A VPN is a method to secure and anonymize internet connections using state of the art encryption technology. It protects you against monitoring and renders your identity untraceable in the process, by hiding your IP-address so you can use the internet, Popcorn Time included, safely and anonymously.
If one of your purposes for using a VPN is to be online anonymously, it’s imperative to select a service that doesn’t keep any logs. This is the only way to be sure your use of their service can never be disclosed to anyone.
If you’re planning on using it with Popcorn Time, you also need to make sure it allows filesharing/P2P to prevent connections to the BitTorrent network from being blocked. Fortunately, many VPN-providers comply with both and we’ve picked out three that each distinguish themselves in their own regard.
Notice: Downloading and sharing copyrighted material is illegal and we recommend you only use legal streaming services. This article is for information purposes only and are in no way to be considered as suggestions towards illegal activities. Ultimately, if and how you use Popcorn Time is your own personal responsibility.
How a VPN works
VPN is short for Virtual Private Network and works by creating a secure connection between the user and a VPN server. All internet traffic passes through the server and is encoded using essentially unbreakable encryption technology making it unreadable to intruders.
Assuming that online security and privacy is a priority, this has two desirable outcomes: The encryption makes is impossible to monitor the internet connection and anonymizes it in the process by hiding the user’s private IP-address.
VPNs are also an effective way to gain access to geo restricted websites such as Netflix USA from outside the US by connecting to a server in the relevant area. Operating through the IP-address of the VPN server, the user appears to be physically present in its location granting access to whatever services that are confined to the district.
They are also widely used to bypass censorship by unlocking restricted websites, to protect private information when using open WiFi and similar situations demanding security and/or privacy.
While the technology is sophisticated, using it is a breeze as the connection is established and managed with client software designed specifically for the task. Every serious VPN provider has their own range of software to help you make the most of their service whether you’re using Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Android, iOS etc.
An in-depth explanation of how VPNs work can be found here.
Using Popcorn Time with a VPN
Watching videos with Popcorn Time you’re taking part in the BitTorrent network and are yourself also sharing files with others. Since the network is public it’s free for anyone to use but also very easy to monitor.
It’s a clear copyright infringement to both download and share content you don’t own the rights to, so you’re most likely breaking the law if you’re watching something with Popcorn Time. There are companies that track and log who’s downloading and sharing what with torrents and make a living selling the information to the copyright holders who use it to take legal actions against the violators.
A VPN hides your private IP-address making it impossible to trace the download or sharing of a movie or TV-show back to you. Any attempt to trace an anonymous VPN connection ends at the VPN-server and can’t be associated with the user.
Recommended VPN providers
What you want is a VPN service that takes your privacy seriously while offering a fast product that’s affordable, safe and easy to use. There are hundreds of providers so there’s absolutely no reason why you would have to compromise.
We’ve done the research for you and put together a short list of a few excellent services in different price ranges that all live up to four simple but essential requirements:
- Security: This translates to using a proper encryption protocol. The best one is OpenVPN.
- Privacy: Go for a VPN provider that doesn’t keep logs and generally takes your privacy seriously. This is probably the most important feature if your goal is to be anonymous.
- Speed: Downloading files, gaming or browsing the web shouldn’t be impaired by a VPN connection. This means you should prefer a provider with a fast network with plenty of servers to choose from.
- Allows filesharing/P2P: Imperative if you want to use Popcorn Time or torrents in general. Most providers allow filesharing but not all so make sure yours does.
ExpressVPN – Top of the line
ExpressVPN is arguably the best VPN service available with a huge and very fast network of servers across the world with virtually no speed loss. With servers in over 100 locations spread across 78 countries you can almost always connect to server physically close to you which ensures a fast connection.
Thanks to the simple and intuitive user interface it’s very easy to use and comes with useful features such as a fully automated speedtest to help you pick out the fastest server.
The subscription is $99.95 per year or $12.95 for a single month and can be tried risk free thanks to the 30-day no questions asked money back guarantee.
It also includes Smart DNS; a useful feature to extend the use of the VPN service to other units such as Smart TVs where it provides access to region-limited content such as Netflix USA, British BBC etc. regardless of location.
TorGuard – Great value
TorGuard has a slightly smaller but still large network with 63 locations in 49 countries offering plenty of opportunities for most to connect to several fast servers near by.
Their Stealth VPN technology prevents Deep Packet Inspection; a method occationally used by ISPs, online services etc. to trace VPN connections making TorGuard usable in countries such as China, UAE etc. where VPNs are blocked.
A subscription is $59.99 per year or $9.99 one month at a time and is offered with a 7-day money back guarantee.
Private Internet Access – As cheap as a great VPN gets
Private Internet Access offers 36 server locations in 25 countries which might seem small compared to ExpressVPN and TorGuard but is sufficient for most as their servers are distributed well across the world.
It is a great choice for a general purpose VPN and works well anytime privacy and security is a priority. Being both very affordable and completely anonymous, it’s a great bargain and offers oustanding value for money.
It’s only $39.95 for a year or $6.95 for a single month and comes with a 7-day money back guarantee.
Anonymous VPN – Built in to the time4popcorn app
The time4popcorn fork and the Torrents Time browser plugin both have a built-in VPN client with support for Anonymous VPN making it very easy to use with both. There’s also a regular VPN client so it can easily be used for other purposes than Popcorn Time.
It’s a pretty good VPN provider that will keep you both safe and anonymous, and they are of course also allowing P2P.
Should you always use a VPN?
Whether or not you’re using Popcorn Time it’s always a good idea to use a VPN. Without it, you’re openly broadcasting everything you do on the internet to anybody that bothers listening.
This is of course relevant with regard to criminals trying to get access to sensitive information such as emails, credit card numbers, PayPal account etc., but also in relation to the ever increasing level of surveillance and censorship carried out by private companies and our nation’s governments.
Using a VPN doesn’t make you completely invincible to all such threats but provides an extremely strong first line of defence that’s virtually impervious in most situations.
Can you use Popcorn Time without a VPN?
Technically speaking there’s no problem using Popcorn Time without a VPN but it makes you very vulnerable. Popcorn Time uses public trackers which means everybody can monitor who’s downloading and sharing on the network.
Your public IP-address, which can ultimately be traced back to you as an individual, is easily obtained along with proof of your download history. It’s exactly this type of evidence that’s being used in the still increasing number of cases where torrent users have been sued or fined for illegal downloading.
About free VPNs
Free VPN providers exist but can in general not be recommended. It costs money to run and operate a network of servers so the providers of costless (“There is no such thing as a free lunch, but there is always free cheese in a mousetrap.”)
VPNs must generate their revenue elsewhere – most likely by slipping heaps of ads in to your webbrowser and/or by logging and selling off information about your browsing habits, maybe even what you’re using Popcorn Time for.
Furthermore, free VPN solutions are usually limited in bandwidth (speed) and/or have a download cap. Both seriously hinder use with Popcorn Time since smooth playback requires relatively high download rates and because video files are usually rather large.
What you’re looking for in a VPN service is privacy and speed, and you can’t have both for free, sorry.
An option is to take advantage of the money back guarantee offered by both ExpressVPN, TorGuard and Private Internet Access. As long as you make sure to cancel the subscription within the time limit they’ll give you a full refund even if you’ve used the service.
Learn more in our piece on free VPN for Popcorn Time.