Norton Secure VPN Review (2022): Is This VPN Really Secure?
Ever since the 1990s, Norton Internet Security has been at the top of the antivirus market. It has since evolved, now offering a full cybersecurity suite called Norton 360. In April 2019, Norton Secure VPN was launched, and it’s now included in all Norton plans.
Norton is based in the US, which doesn’t afford it same privacy benefits as many other providers. This sounds like an inherent drawback, but what about the software? Is Norton VPN truly a secure virtual private network you can trust? We tested Norton Secure VPN to explore the ins and outs of this fledgling VPN service.
Norton Secure VPN: A Short Review
|Cheap first year subscription||Kill switch doesn’t work on Mac and iOS|
|Intuitive software that doesn’t require a restart||Collects and stores your real IP address and location|
|Relatively new, but backed by a trusted cybersecurity company||On Mac, you have to repeatedly enter your password to connect to a server|
|Community forums with extensive support||Customer support experience wasn’t great|
|Torrenting supported on Norton Secure VPN (not on Norton 360 VPN)||Can’t unblock most US streaming platforms|
|Excellent download speeds on local servers|
|Decently-sized server network|
Norton VPN has been around since 2019, making it a relatively young service compared to some of the industry-leading VPN providers. That said, it’s developed by a company with a longstanding history in cybersecurity software. Norton offers both Norton 360 VPN and Norton Secure VPN. This review focuses on the latter.
Norton Internet Security is one of the most well-known names in antivirus. Unfortunately, Norton’s VPN falls short in several areas. Firstly, Norton may collect your real IP address and location, which is far from ideal in terms of privacy.
When it comes to features, especially Mac and iOS draw the short end of the stick. There’s no kill switch for Apple products, and the software dashboard feels very stripped-back. It’s also painful to work with if you’re on a Mac, as you’re asked to repeatedly enter your master password when you switch servers.
On the plus side, Norton VPN offers a very fast service. Is that enough to make up for the headaches outlined above? Read our full Norton Secure VPN review to find out.
- Torrenting allowed
- Works with Netflix
- Credit card
Speed – How Fast is Norton Secure VPN?
Speed is one of the most important aspects when choosing a VPN provider. We test the speed of every VPN we review on multiple VPN servers worldwide. This allows you to choose a VPN provider that’s fast as well as secure.
So, how fast is Norton Secure VPN? After extensive testing, we awarded this VPN a 7.5/10 for speed and performance. Here are our main conclusions:
- Norton Secure VPN offers excellent speeds on local servers and most distant servers, although there were significant speed drops and high pings on some faraway servers.
- In our tests, this VPN showed consistently strong upload speeds.
- We experienced some buffering and slow connections while streaming and gaming with Norton VPN.
Speed test results for Norton Secure VPN
Below are our speed test results for Norton Secure VPN across a range of locations. Bear in mind that you might get different results if you test these servers yourself. This is due to a difference in geographical location, internet connection speed, device, and other factors.
|Server||Download (Mbps)||Upload (Mbps)||Ping (MS)|
|United Kingdom (London)||89.87||90.64||15|
|US East (Boston)||82.28||90.72||94|
|Brazil (São Paulo)||27.3||90.69||205|
|South Africa (Cape Town)||77.59||90.68||158|
Nearby servers, including the Netherlands and UK, gave us excellent speeds. Even servers in the US and South Africa performed admirably. However, servers on the other side of the world resulted in very high pings and lesser download speeds.
Speed during daily use
To delve into Norton Secure VPN’s speeds a little more, we tested a few activities across both high and low-performing VPN servers. This included:
- Watching shows on Netflix: When we used a Japanese IP address to test Netflix, one of the few streaming services Norton can unblock, it worked decently, but wasn’t ideal. We hit buffering bars a few times. However, in most cases, we could unblock Netflix and watch programs or movies without buffering.
- Streaming from YouTube: We caught up with some of the latest movie trailers on YouTube to test Norton Secure VPN. Overall, we only got stuck buffering when we tried to use the 4K resolution videos. Everything else played smoothly without a hitch.
- Playing video games: One of our go-to games for testing VPNs is Battlefield 2042, which shows a high-latency indicator when you’re experiencing lag. This wasn’t a problem on closer servers, but the higher ping from the Australian and Japanese servers meant that we were frequently sent back to the redeployment screen.
- Listening to music: In this area, all of Norton’s servers held up just fine. This is pleasant, even if it was to be expected, since Spotify is not a resource hog for most connections.
