First released back in 1991, Linux is a family of open-source operating systems all based on the Linux kernel. Some of the most popular distributions or ‘distros’ of Linus are Debian, Fedora, and Ubuntu, and Linux is one of the most successful and popular examples of free, open-source software to date.
Many users favor Linux over other operating systems due to its open-source nature, along with its speedy updates, customization potential, range of distros, and stability. However, one of the key reasons many users cite for turning to Linux is its security.
When compared to other popular operating systems like Windows, Linux is more secure overall and does a better job of protecting user privacy too. However, it’s not unbreakable, nor is it a flawless system, and there are things that you can do, as a Linux user, to increase your online safety.
One of those things is installing a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. Just like on Windows and macOS, VPNs are also available for Linux users and can work to provide security, anonymity, and other unique advantages to their users. This guide will take an in-depth look at how VPNs work on Linux and how to find the best Linux VPN for your system.
What Exactly Is a VPN?
Standing for Virtual Private Network, a VPN is able to encrypt all internet connections from your computer or other connected devices, rerouting them through secure servers in different locations around the world. This offers a range of different benefits, with many people using VPNs due to the increased security and privacy they are able to provide.
The State of Play for Linux VPNs
We have to be honest since Linux systems represent a very small percentage of internet users when compared to those on other operating systems like Windows, macOS, or Android, they’re not exactly regarded as a big priority for many VPN providers out there.
But if you’re a long-term Linux user, you’re probably already used to that. Linux is often overlooked or regarded as less important by many software developers because they target the much larger markets first and then focus on Linux later.
You might think this means that finding a VPN for Linux will be difficult or even impossible. Luckily, there are still plenty of top-rated VPN providers out there doing the right thing for Linux fans and making their services available for Linux distros.
Sometimes, this means that the VPNs might have developed their own dedicated Linux clients and apps. Other times, it means you might have to jump through a few extra hoops in order to get the VPN up and running when compared to a Windows or Mac user.
Do I Really Need a VPN for Linux?
Since it can be a little bit trickier to set up a VPN on Linux, you might be wondering whether or not a Linux VPN is really worth it. Overall, no matter what operating system you happen to be using, getting a VPN is never a bad idea.
Even if it can take a little work to set-up, a VPN offers a range of unique benefits, and even though Linux is renowned for its strong security features, it’s still susceptible to all kinds of cyberattacks. A VPN gives you an extra barrier against those attacks, as well as providing additional benefits and uses too.
What Are the Uses of a VPN for Linux?
Here are just a few of the key uses and advantages of installing a VPN on Linux:
- Privacy – One of the main reasons why millions of people around the world, on many different operating systems, choose to install a VPN is because of privacy concerns. Simply put, when you connect to the internet, your internet service provider can see exactly what you’re doing at all times. Monitoring agencies can also track your online activity and different sites and companies can see what webpages you’re visiting, what files you’re downloading, and more. A VPN helps to eradicate all of those problems by hiding your IP address and replacing it with the address of a secure VPN server somewhere around the world.
- Security – Another major factor behind the rise in VPN usage on Linux systems and across other operating systems too is the way in which it can help to secure your online connections. When you connect to a VPN network, your data will be encrypted (usually through a 128-bit or 256-bit AES encryption system), which offers huge protection against hackers and cyberattacks of all forms. This is especially important if you’re connecting to unsecured networks in public places, but it can also be highly effective at providing additional security on your own home network too.
- Breaking Through Blocks And Restrictions – There are some countries in the world where certain sites or online services are blocked entirely, like China, for example. There are also plenty of sites that actually restrict access to their content based on where a user is located. Major streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu do this, for example. With a VPN installed, you can get around all of those different locks and restrictions by virtually changing the location of your computer, making it seem like you’re on the other side of the world, without having to leave the comfort of your own home. The uses for this are almost limitless.
Do All VPNs Work on Linux?
Sadly not. As stated earlier, since Linux is a less popular platform than something like Windows or Android, many VPN providers out there simply don’t make their services available for Linux users. This is why it might take you a little longer to find the right VPN for you. However, you can also see it as a positive: with fewer options to choose from, your search is narrowed down and it can be even easier to pick the best Linux VPN.
Do Linux VPNs Work on All Distros?
This really depends on the VPN provider you turn to. Some of them make things really easy for Linux users, creating their own dedicated Linux clients for use across a wide range of different distros like Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, Raspbian, and Arch, but others will only target one or two distros and then leave users of other systems scratching their heads.
Often, you can find workarounds and ways to get most of the big VPNs working on your Linux system, no matter which distribution you’re working with at the time, but you’ll need to be prepared for a possibly lengthy and quite technical process. Luckily, most Linux users are pretty tech-savvy people who can usually figure out these kinds of problems fairly easily and you can find all kinds of guides and tutorials online to help you out.
Can I Use a Free Linux VPN?
Can you use a free VPN on Linux? Yes. Should you use a free VPN on Linux? Maybe not. There are plenty of respectable and reputable free VPN providers out there that can work on Linux systems, but the truth is that a lot of these free services just don’t offer the same advantages as their paid counterparts.
They often have weaker security technology, fewer features, and may even include ads or data caps in order to make money from users and limit their functionality. If you just want to give a VPN a try for the first time, installing a free Linux VPN is a fine idea, but if you want maximum security and peace of mind, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan.
What Else Should I Do to Make Linux Safe?
A VPN is an excellent first step on the path to safety for your Linux system, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do. To ensure maximal protection and smooth operation of your Linux system, it’s also wise to invest in antivirus software, and anti-rootkit program, a firewall, and browser extensions like ad blockers.
How to Find the Best VPN for Linux
If you’re ready to take your online security to the next level, enjoying the peace of mind that comes from superior internet protection and anonymity, as well as all of the other VPN benefits mentioned above, it’s time to start looking for the best Linux VPN for you.
One of the most important factors for most Linux users to focus on is compatibility and ease of installation. It always helps if the VPN provider has a dedicated Linux client or app, as this makes the installation process a lot simpler. Having DD-WRT support for your router is also a nice bonus too.
In general, we also recommend checking out the security, speed, and privacy features of each VPN and the best VPN for Linux should always have an extensive server network, strong encryption technology, and a dedicated customer support department to help you out if you encounter any issues.
Be sure to read through our reviews and recommendations of Linux VPNs for more information and unbiased advice on the best possible VPN providers to turn to in order to safeguard your Linux systems and internet connections.