The best and simplest way to protect your internet connection from snooping eyes while using an iPhone is to route your connection through a virtual private network, or VPN, such as NordVPN. With the NordVPN iPhone app, you can connect to servers around the world, including some intended specifically for torrenting and other activities. It’s one of the best overall VPN services we’ve tested, and an Editors’ Choice for iPhone VPN apps, along with KeepSolid VPN Unlimited.

What Is a VPN?

Most of us probably assume that our internet connections are secure from the prying eyes of spies or the nefarious activities of attackers. We shouldn’t. When you connect to the free Wi-Fi at the coffee shop, another patron on the same network may be snooping on your traffic. A savvy attacker could even create a phony Wi-Fi network and decrypt personal information you’ve sent—passwords, bank information, and so on. Out on the web, advertisers and three-letter agencies gather information about you when you visit websites; they also compare data from different sites to correlate your movements across the web.

SecurityWatchTo guard against these threats, and others, you need a VPN. When you activate a VPN connection, your web traffic travels through an encrypted tunnel. That means nobody, even people on the same network as you—even if it’s a bogus network operated by criminals—can read your traffic. From the VPN server, your traffic exits back onto the open Internet, but with a twist. To any observer, your data appears to emanate not from your iPhone, but from the VPN server—even if that server is thousands of miles from your actual location.

Journalists and activists use the location-spoofing and privacy-ensuring properties of VPNs to reach the rest of the world when operating in places with restrictive internet policies. You can also use a VPN to access region-locked content. For example, you might access free streams of BBC shows when you’re not in the United Kingdom. That said, several streaming services, and Netflix in particular, have started cracking down on users connecting via VPN. Note that these uses of VPNs could violate terms of service, or even local laws, however.

Cellular data traffic is, generally, more secure than Wi-Fi because of encryption built into the system. However, researchers have shown that even cell traffic is vulnerable. One scenario involves jamming the LTE and 3G bands and thereby forcing nearby cellphones to connect, via the less secure 2G band, to a tiny portable cell tower called a femtocell.

It’s unlikely you’ll encounter an exotic attack like this, but there are easier ways crooks can nab your data. Consider that many cell phones automatically connect to Wi-Fi networks they’ve connected to before. We’ve seen for ourselves how attackers can configure malicious access points to emulate friendly networks and trick passing phones into connecting, without the owner suspecting a thing.

A survey we recently conducted shows that many of you have never used a VPN. If that’s true for you, don’t worry! We’ve got a whole feature on how to set up and use a VPN.

Features and Pricing

The NordVPN iPhone app is available as a free download from the iTunes App Store and works on both iPhones and iPads. Note, however, that VPN apps are at a bit of a disadvantage on iOS compared with other platforms.

NordVPN (for iPhone) Map

NordVPN doesn’t offer a free subscription. The app does say you can try the first three days for free, but it also attempts to make you complete an in-app purchase to start using the service. This isn’t unusual, but it is annoying.

A 30-day subscription with NordVPN costs $11.95, whether you’re using it for iPhones or PCs. This puts it on the higher end of VPN services, price-wise. VPN protection through the Private Internet Access iPhone app, for example, costs $6.95 per month. There are also several worthy free VPN services available, if cost is a major issue. Note that NordVPN also offers a one-year plan for $83.88, a two-year plan for $95.75, and a three-year plan for $107.55. You can sign up online using a number of different payment options, including anonymous ones, but payment is handled through iTunes on the iPhone.

One subscription lets you use up to six devices at a time on NordVPN’s service. That’s a smidge above the industry average of five and is quite a good value. CyberGhost VPN pushes the envelope with ten simultaneous devices, at the same price as NordVPN. Avira Phantom VPN and Windscribe notably place no limit on the number of simultaneous devices you can use.

A subscription grants access to NordVPN’s network of 5,133 VPN servers spread across 62 different countries. That’s 1,500 servers more than the next-largest VPN provider, Private Internet Access VPN, giving NordVPN the largest network of servers we’ve yet seen.

NordVPN offers a good range of server locations, including places like Russia and China, where using a VPN is a necessity. NordVPN also offers servers in areas typically underserved by competitors, such as Africa (in Egypt and South Africa) and the Middle East (including Cyprus, Israel, and Turkey).

The Windows version of NordVPN uses the OpenVPN protocol by default. We prefer that VPN services use the OpenVPN protocol. It’s generally faster, and it’s also carefully vetted for potential security flaws because it is open source. However, Apple requires extra vetting for apps that use OpenVPN; few of the iOS VPNs we’ve seen support OpenVPN. NordVPN uses the modern IKEv2 protocol under iOS, unlike Private Internet Access and Hotspot Shield, which rely on the older IPSec protocol. KeepSolid VPN Unlimited