- Torrenting: Content sharing and torrenting weren’t a problem as long as we picked servers with high upload speeds across the board. Keep in mind that not all servers work with torrenting, however!
Safety – How Secure is Norton Secure VPN?
Given Norton 360 antivirus’ reputation, we expected great things from their VPN. Unfortunately, the software doesn’t quite meet our expectations in a few areas. That’s why for safety, we’ve awarded Norton Secure VPN a 6/10.
- Available protocols include OpenVPN (TCP & UDP) and L2TP/IPSec (not WireGuard).
- Norton’s strong 256-bit AES encryption will protect your data.
- The company logs pretty standard information, but also your real IP address and location.
- Norton Secure VPN asks you to provide a lot of data, including your home address.
- Norton has a kill switch, but only on Windows and Android.
Norton Secure VPN Protocols
Norton VPN allows you to choose between two protocols:
- OpenVPN (TCP & UDP): This is one of the most widely-used VPN protocols. It strikes a powerful balance between speed and security, offering a choice between TCP and UDP modes. While TCP is slower and more thorough with individual file verification, UDP is faster.
- L2TP/IPSec: This is an older VPN protocol that’s still used by some VPNs and internet service providers today. While it’s secure and fast, it’s a real resource hog. You’ll need a strong internet connection to utilize it without frustrating speed drops. It is also highly susceptible to geo-blocking.
Rather disappointingly, WireGuard and IKEv2 are absent. This is a shame, particularly in the case of WireGuard, which, in our opinion, is one of the best VPN protocols out there.
As for encryption, Norton Secure VPN uses the AES-256 cipher to protect your data traffic. This is one of the most secure kinds of encryption for your personal data. That’s why it’s also used by government agencies, militaries, and hospitals around the world.
In our opinion, your best choice is to use OpenVPN with 256-bit encryption. This is one of the most commonly used and secure encryption methods.
Norton Secure VPN’s logging and privacy
Norton is headquartered in the United States. Unfortunately, that puts it squarely within the 5, 9, and 14 Eyes alliances. As far as privacy goes, this isn’t ideal. In theory, the government could request data regarding your use of Norton’s services. Norton could still be a private VPN provider if it didn’t log anything about you. Unfortunately, that’s only partly true.
So, what data does Norton collect exactly? Here are the main points:
- Personal information: When you register, you’ll have to provide your name, residential address, phone number, and payment information. This is pretty standard when it comes to data collection in the antivirus industry, but not for VPNs. You can opt for PayPal to avoid handing over payment card details, but for true anonymity, a cryptocurrency option would’ve been better.
- Device information: Norton may gather data about your device, including the model, browser, system specs, operating system, and network type you’re using. Crucially, Norton also collects your IP address and geolocation. Norton doesn’t anonymize this data, unlike some other VPN providers.
- Communications: Norton may keep communications data to troubleshoot any issues you have or detect cyber threats via its software. This includes conversations with support as well as the IP addresses and email addresses of any malicious emails that Norton scans and deems to be unsafe.
While Norton does not seem to store information about your browsing activity, they do log your real IP address. Along with other data they track and store, like your geolocation and real name and address, your entire identity could be compromised in the event of a data breach.
Norton may also gather other information, such as license keys, crash reports, and user preferences. Nothing among these is particularly concerning, as it’s needed to operate the software.
“The categories of personal data that we collect, and the general purposes of collection, include (…) Your social security number and/or state/government identifier, driver’s license number or other government-issued identifier, date of birth, age, gender, and other personal details about you (…) to verify your identity (…)”
When we subscribed, we weren’t asked for any proof of ID. We’re not sure in what circumstances Norton might ask for that information. Ideally, you don’t want to be handing a photographic ID to a VPN provider. That defeats the point of privacy. If you’re asked for photo ID, you might want to consider one of the best VPNs we’ve reviewed this year instead.
Your VPN connection is a shield that prevents websites and third parties from seeing your IP. Should your VPN connection drop temporarily, a kill switch will cut your connection to the internet, avoiding risky data leaks.
Norton Secure VPN offers a kill switch, but it is only available on Android and Windows. The Android kill switch works with a simple slider. If the slider is green, the kill switch is activated.
If you’re using Norton’s VPN on macOS or iOS, you’ll have to do without this feature. This surprised us, since kill switches are a fairly common feature: the vast majority of paid VPN services offer it in their most basic packages. We’d have liked to see this feature on all OS software for Norton’s VPN, too.
Does Norton Secure VPN leak your data?
Norton Secure VPN passed our IP, DNS, and WebRTC leak tests, meaning our data was not leaked.
