Open source VPNs are pretty rare, but they do exist. Their transparency makes them a sworn ally for many users who are quick to recommend them to anyone looking for a free, open source VPN.
Here are some of the best open source VPNs, plus an Honorable Mention!
What better way to start the list than with a VPN called "open"? OpenVPN isn't as easy to set up as other VPNs, but it's one of the most popular open source VPNs out there.
The main attraction of OpenVPN is its compatibility with other operating systems. Since OpenVPN can work in the cloud, the customer has less responsibility. You can connect from Windows, iOS, Linux, Mobile, whatever you want – as long as you can access the cloud from there.
Because of its adaptability and ease of use, it is one of the best open source VPNs for Windows and one of the most recommended by users. If you want to know how the OpenVPN protocol stands out from the competition, check out our overview of the most important VPN protocols.
SoftEther VPN is also not very intuitive to install and run, but it does offer a great OpenVPN alternative. It's ideal for setting up an open source VPN server. You can download the tool to set up a server and then connect using the client software.
This makes SoftEther one of the best open source VPNs that you can use to set up everything yourself – just the way you want!
Download: SoftEther VPN
OpenConnect was developed to support Cisco's own VPN service AnyConnect. These days, OpenConnect has risen above its roots and has no connection with Cisco.
OpenConnect offers a fantastic range of features. For starters, it supports a good number of authentication options including SSL certificates and OATH. It can connect through an HTTP proxy, a SOCKS5 proxy, as well as IPv4 and IPv6.
For OpenConnect you have to set up your own VPN server so that a connection can be established. Fortunately, OpenConnect offers its own VPN server software that you can use to create a VPN from the comfort of your own home.
OpenSwan is one of the best open source VPNs for Linux and has been around since 2005! While it takes a little effort to get to work, there is an extensive wiki and supportive community that can walk you through the configuration.
If you end up enjoying OpenSwan but have some ideas on how to improve it, you can! The source for OpenSwan is visible on GitHub and can be edited for you. Trusting an open source VPN is one thing. Trusting a VPN that you can create yourself is another!
StrongSwan is another Swan-based entry that covers an impressive number of operating systems. It can run on Windows, iOS, Linux, and Android. You can download the official Android app from the Play Store, which makes it easy for you to put your phone on a proxy server.
strongSwan has a good repertoire of functions. For example, Dead Peer Detection monitors when a tunnel is dead and closes it. It can also manage firewall rules for IPSec so you don't have to.
Honorable Mention: Mullvad VPN
Once you've reviewed the options above and glazed over as you see the complexity, you are not alone. Not everyone can set up a VPN on their own and keep it running properly.
If you're reading this article and hoping for an easy VPN service to install and run, then you have a small problem. Usually VPNs have to be paid to get decent servers. However, this goes against the nature of open source software.
The idea behind viewing the source code is that people can download it and run it themselves. Why should someone pay for something they can get for free?
If you want an open source VPN but the ease of a mainstream solution, Mullvad VPN is a great choice. It's not entirely open source, but much of it can be viewed on the software's GitHub page. Using Mullvad is as easy as paying a month, downloading the software, and running.
If you're interested in the sound of Mullvad, be sure to check out our Mullvad VPN review where we gave a very respectable verdict.
Why we need Libre software
Libre software (the more technical term for open source software) may seem like a novelty, but people rely on it every day. The power of open source goes deeper than criticism of the developer's coding practices. it creates a relationship of trust.
Let's say you want to send an expensive, fragile package through the mail. Two courier companies step in and offer you their services. When asking about tracking options, a courier says they use GPS and tracking tags so you always know where the package is. The other refuses to track your package and says, "Just trust us." Who do you trust the package to?
Software that does not reveal its code is called a "black box". It's like having a physical black box in front of you. You put things in one side of the box and it spits out the result on the other side. You don't know how to do it, but you still benefit from the results.
Open source software is transparent. They know exactly how your data is being treated and where it is going. You can see if the software is sticking its nose where it doesn't belong. If the developer allows it, you can even branch and add the code yourself!
This is why open source software is important. Giving users the ability to see how their data is being used removes the fear of abuse and creates an unmatched level of trust.
The power of open source software
If you don't trust a VPN company to protect your privacy, go ahead and set one up yourself. With the free open source VPN software, you know exactly how your data is processed. It's difficult to set up, but once it's done you are in complete control of your privacy.
For those of you who are only looking for VPNs for the Linux operating system, we've rounded up some of the best VPN clients for Linux.
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About the author
(307 articles published)
A BSc graduate in Computer Science with a deep passion for everything related to safety. After working for an indie game studio, he found his passion for writing and decided to use his skills to write about all things technical.
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