VPNs have long been the most reliable method to remain private and secure online. However, this reliance was only until some VPN providers surfaced, logging user data and disrupting user privacy and various other ways. Amidst this, third-party VPN log audits become the new way of proving the security standards of a VPN. If you’re a VPN provider, you know these external security audits are essential to maintaining your integrity and customer trust.
But with so many security firms, knowing which one is right for you can be tricky. The crucial aspect here is to choose a firm that is reputable enough that the report will be valid for everyone. And for that, it has to be a firm that offers its clients the most thorough and unbiased auditing results. This article looks into some of the most renowned security auditing firms covering insights into their log audit processes and some VPNs they have audited.
Quick Overview: List Of Firms With VPN Audit Reports
While there are several cybersecurity consultancy firms, only a handful specialize in providing VPN audits. Some of the most well-known firms that have worked with renowned VPNs are as follows:
- PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers)
- Altius IT
- Leviathan Security Group
It’s essential to do thorough research and due diligence when selecting a third-party audit firm, as their reputation, experience, and expertise in the specific audit area can vary. Additionally, it’s crucial to ensure that the audit firm has no conflicts of interest and maintains impartiality and independence throughout the audit process.
What is a third-party VPN provider audit, and why is it important?
Third-party audits are conducted by experienced cybersecurity professionals who review a VPN provider’s security policies, procedures, and systems. They also interview staff members and conduct on-site visits to assess the security of the VPN provider’s infrastructure. After an audit, the auditor produces a report including their findings and recommendations. This type of audit is essential for two main reasons:
- Ensure that the VPN provider adheres to industry-standard security practices and procedures.
- To verify that the VPN provider has implemented adequate security measures to protect its users’ data and privacy.
- If the VPN was a part of some security scandal in security breach scandal, external audits could help restore user trust.
- These external audits highlight the areas in the VPN that need to be improved.
While VPN audits are now necessary, it is essential to note that not all audits are created equal. Some auditors may be more thorough than others, and some may have different criteria for a “passing” grade. Therefore, it is essential to do your research when selecting an auditor.
Top cybersecurity firms that offer reliable external VPN audits.
Many different cybersecurity firms offer audits to VPN providers. It can be challenging to determine which firm is the best fit for your organization. To help you decide, we have compiled a list of the top cybersecurity firms offering third-party audit services.
PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) is a global professional services firm that provides a range of services, including audit and assurance, consulting, deals, and tax services. The firm has a network of firms in 157 countries with more than 284,000 people and is headquartered in London, UK.
PwC is one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, along with Deloitte, EY, and KPMG. It is one of the most sought-after companies for external VPN audits. In 2018 and 2020, the company was the one to conduct a log audit of NordVPN. It then audited ExpressVPN in 2019. The main goal behind these audits was to ensure these VPNs’ adherence to industry standards, regulatory requirements, or best practices.
The company follows a strict and thorough procedure in its audits, carefully combing through the required elements of a VPN to gauge its privacy and security. As per the NordVPN and ExpressVPN audit reports, the company thoroughly examined data log configuration, server configurations, and more. It even went as far as individually interviewing employees to look into the integrity of the VPN provider. However, since legal regulations bind PwC, the log audit reports of any VPN they audit are never made available to the public. The VPN providers can only cover essential insights of the log audit report within a blog and only provide the official log audit report to the users.
Deloitte is one of the world’s largest professional services firms and one of the “Big Four” firms. It was founded in London in 1845 and now has a global presence with offices in more than 150 countries. The firm is headquartered in the USA, New York City.
Deloitte’s audit services are focused on providing independent assessments of a company’s financial statements. In addition to traditional audit services, Deloitte offers specialized audit services such as sustainability reporting and cybersecurity audits.
Any audit that Deloitte has conducted on various VPN providers involved going through the VPNs’ server configurations, deployment processes, employee interviews, and more. The company has undertaken third-party log audits of several VPNs, including NordVPN’s third audit (2023), CyberGhost log audit (2023), PIA VPN security audit (2022), and Surfshark’s log audit (2023). It adheres to strict auditing standards and provides unbiased and thorough results.
Moreover, like PwC, the company ensures that the VPN providers do not provide access to audit reports publicly. However, they allow VPN providers to form agreements where anyone can request the official log audit report by contacting Deloitte, as CyberGhost VPN does.
KPMG is a “Big Four” accounting firm that provides clients with a wide range of audit, tax, and advisory services worldwide. The firm has a strong reputation for its audit and assurance services expertise and has experience working with clients in various industries, including technology and telecommunications.