When testing for data leaks, we start by checking our VPN location on our IP address tool. When connected to a US VPN server, our tool showed us an IP address based in the US, which means that the VPN was working correctly.
Since VPN services can experience data leaks, we also tested to see whether Norton Secure VPN suffers from DNS or WebRTC leaks. The good news is that this VPN service passed both tests!
What information does Norton Secure VPN need?
To sign up for a Norton Secure VPN subscription, you’ll need to provide the following information:
- Your name
- An email address
- A password of your choice for your Norton account
- Payment information (different depending on your payment method)
If you pay using PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay, this is the only data you’ll need to provide when you set up your account. Keep in mind that Google Pay and Apple Pay are US-only payment options.
However, if you pay by credit card, you’ll also need to provide:
- Your payment card information
- Your residential (billing) address
Providing a phone number is optional. Since you can call customer support yourself if needed, we don’t recommend handing it over.
Usability – How User-Friendly is Norton Secure VPN?
Norton’s antivirus products are slick, but in our opinion the VPN has a little way to go before it catches up with competitors. What’s more, customer support, while quick, wasn’t the best experience for us. Here are the key points that resulted in a usability score of 7/10 for Norton Secure VPN:
- Norton’s website is simple to navigate and easy on the eye.
- Installation is straightforward; Macs don’t require a restart.
- While pretty basic, the software is easy to use on most OSs, except for Mac, where we had to enter our password every time we connected to a server.
- The VPN is relatively cheap for the first year, but prices go up after that.
- The live chat for customer support is fast, though language barriers can interfere with getting a solid answer.
Norton Secure VPN’s website and installation process
Norton’s website is simple to navigate. It uses a very minimalistic color scheme and layout. All of Norton’s cybersecurity tools, including Norton Secure VPN, can be found under a single drop-down menu. Clicking on one of the tools will take you to their dedicated pages.
In the upper-right corner of the screen, the button “My Account” will direct you to the login page. You can sign into your account, then access your account information, preferences, billing, and more.
Norton Secure VPN’s installation process is simple. We downloaded Norton Secure VPN onto a Mac and outlined the process below:
- Visit the official Norton website.
- Click on “Products & Services” at the top of the page, then “Norton Secure VPN” under the privacy section.
- If you want a free trial, don’t click on “Get Started.” Instead, scroll down the page until you find “Try For Free,” and click that.
- Choose a payment method, which can be credit card or PayPal (or Google Pay and Apple Pay for US customers).
- Fill in your details, then check the box on the right-hand side of the page.
- Click “Agree and Pay Now” to start a subscription.
- Scroll down and click “Get Started” on the next page to download the Norton suite.
- Run the executable file once it has been downloaded, and install the software.
If you lose the page, you can also download Norton Secure VPN by logging into your account. You should see your active subscription or free trial in the account area, with a “Download” button.
Bear in mind that you should register for your free trial on a PC or Mac. If you start up the mobile application without an account and register for one, you’ll only get seven days free as opposed to 30.
Norton Secure VPN’s appearance and ease-of-use
When you start up the VPN for the first time, you’ll see two checkboxes. You have to accept the first in order to use the VPN. The second checkbox allows you to join Norton Community Watch, agreeing to forward security threat information to Norton.
This community is focused on gathering data regarding malicious emails, which shows how Norton honors security over personal privacy. They are, first and foremost, an antivirus provider, after all. It’s up to you whether you join this community by checking the box or not.
Once you’ve accepted the terms, you can log into your account and the Norton Secure VPN dashboard. At face value, it’s very simplistic. While we like simplicity, it’s not very exciting; the white and gray theme is quite dull compared to other providers, such as Private Internet Access (PIA).
You can hit the power button to start an automatic VPN connection.
Hover over the side menu to access your “Account” and “Settings,” plus some help options. There are only a few options here. You can tell the app to update itself automatically, and you can enable or disable ad tracker blocking.
Back on the main dashboard, you can click on the country drop-down to choose a VPN server in another country.
As you can see, this VPN app is very light on the ground. We knew that we wouldn’t find a kill switch on the Mac version, but we expected a more comprehensive dashboard. We checked the online portal and iOS app, but we couldn’t find any additional features beyond basic account settings.
Norton introduced split tunneling to its VPN service at the end of 2020. Split tunneling allows you to specify which apps use your VPN connection and which use your unencrypted internet connection. Essentially, you can choose what data you’d like to protect with the VPN.
This feature is currently only available for Windows and Android. On Android, it works with a simple slider and a “whitelist,” to which you can add apps you’d like to be excepted from the VPN connection. This is especially useful if you want to watch American Netflix on your Netflix app while also using your local banking app.
