VPN Provider Review: AzireVPN

AzireVPN

AzireVPN, operated by Netbouncer in Sweden, was recommended to me by one of those geeky, super knowledgeable hacker types who detailed some really interesting differences between Azire and other VPN providers. And what are those differences you ask, mouth watering in anticipation?

Well, first let's get something straight regarding VPN providers: there isn't a damn one that can be fully trusted, at least none i know of. They can tell you whatever they want about their security and no-log policies (many of them are flat out lying when they state this), but unless there's an information leak, or you discover a security or privacy issue yourself, or you personally know the people running the company, your confidence in their service will always be blind. Tor advocates like to use this ammo to suggest that Tor is far better in this regard because it's open source and uses multiple nodes and multiple layers of encryption, yada yada yada, but i find their claims of security to be less than concrete. For example a bad actor, such as your ISP, can apparently run an entire Tor network on a single machine using something like The Shadow Simulator.

Tor has other problems as well, some of them detailed in my article Tor versus a VPN - Which is right for you?. Understand that i'm not suggesting that a VPN is necessarily superior to Tor in every case, but i think that what path is best chosen depends on what you're trying to achieve and i think that for the average user who's downloading ... things ... or wants to circumvent YouTube's idiotic geo-restrictions, a VPN may be the better option, though unlike Tor, VPNs are not free and any provider that claims this is a good one to run the hell away from at maximum velocity.

Back to Azire...

AzireVPN claims to do things very differently. For one, they claim to physically own, install and maintain all their servers. Unlike every other (or mostly every other) VPN business where one can sit behind a keyboard, provisioning as many servers around the world as they please, Azire tells us they have to purchase, configure, secure and install each server they operate (if you search the images on their domain you can find some evidence that supports this).

From a security/privacy viewpoint i see this as a huge advantage over other mega-VPNs like NordVPN, ExpressVPN, etc., who are potentially more open to hacking and government snooping. Azire makes the following claims...

  • They own and maintain the hardware.
  • All hard drives are removed.
  • Nothing is stored physically on the servers - the entire system runs only in RAM (more here).
  • All USB, VGA and serial ports are plugged to prevent tampering (more here).
  • They support WireGuard which is apparently faster, better, easier and less bloated than the more traditional OpenVPN protocol.
  • No logging.

AzireVPN was featured in TorrentFreak's article, Which VPN Providers Really Take Privacy Seriously in 2021?.

Sounds like the berries, right? There is one downside to managing your own hardware though in that they can't provision equipment as quickly as the fast-food VPNs and so Azire doesn't have a heck of a lot of servers, but the ones they do have are located in quite a few countries and they seem to be slowly expanding (see their blog for more). Azire does offer SOCKS5 proxies, however you must be connected to one of their VPN servers to use them and there is no encryption at the proxy level. Still, their SOCKS5 servers make it easy to change your location/IP in order to circumvent geo-restrictions. For those like myself who run their VPN client on their router this is a plus because, while it isn't as straight forward to swap locations, there are plenty off web browser extensions available that provide the ability to quickly switch between SOCKS proxies.

I started with AirVPN several years ago then moved to NordVPN, but being with a huge company like Nord, who seems to be less than transparent, has always bothered me and i'm glad to have found an alternative which i think is better all around. Although it wasn't an issue when i first signed up, Nord's servers have become blacklisted by quite a few sites and it started to get annoying.

Getting AzireVPN set up on my router was a bit of a pain in the ass. At first i was using the DD-WRT firmware and even after contacting Azire support i could not get OpenVPN or WireGuard working. Truth be told, their setup guides are out of date and, although they say they support OpenVPN, i'm not convinced they do, at least for some configurations which they claim to support. Azire seems to be moving away from OpenVPN in favor of WireGuard, but this is all pretty new stuff and so there can be hitches in setting up WireGuard as well. I finally got the tunnel working with WireGuard only after i switched to the OpenWRT firmware and a lot of fiddling around plus still more help from Azire support. Azire definitely loses points here though their support has been mostly OK (i'll get more into that in a bit). If you decide to use their app however, you can likely avoid the hassle i had and they have a healthy selection of apps for different platforms/devices.

Another big plus with AzireVPN is that you don't have to give them any personal information to open an account and you can pay with cryptocurrency, so acquiring their service can be totally anonymous if you want, especially if you use another VPN or Tor to sign up. There aren't allot of other VPN providers that go this far to protect your privacy.

As far as the tunnel itself, all ports are open and bandwidth is unlimited. I've only been using their service a short time, but speed seems really good in tests, though this may have a lot to do with the WireGuard protocol since it has less overhead. Also i haven't yet had much trouble accessing sites which had blocked Nord's IPs. P2P traffic is of course allowed.

Now, back to that support thing...

Because i couldn't get DD-WRT working with the OpenVPN protocol, a configuration which Azire claims to support, i was offered some free time without having to ask for it. I appreciated the offer and viewed it as the right thing to do, especially for a smaller company which is apparently interested in growing. Problem is, they didn't follow through and so i inquired again about their offer. Crickets. In the end i inquired four times before i got a response, and their response was to renege on the offer because i didn't help them figure out how to get DD-WRT/OpenVPN working on their tunnels, a condition which was absolutely never stated nor implied. Here's what they said, emphasis added:

We thought that our offer was pretty clear while saying the following statement:

"Whether you manage to find a solution to your issue, we will be glad to give you free time and eventually we will make a quick update to our guide."

In other words, if you were able to find a solution which we could integrate into our guide to update it, we would give you free time. I think our sentence was poorly written, but that is what we meant.

Their offer was unconditional. It did not hinge upon anything. Needless to say, their blatant twisting of their own words pissed me off and so i fired back a reply calling out their shady tactic to renege on the offer. Shortly after receiving my mail they extended my service time by one month, so in the end they did what was proper and ethical, but what they should have done was not ignore three mails regarding their offer of free time and just gave me the time they promised.

All in all i think AzireVPN offers some uniquely attractive and important features and they manage to do it at a very competitive price, though i do have an issue with their ethics regarding my support issue. At any rate, if you decide to go with Azire please consider using this referral link which helps me out a little bit.

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