KPMG’s dedicated cybersecurity practice provides various services, including third-party security assessments, penetration testing, and incident response planning. The firm has experience working with clients to assess and manage their cybersecurity risks and understands the landscape.
The company has audited some of the most well-known VPNs, including ExpressVPN and PureVPN. According to both VPN providers’ available log audit reports, KPMG follows a thorough procedure in auditing VPNs. The company has strict auditing standards and is known to provide unbiased results. Moreover, unlike Deloitte and PwC, KPMG is not bound by legal regulations, and VPN providers can have their audit reports publicly available.
One fairly impressive thing about KPMG is that it allows VPN providers to abide by an “Always-on” audit, which means that the firm can initiate a non-scheduled privacy audit anytime without prior notice. Any VPN provider adhering to this service can further build users’ trust.
Cure53, a cybersecurity company based in Berlin, Germany, specializes in performing security audits and penetration testing for web applications and software. They have worked with various organizations, including large tech companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations, to assess the security of their systems and identify potential vulnerabilities.
In addition to performing security assessments, Cure53 offers training and consultancy services to help organizations improve their security posture and mitigate risks.
Cure53 is known to have audited some of the most prominent VPN providers available, including MullvadVPN, Proton VPN, ExpressVPN, IVPN, and Mozilla VPN. As an independent third-party auditor, it does not claim to endorse any specific VPN provider or product. Instead, it claims to provide objective and impartial assessments of the security of the systems it audits. Their log audit reports are available for anyone to view, depending on their agreement with the VPN provider.
Apart from VPN audits, the company provides pentest and security assessment services to respective security services and products, including SolifiFi and Express VPN.
- Proton VPN log audit:
- IVPN log audits:
- Mullvad VPN log audits:
- ExpressVPN log audit news:
- ExpressVPN Trusted server technology pentest:
- SolidiFi Wallet Mobile Apps Security Assessment Report:
- Mozilla VPN log audit report by Cure53
Altius IT is a network security and compliance consulting firm offering comprehensive services to help organizations protect their sensitive data and infrastructure. The company was founded in 2001 and is headquartered in San Diego, California.
The firm offers various services such as vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, security log monitoring, policy development, risk assessments, and compliance consulting. It also provides specialized services such as cloud security assessments, mobile device security assessments, and social engineering testing.
Altius IT is a reputable company that has a team of highly skilled professionals who use advanced techniques and tools to identify potential security risks in their client’s networks and systems. It also provides training and education to help its clients stay up-to-date on the latest security threats and best practices. The company is known to have audited some well-known VPNs, such as Fastest VPN and PureVPN.
During a VPN audit, Altius IT assesses the security of a client’s VPN infrastructure to identify any potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses that attackers could exploit. The process includes reviewing the VPN configuration, access controls, authentication mechanisms, and encryption protocols. Altius IT also conducts penetration testing to simulate an attack on the VPN and determine if it can be compromised. Additionally, it goes through servers and logged data to gain better insights into the VPN’s level of trustworthiness. The company provides the results of VPN audits in a comprehensive report that the VPN provider can make available to users.
VerSprite is a cybersecurity consultancy firm that provides various security services to organizations of all sizes. The company’s services include security assessments, penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and incident response planning. VerSprite’s consultants have deep expertise in cybersecurity and work closely with clients to develop customized solutions that address their specific security needs.
The company is reputed for providing reliable cybersecurity consultancy and has audited some of the most well-known VPN providers, including AtlasVPN and NordVPN. The company also now is a strategic cybersecurity partner of NordVPN for providing advisory services and penetration testing.
VerSprite’s VPN audit reports provide valuable insights into the security of VPN providers. The company’s VPN audit methodology is based on industry standards and best practices, and its consultants have extensive experience conducting these types of assessments. The auditor’s recommendations can help providers improve their security posture and protect their customers from potential threats.
- VerSprite blog on its strategic partnership with NordVPN
- NordVPN Application Security Audit by VerSprite:
- Atlas VPN blog on Audit by VerSprite:
Leviathan Security Group
Leviathan Security Group is a well-known and respected cybersecurity firm specializing in penetration testing, vulnerability assessments, and other security services. They have a team of experienced security professionals who use their expertise to identify vulnerabilities in software and infrastructure and recommend ways to mitigate those risks.
In 2018, Leviathan Security Group audited the VyprVPN service, a popular VPN used by millions of people worldwide. The VPN underwent the audit after the VPN got omitted from the most secure VPN list of various VPN review platforms. The reason for this omission was due to the metadata retention practice of the VPN provider. The log audit was conducted to prove that the VPN is secure, reliable, and trustworthy. Golden Frog, the parent company of VyprVPN, commissioned the audit.