Ease of use on Macs
While the Android app was very easy to test and work with, our tests on Mac came with some serious frustrations. When connecting, Norton will ask you for your master password to access its own Norton passkey in the Keychain app. Our first grievance here is that we wondered why Norton wants the Keychain password, because it didn’t specify it would only have access to the Norton key.
During this process, we got trapped in a loop. When we closed the dialog box, it popped back up. There was no way to quit the app or stop the pop-up box. Even killing our internet didn’t work; as soon as we reconnected, the box came back. In the end, we clarified the information using a separate device, before inputting the password.
The worst part? This password request happens every time you connect your VPN. We’d estimate that we entered that password approximately thirty times in the course of this review. This is incredibly frustrating, and it costs the VPN some serious points for usability.
Pricing and payment methods
Norton is pretty affordable. You can even get a free trial for 30 days by scrolling down the Norton Secure VPN website page and clicking on “Try For Free.” You’ll have to register a payment method, so be sure to cancel within 30 days if you don’t want to be charged.
Here is the full pricing list, depending on simultaneous connections.
|Number of connections||Price per month*||Price for annual subscription*|
*These rates are for the first year only. After that, prices will increase.
There are more complete cybersecurity plans available that include Norton’s antivirus software as well as their VPN. You can find those rates on the Norton 360 website.
Bear in mind that annual payment is typically around 40-50% cheaper than paying a monthly fee all year. While $29.99 is fairly cheap for a yearly subscription in the VPN market, it’s not the cheapest. Surfshark, for example, costs just two dollars per month for unlimited connections.
Norton offers the following payment methods:
- Credit card
- Google Pay (US)
- Apple Pay (US)
The latter three options are good for reducing the data you’re sharing with Norton, although unfortunately there is no fully anonymous way to pay for Norton Secure VPN.
When it comes to customer support, Norton offers both helpful guides and live customer support. As for non-human assistance, you can find these three options on their website:
- FAQs: The frequently asked questions are focused on your subscription and contract with Norton.
- Support section: You’ll find user manuals and guidance here for using the VPN.
- Chatbot: Clicking on the small, yellow chat bubble in the bottom-right of the screen launches a chatbot. The bot didn’t understand our question and presented us with a list of potential topics. When we clicked through for further help, it closed the chat and launched a new page containing more articles.
If you’re experiencing an issue or have a question and the above options don’t help, you can click on “I still need help” in your Chatbot communication to finally access a human. You’ll have the following options:
- Ask the Community: This links you to Norton’s user forums, with one for each product. They’re very active, with new threads and comments posted on the day we logged in.
- Social Support: Help is available from Norton on Facebook and Twitter, though this is only general guidance; the staff cannot access your account information.
- Phone Support: This option is available 24/7. You’ll have to complete a short webform to go through to the contact number.
- Chat Support: Click on “Chat Now” to launch a new chat session.
When we connected to the chat, we had to go through the chatbot once more. After that, the chat quoted a one-minute waiting time to speak to an agent. Although it actually took around five, this is still quite quick.
We found the agent trying to be helpful, though we did have to reiterate our question several times. It seemed like there was a language barrier between us. When we tried to clarify, the chat session was ended before we could view what the agent had said. There was no way to get a chat log.
Overall, the live chat wasn’t a great experience. You’re more likely to get a clear-cut answer in the community forums.
Server Network – Can Norton Secure VPN Unblock the Internet?
Norton Secure VPN has a solid network of VPN servers in various countries around the world. It should be enough for most users looking to increase their privacy or unblock websites abroad.
Comparatively, though, the provider has fewer servers than the majority of premium VPNs we recommend. There are also no optimized servers for streaming, though there are a few for torrenting. Overall, Norton Secure VPN gets a 7.5/10 for its VPN server network.
- Norton Secure VPN has 2,000 servers in 31 countries.
- It can unblock Netflix in a number of locations.
- Torrent-optimized VPN servers are available.
- Norton Secure VPN doesn’t offer dedicated IP addresses.
Number of servers and locations
Norton Secure VPN lets you access around 2,000 servers in 31 countries, with 200 different server locations in 73 international cities. This is substantially less than premium VPNs like NordVPN, but it’s still a solid number.
However, 1,200 of the servers offered are “virtual servers.” In other words: they have no physical hardware. It’s possible for a virtual server to display its location as the US when it’s actually hosted in a different place. That said, Norton assures users that virtual servers are located in the country where they’re supposed to be.
