer active:
All the best VPN companies have a fast and reliable refund system. Private Internet Access is one of them.
Device Compatibility: How would you like to access your VPN?
PIA lets you use their service on up to five devices simultaneously.
You can use Private Internet Access for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and others.
PIA also pushes for updates and changes. One recent UI changes they’ve made are shown below for the new Windows version.
This ensures your app will keep up with the latest trends and more. You won’t feel like your VPN is dated and there are some nice features you will enjoy.
On a side note: Finally! A dark version so we aren’t blinded by the PIA VPN client every time we open it.
Sign Up Process: Easy and anonymous
As mentioned before, PIA pushes for anonymity with features like crypto payments and giftcards. You can even use a fake name if you wish. This means that the level of personal identification is entirely up to you – a choice we love to see offered.
They’ll randomly generate a username for you if you wish. This definitely helps avoid any links to your other online profiles–handy!
Once you complete your payment, you can move to the download area and choose suitable software for your needs and particular devices.
Apart from PIA being available for almost any platform, you can also use third-party software such as OpenVPN GUI, OpenVPN Connect (iOS), or OpenVPN for Android in the download process.
There are 6 simple steps for installing and connecting to PIA VPN:
- Download and open
- Select “Yes”
- Follow the installation steps
- Launch / Select “Finish”
- Enter your login credentials (received in your email)
Paying with crypto is more convenient and quite anonymous. You can always buy cryptocurrencies OTC and your identity is not linked with a wallet. Gift cards work the same way if you buy them with cash.
PIA VPN Cons
Customer Support: Limited live chat hours
Most well-renowned VPN services offer 24/7 live chat support.
This, however, isn’t the case with Private Internet Access. In fact, they only relied on a ticket system for some time.
In 2018 PIA implemented a live chat system and finalized the rollout in early 2019. They now have live chat but only from 9 am to 6 pm MST.
The lack of immediate customer support is still the main disadvantage of PIA’s service.
Be that as it may, PIA compensates for its lack of on-demand support with an above-average FAQ, blog, and website in general. The knowledge base of PIA is compiled with lots of practical articles, information based on the most common customer’s questions. The FAQ is organized into 5 different sections, making it easy to get around and find the answers to your issues.
We tested the ticketing system ourselves, and our experience is as follows:
After filling out the contact form, we received an automated response via email. The message told us that the ticket had been received and would be reviewed shortly by a support agent. A few hours later, we got our response.
With all this in mind, we would not rank PIA’s customer service very high. While Private Internet Access advertises 24/7 support, this is far from true.
The likely hood of you needing to contact customer support is quite slim, though. PIA is a fantastic product and works out of the box. We only contacted them to test the response times and to test the refund system (which went through quite fast).
What Do PIA Customers Think?
Some people on Twitter have been using PIA for some years and reports zero issues:
I agree wholeheartedly. Been a user I think 4 years this month and not one problem. Really great service.
— Buttersby Winklsotch (@PrinceOfPartys) February 12, 2019
And on Reddit, PIA is one of the most favorited VPNs due to its court-proven no log policy.
PIA As A Business
Like other well-performing VPN companies, there isn’t much known about PIA.
We do know that PIA’s parent company, Londont Trust Media, Inc. is one of the key players in the technology industry. Their portfolio consists of Private Internet Access, IRC, Linux Journal, and BlockExplorer.
PIA also loves some controversy. They hired the ex-CEO of the infamous hacked Bitcoin exchange, Mt. Gox as CTO of London Trust Media.
There’s some real human element to this story: the co-founder and chairman of London Trust Media, Andrew Lee, believes in mistakes (and learning from them), forgiveness and progressing forward. That’s the type of leadership PIA is running under. He believes that in order to win the war, people must learn to forgive and move forward.
If we, as a society, do not give second chances to those who fall, then we as a society will cease to progress. It will have a detrimental chilling effect. I’ve been blessed with the ability to live out my vision of this world, and as many of you know, it has been reflected in the absolute position we, as a company, have taken in our philosophies. Privacy. Community. Transparency. Self Defense. We’re really all about power to the people.
And so the question is, does giving someone who led the way in the earliest days of Bitcoin with the roughest of early day hacks, arguably, helping cryptocurrency get to where it is today, a second chance, bring power to the people?
I strongly believe it does. And, I encourage every company in the cypherpunk space to do the same. The battle will be rough. There will be great successes and great failures. But, in the end, I am confident we will create a world which we all love living in.
Also, a little known fact: Andrew Lee (the same co-founder and chairman of LTM) is a crown prince of the Imperial Family of Korea. Meaning he has some royalty in him!
Conclusion – Highly Recommended
All in all, Private Internet Access is a strong VPN, and a worthy of being considered one of the best VPN services available.
Although it has its drawbacks and disadvantages—namely the US jurisdiction and weak customer support—the features it offers are worth the competitively low asking price.
Remember, while Private Internet Access offers strong security features, it’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s most important to you. PIA was mainly designed to protect its users and provide them with a secure VPN tunnel with extra powerful encryption protocols.
The court-proven no logging policy is something that few other VPN services can boast about, which ranks Private Internet Access (London Trust Media, Inc) considerably higher in terms of security.
With its wide array of servers around the world and ability to bypass Netflix or BBC iPlayer region blocking, Private Internet Access VPN is a top-tier pick, without a doubt. The service they provide is definitely worth considering. We highly recommend this VPN.
Remember, PIA also offers a 7-day money back guarantee, so you’re free to give its service a try risk-free and find out for yourself whether it’s the VPN for you: