Encryption is essential in this data-driven economy. That’s why Encrypt.me exists; to provide users the tools they need to protect themselves. But in a massive market of competing VPNs, does the encryption hold up?
Encrypt.me was founded in 2011 as “Cloak,” a VPN that offers an automatic connection and protection. The company changed its name in 2017, instead focusing on protecting users from hacking and censorship. They offer users access to a service designed to “Keep yourself safe and secure.” But how secure is it really?
Upon first arriving on the website, the user is prompted to “Try free for two weeks.” Users are allowed to try the service for two weeks without having to use their credit card. The options available to users are quite plentiful, with a number of possible subscription options. Users can purchase passes that allow them unlimited data access for a preselected period of time (a week, a month, or a year) or they can subscribe for a relevant fee.
The subscription comes in three formats. First, the “normal” subscription, which offers unlimited data for $9.99 a month, or $99.99 a year. Second is the Families option, which expands the device usage to five members for $12.99 a month or $149.99 a year. Finally, it offers Teams, which charges according to however many members of the team exist. It starts at two members at $15.99 and will work it’s way up to 250 or more members at the rate of $5.99, making it a soluble source for corporate inclusion of VPNs in the workspace.
All options in the primary subscriptions have unlimited data and will not cut off data access, as well as no limits on however many devices the user needs. The company does say in an FAQ that they offer a limited-data plan of up to 5GB for $2.99 a month, but encourages users to get the unlimited plan.
Encrypt.me is available on the most basic operating systems available. These include iOS, Android, Mac computers, Windows 7/8/10 and Amazon Fire. Each one can be accessed in the Apps tab on the Encrypt.me website. They each come with their own extensive troubleshooting page that answers core questions and provides tutorials for how to use Encrypt.me.
When a user trusts a company with their data, they are making an intrinsic action of trust, where they hope the company will truly protect their needs. Will they log it? Will they keep any form of record of the user’s data?
These particular data points are not necessary ones and would not likely be used in any way to locate or replicate the user’s identity.
All protocols used by Encrypt.me run through AES-256-bit, which is an industry standard and fairly trustworthy. The encryption options available to users will vary depending on the software. For example, iOS users will connect through IPSec while Mac and Android are reliant on OpenVPN. Windows will also rely on StrongSwan protocols, which are open source. We were unable to find any way to swap or change the protocols in the settings, or in the instructions. In fact, that information was increasingly difficult to find online and is not present in the application in any way.
After logging in or installing the software, the user will be prompted to activate a server and connect to the internet. Users will be prompted to provide their username and password every time they activate the software. The software will exist in a tab in the lower right corner and will not be obvious. Users can sign up and log in, but the options were not obvious. In order to access it, the tab in the top right corner will need to be opened and server selected. Otherwise, the service will simply connect to the “best available server” (although there is no indication as to what that server is specifically being used). We had issues connecting to the service, with multiple servers seemingly unable to connect.
Encrypt.me promises high-speed, reliable connections. As we attempted to test the connection, we had several issues arise. First off, we were unable to connect to the network through a device locally. As we attempted to work with Encrypt.me’s troubleshooting, we received minimal feedback and were unable to fix the issue in question. After swapping to a computer in a different way, we were able to get results.
On a 130 Mbps tested connection we were able to maintain an 89 Mbps server speed test while connected to a local (Chicago) server, and 74 while connected to a server in Australia.
For many users, the VPN service is important for gaining access to their favored streaming services and video servers. While we struggled to get onto the servers, many individuals have reported success getting access to YouTube, BBC iPlayer and Netflix. However, Amazon Prime and Hulu were unavailable for use.
Compared to other services reviewed, Encrypt.me is certainly low when it comes to the number of servers. As of June 2020, we were only able to find 48 servers available and approximately 30 countries, it is immensely limited in reach. We were not able to breach the barriers with China.
Encrypt.me offers itself as one of the better VPN programs, but we found several issues with it as we operated. Not only are the options for encryption limited and broken, but they also have very few servers and strikingly limited customer service. We struggled to get connected and have seen several reports of customers having erratic service.
While Encrypt.me will serve a user’s basic VPN needs if they require it, we cannot, in good faith, recommend the service as highly reliable.