Best VPNs for Australia

AustraliaSo, before we take a look at which VPNs that we think would be the best choices for those in Australia, let us take a look at why many in Australia may be looking for a personal VPN.  In early 2015, Australia passed new data retention laws requiring all ISPs and telecommunications providers to store metadata for all their users for a period of two years. This means that much of their customers personal information must be logged and kept for a period of two years and be at the disposal of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) or any other agency that the current Communications Minister deems needs access for the protection of Australian citizens.

This essentially gives the Australian government a carte blanche way to access every communication, whether through the Internet or telecommunications providers, of everyone in Australia.  Although the directive does not look at the what of said communication, it does record the who, when, where, which device, and type of communication of every Australian message, phone call, VoIP, or any other form of communication including all Internet transactions.  Now that we know why every Australian needs a personal VPN service, lets take a look at some of the best in the business.

RankProviderPriceRatingSoftwareLink
1OverPlay$6.25
37% Off
9.8
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
2IPVanish$4.87
60% Off
9.9
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
3PIA$3.33
52% Off
9.5
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
4ExpressVPN$8.32
35% Off
9.7
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site
5VyprVPN$6.25
25% Off
9.6
Read Review
SoftwareVisit Site

How Are Australian Privacy Rights Being Eroded?

New legislation by the Australian government has led to the erosion of every Australian citizen’s privacy.  The first is the new copyright law that encourages the ISPs to work with copyright owners in the prosecution of piracy.  It requires them to come up with a code that establishes a three strikes rule.  They are first to send an educational letter about piracy to offenders, next a warning letter, and finally a final notice.  After sending a final notice ISPs will be required to notify copyright owners and aid in their pursuit of damages from piracy offenders.  It also outlines what steps will be necessary to be able to recoup damages from those suspected of piracy by copyright owners.

The second also involves not only ISPs but all communication providers.  It requires them to collect metadata on all Australian communications and store it for two years.  It also requires them to provide several federal agencies access to all this metadata, except that of journalists without a judicial warrant.  The data that is required to be collected is outlined below:

  • Information that is collected about customers of communication companies: (who)
    • All name or address information;
    • Any other identifying information;
      • Any information relating to any contract for communication services or devices;
        • Billing or payment information;
        • Contact information provided.
  • The source of a communication (which device)
    • The phone number, IMSI, IMEI from which the call or SMS was made;
      • Identifying details (such as username, address, number) of the account, service or device from which a text, voice, or multi-media communication was made;
      • Examples include email, Voice over IP (VoIP), instant messages;
  • The destination of a communication (where destination)
    • Identifiers of the destination account;
      • Where it was sent;
      • Where it may have been forwarded, routed through, or transferred.
  • The date, time and duration of a communication, or of its connection to a relevant service.
    • The date and time which includes the time zone (when)
      • The start of the communication;
      • The end of the communication;
      • The connection to the relevant service;
      • The disconnection from the relevant service.
  • The type of a communication and relevant service used in connection with a communication (type of communication)
    • The type of communication; Examples: Voice, SMS, email, chat, forum, social media.
    • The type of the relevant service; Examples: ADSL, Wi-Fi, VoIP, cable, GPRS, VoLTE, LTE.
    • The features of the relevant service that were, or would have been, used by or
      enable for the communication.

      • Examples: call waiting, call forwarding, data volume usage.
  • The location of equipment or a line used in connection with a communication (where  both the originator and website destination or contact)

    • The location of the equipment or line at the start of the communication;
    • The location of the equipment or line at the end of the communication.
    • Examples: Cell towers, Wi-Fi hotspots.

What is being collected could be increased if the Prime Minister through legislative access deems that it is necessary to Australia’s security.  As you can see the sheer amount of data that the legislation requires to be collected will allow ISPs as well as the ASIO and other federal agencies to not only develop profiles of all of its citizens but also all those they contact when those communications are through Australian ISPs.  This means it could include information on non-citizens indirectly.  Also requiring all contract information including contacts who may have nothing to do with said contract erodes the Australia citizen’s rights to privacy even more.  The fact that agents of the ASIO are exempt from prosecution for a wide range of illegal activities in the course of conducting “operations” makes their carte blanche access to ISPs even more ominous.  This makes us wonder if the (what – Content) of your communications might also be at risk. Because of this we recommend that everyone in Australia (either living, working, or just visiting) use a VPN for all of their communications.