Here’s a rundown of the countries in which Norton Secure VPN offers VPN servers:
- Americas: Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the United States
- Europe: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom
- Asia-Pacific: Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, and Singapore
- Africa and the Middle East: Israel, South Africa, and Turkey
Norton Secure VPN and streaming (Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, BBC iPlayer)
One of the most common uses of a VPN is to unblock streaming services and other geo-locked websites around the world. We investigated whether Norton Secure VPN allowed us to watch streaming services abroad.
Here’s what we found:
|Platform||Can Norton Secure VPN unblock it?|
To clarify, we tested multiple international VPN servers with all of these streaming platforms. Using Norton Secure VPN, we were able to watch Netflix and Prime Video from Brazil, Japan, and US IP addresses. However, any attempts to access Hulu and Peacock were blocked, as were various attempts to access Disney Plus from abroad or watch BBC iPlayer with a UK IP address.
Clearly, Norton isn’t the top performer when it comes to unblocking geographical restrictions. If you want to unblock streaming sites, we recommend other VPNs. CyberGhost and Surfshark are excellent choices for unblocking Netflix as well as other services.
Norton Secure VPN and torrents
This is where experiences between Norton 360 VPN users and Norton Secure VPN users seem to differ. Norton 360’s suite includes a VPN, but it’s not torrent-friendly. We’ve seen error messages from users who try to torrent with this VPN.
On the other hand, Norton Secure VPN doesn’t have the same problems. In the server selection drop-down list, you can choose a torrent-optimized region. When we tested this feature, the pesky error message that Norton 360 customers saw was nowhere to be seen. We were able to connect to and download from two of the P2P services we tested: uTorrent and BitTorrent.
Dedicated IP address
Dedicated IP addresses are not provided with Norton Secure VPN. Instead, the service uses randomly-changing IP addresses every time you connect. If you’re looking for a dedicated IP as part of your subscription, you might want to consider industry leader NordVPN instead.
Our Experience With Norton Secure VPN
Our experience with Norton straddled the line between good and bad. On the one hand, we saw a strong selection of servers, user-friendly software, and secure protocols and encryption.
On the other hand, we were plagued by a never-ending password dialog box, received less-than-stellar customer service, and knew that Norton would be collecting our IP and location.
In a nutshell, Norton Secure VPN has some advantages and is backed by an industry leader when it comes to antivirus software. However, if you want to choose the most privacy-focused VPN on the market, this is not it. Similarly, if you’re looking for a good VPN for Mac, we wouldn’t recommend Norton Secure VPN either.
Alternatives to Norton Secure VPN
We’ve hand-picked some alternative VPN providers so you can see how Norton Secure VPN compares to them. Feel free to check out our full reviews on each of them with the links provided:
- NordVPN: Compared to Norton’s VPN, NordVPN offers better protocols (NordLynx, a custom-built protocol based on WireGuard) and has a vast server network that can unblock more streaming services.
- Surfshark: Surfshark is great for those who are new to VPN services. It is cheaper than Norton, but of higher quality. You’ll benefit from some of the best geo-unblocking VPN software and get unlimited connections.
- Private Internet Access: The Norton app felt a little feature-light, which left us yearning for PIA’s excellent user interface. PIA’s features include a kill switch (also on Mac!) and blockers for ads and malware. This service also boasts a court-proven no-logs policy.
We’ve tried to be as thorough as possible with our Norton Secure VPN review. If you’ve got a question that hasn’t been answered, check our frequently asked questions below!
It’s a decent VPN with a few flaws. Norton Secure VPN has fast and secure VPN protocols and strong encryption. Our speed tests produced good results too. However, there were several usability issues that we just didn’t get on with. It isn’t a great VPN for privacy, either, since Norton stores your IP address and location. For more context, check out our full Norton Secure VPN review.
No, Norton Secure VPN isn’t free. For your first year, you’ll typically pay $29.99. However, you can get a 30-day free trial if you subscribe using the desktop website.
Yes. Like any good VPN service, Norton Secure VPN will hide your IP address. In our Norton Secure VPN review, we also tested whether the software suffers from DNS leaks or WebRTC leaks, which can expose your IP. The good news? It does not.
Yes, Norton Secure VPN is a paid-for service that provides you with unlimited data. It is typically free VPN providers that impose limits on data.
Norton Secure VPN, like any good VPN, hides your real IP address. Unfortunately, it also logs your real IP and location. This means it’s not the most privacy-sensitive VPN out there. Norton claims it doesn’t log your browsing activities while using the VPN, making it a lot harder for others to track you, but your identity could still be tied to the company.
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