What is a VPN and How Can It Help Anonymize You?

So, now that we have looked at some of the best VPNs for Australia, let us examine what a VPN is and exactly how it can help you, as well as, denizens of Australia anonymize themselves from government surveillance.  A VPN is a group of computers comprising a private network which allows personal or confidential information to be sent securely over another network.  In the case of a personal VPN service, this network works by creating an SSL secured tunnel through which encrypted data is sent between your computer, smartphone, tablet, or other device and the VPN network server that it is connected to.  This allows you to communicate confidentially with the VPN server which then relays your data, request, or search to the open Internet.  Since this request is sent from the VPN server IP address, this is the location which is seen by those on the Internet, which protects your true location from others.  Additionally, since the VPN service shares IP addresses among its users, transactions cannot be traced back to individual users which further increases your anonymity.

How Can You Benefit From an Australian VPN?

Using a VPN when visiting, working, or living in Australia will keep you more anonymous by limiting the information that ISPs are able to keep about your Internet usage to who you are and how long you were on.  From there, transactions will be further obfuscated because the IP address is shared between many users and transactions cannot be traced back to individual users.  Thus, ISPs will not be able to see your Internet destination URLs.  Additionally, since all traffic between your machine and the VPN server is encrypted, they, nor others with more nefarious goals, will not be able to snoop on its contents.

Using the VPN service for encrypted VoIP communications and other services like encrypted messaging can help to further anonymize and secure not only your Internet traffic, but also voice, and other types of communications.  They will not be able to see your final destination website, nor who you contacted, or what your communication was about.  Australia has also passed stricter laws regarding copyright on digital media which allows its owners to petition the court to obtain personal information about users from ISPs who they think may have violated their intellectual property rights so that they can seek damages from said violators.  ISPs will no longer have this information to provide them due to the obfuscation created by the practice of using shared IP addresses employed by VPNs.  This will make it harder for owners like those of the film Dallas Buyers Club from being able to violate the privacy rights of Australians, as well as other VPN users.

Another reason that those in Australia have for needing a VPN is that many feel and somewhat justifiably that they are often charged unfairly when buying digital content or other merchandise when they are seen from an Australian IP address.  This, along with the  the new modifications Goods and Services Tax (GST) that have been planned for implementation by July 2017 for many digital products and services like Netflix which would fall under these new rules.  This would add a 10% tax on digital products bought on the internet from international companies that do business in Australia.  This will be a regional tax implemented by digital suppliers to consumers purchasing from an IP address in Australia. Currently, no tax exists on internet products unless the cost is over $1000 but in the future all transactions will be taxed.  Many Australians think this tax is unfair since the government is not addressing what they feel is the primary issue, the current regional international pricing imbalance.  Using a personal VPN service will allow Australians to even the playing field when purchasing digital products and services from international companies by giving them non-Australian IP addresses.

Finally, native Australians, those vacationing in, or working in Australia can use a VPN to access geo-restricted content from streaming media providers like Netflix, HBO Now or Hulu as long as they have a subscription for the service.  By using a VPN, they can appear to be in a country or region that the content is not restricted.  Therefore, they can watch their favorite movies, TV series, or other original content that may not yet be available in Australia.  They can also use the VPN to stream live events that they might not have access to.  What is more, they can access these from anywhere in the world.

Criteria to Consider When Choosing An Australian VPN

Let us look at some of the things that make for a good VPN for Australia.  These include trust, company location, the VPN network (servers and sites), the encryption strength and protocols used to protect your data, the service’s logging policy, the VPN performance, the bandwidth supplied, the OS and other devices that it supports, the cost, and can you pay more anonymously.  Now let us take a closer at each of these.

  • First is do you trust the VPN provider with your confidential information?
    • How much of your personal information do they require?
    • Do they have a transparent policy regarding its use?
    • Do they have a good industry reputation?
    • How long have they been in the VPN industry?
    • How does the VPN service treat P2P traffic?
    • What laws are they incorporated under?
  • Second, where does it have sever locations?
    • Chose a VPN with server locations across the world.
    • Servers in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, and Europe are ideal for most content.
    • In addition to this, having multiple close locations will help ensure the best possible reliability and speed if one or more servers is near capacity.
  • Third, what kind of logging policy does the VPN have regarding VPN usage?
    • A no-log policy is ideal.
    • If they do log, is their logging policy well defined and transparent?
  • Fourth, how does the VPN perform when you are using it?
    • How fast is the VPN service?
    • The Internet in Australia is not the fastest which is probably due to some ISP throttling.
    • Therefore, choosing a fast VPN is imperative if you are going to use it while visiting, working, or living in Australia.
  • Fifth, how reliable is the network?
    • You want to choose a VPN which is stable and has limited problems with reconnects.
    • You will also want to choose a VPN whose servers are not over crowded.
    • Do they have a good reputation for service and support in case you have any questions or concerns?
    • Do they offer a kill switch to protect your privacy if the VPN drops?
  • Sixth, is the bandwidth (This refers to how much data (in GB) you can download).
    • The best VPNs offer unlimited bandwidth.
  • Seventh, is it compatible with desktops, phones, tablets or other devices you might want to use with it?
    • Does it support Windows?  Mac OS?  Linux?  iOS?  Android?  Others like Blackberry?
    • How many simultaneous connections does it allow?  More is better.
    • You should thoroughly test the VPN with all of your devices to make sure that they provide the performance and reliability that you expect.
  • Eighth, is it secure and private to protect your traffic from prying eyes: be they ISP or the ASIO, or cyber criminals?
    • What kind of protocols does the VPN use? (Protocols are rules for transmitting data).  A VPN service that supports all three protocols: OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and PPTP is best.
      • OpenVPN (UDP/TCP) (Best mix of security and speed)
        • It is highly configurable, fast, and secure.
        • It also supports port forwarding to increase its utility and help scale firewalls
      • L2TP/IPsec – Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol / Internet Protocol Security is the encryption protocol for traffic.
        • It provides excellent security.
        • It has slower performance than that of OpenVPN due to double encapsulation of data.
        • It has built-in support on most devices which makes it easy to implement.
        • It has greater utility if port forwarding is supported.
      • PPTP – Point to Point Tunneling Protocol
        • It is considered the least secure and probably better suited for devices that do not support other protocols or where speed is the main concern.
        • It is built into the most devices and like L2TP is very easy to setup.
      • Encryption is usually AES or Blowfish based.
        • The VPN should use at least 128 bit which is not as secure but provides faster speed.
        • If it supports 256 bit then it is more secure at the expense of some speed.
      • Other protocols include proprietary stealth ones to scale Great Firewall of China, SSTP which is primarily for Windows, and IKEv2 which provides for automatic reconnection for mobile devices.
  • Ninth, how easy is the VPN to actually use?
    • Does the VPN have easy to use, auto installation clients or well written guides?
    • Does the service have user-friendly graphical user interfaces?
  • Tenth, How much does the service cost?
    • Cost is important so you should spend what your budget can afford.
    • Trust, security and performance should be weighed against cost when choosing a VPN service for Australia.
    • Does it support crypto currencies like Bitcoin or other anonymous ways to pay for the service?
    • Take advantage of money-back guarantees and thoroughly test the service to ensure you are happy with it.

We looked at all of the above criteria to choose the best VPNs for Australian citizens and those living or visiting there.  Additionally, our principle touchstone was towards helping to keep you more anonymous in the wake of the new data retention laws Australia recently passed.  These VPNs by there nature will also let users unblock regionally restricted websites and level the field when it comes to purchasing digital products online from international companies like Microsoft and Apple.

Final Thoughts

When looking for a VPN for Australia, the most important considerations should include how anonymous can it allow you to be.  This is because of recently enacted legislation which requires all ISPs and other communication providers to keep and store for two years inclusive metadata on all Australian communications, be they Internet or telephony.  Furthermore, this data is to be made available to several federal government agencies upon request without requiring a warrant.  The exception to this is journalists data.  A warrant is still required to access this to protect journalistic sources.  This gives the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) carte blanche access to create in-depth profiles on all Australian citizens without any judicial oversight.

Using a personal VPN service will allow you to remain more anonymous to this overt invasion of your privacy by limiting the amount of metadata that can be collected and stored on your personal communications, both online and through VoIP telephony.  You can further reduce the metadata they have access to by using other privacy services like encrypted messaging and email services.  All of the VPNs that we recommend will help you to remain more anonymous and provide excellent performance while still being cost conscious.  All have guarantees that will let you test the service.  Select the one you like the best and take it for a test drive.