As per the insights on the VyprVPN blog, the audit was very comprehensive and covered a wide range of areas, including the VyprVPN client software, server infrastructure, and protocols used by the service. They also evaluated the privacy and security features of the service and tested for vulnerabilities that could be used to compromise user data or compromise the integrity of the VPN connection.
MDSec is a UK-based cybersecurity consulting and education company helping organizations improve their security posture. The company offers various services, including security testing, vulnerability assessments, penetration testing, incident response planning, and security training.
MDSec has a team of experienced cybersecurity professionals who deeply understand the latest threats and attack techniques. The company’s consultants have extensive experience in offensive and defensive security, allowing them to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in various systems and environments.
MDSec is also known for its independent security research and has been credited with discovering several critical vulnerabilities in popular software and systems. In December 2022, the company audited the Windows application of Atlas VPN, where its experts looked for vulnerabilities that were liable to exploitation.
As per the blog post by AtlasVPN MDSec, researchers discovered vulnerabilities that were susceptible to compromise and then recommended patching them. Once Atlas VPN confirmed the implementation of those suggestions, MDSec auditors retested the app to verify its security.
What to Expect from a VPN Log Audit?- Pros and Cons
An external audit is a big step that a VPN provider takes to maintain the integrity of its service. When choosing a firm to audit your VPN, it is essential to consider the pros and cons of each one. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- The peace of mind that comes with knowing your VPN provider is being held to the highest standards
- Greater customer trust
- A deeper understanding of the cybersecurity risks associated with your business
- The cost of the audit itself
- The time and resources required to prepare for and participate in the audit process
Ultimately, deciding which auditing firm to choose depends on your needs and requirements. Weighing the pros and cons carefully will help you make the best choice for your business.
Overview of a typical VPN auditing process
When a VPN provider decides to undergo an audit, they’re essentially outsourcing the assessment of their security practices and procedures to an external organization. This is an objective way to measure the effectiveness of a VPN provider’s security controls and to highlight if the VPN is reliable to use or not.
There are many different types of audits that a VPN provider can undergo, but most will follow a similar process:
- The auditing firm will first assess the scope of the engagement and identify what specific security controls need to undergo evaluation.
- They will conduct on-site visits or interviews with key personnel to gather information about the VPN provider’s security practices.
- The auditors will conduct a series of tests to check the security standards of the VPN.
- They will look into the servers and the data logging procedures to verify whether the VPN is trustworthy.
- Once the data collection process is complete, the auditing firm will prepare a report that details its findings and recommendations.
- The auditors provide solutions to all the vulnerabilities they have encountered to help the VPN improve its security if needed.
Once the audit is complete, the VPN provider gets a detailed report of all the findings. Then depending upon the agreement with the auditing firm, it is up to the VPN to provide the report publicly or to its users only. Nevertheless, the VPN must disclose all the report findings through a blog page.
Best tips For choosing a reliable auditing firm
Trustworthiness is one of the most important things to look for in a firm. You need to be confident that the firm will do a thorough job and give you an accurate assessment of your security posture. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering a firm’s trustworthiness:
- Do they have experience conducting third-party audits?
- Are they independent or affiliated with any particular security vendors?
- Does the firm have reputed and skilled researchers on the team?
- What is their reputation like within the industry?
- Are they known to provide unbiased results?
- Is the firm using the latest technology and practices for audits?
These factors help evaluate that you have chosen a reliable and trustworthy firm to conduct your audit. It also helps ensure that the audit will be acceptable to your consumers.
Alternative Methods to measure your VPN’s Security Standards.
External audits of VPN providers are a great way to ensure the security of their services. However, these are not the only thing a person looks into while choosing a VPN. Since VPN use varies from online safety to streaming, torrenting, and even gaming, several factors must be top-notch for the VPN to outstand in the market. Some of those features are:
- Use robust encryption algorithms: Using strong encryption algorithms is one of the best ways to ensure security for VPN providers. VPN providers’ most popular encryption algorithms include AES-256, SHA-256, and RSA-2048.
- Implement VPN leak protection: VPN leak protection prevents DNS, IP addresses, and WebRTCs from being sent outside the encrypted tunnel, which can help protect against attacks.
- Keep software up to date: It is essential for all businesses but especially critical for VPN providers. Outdated software can contain vulnerabilities attackers can exploit to access networks and data.
- Conduct regular penetration tests: Penetration testing simulates real-world attacks and can help identify weaknesses in systems and applications before attackers do.
- Use reliable VPN protocols: VPN protocols are crucial to VPN security and good speeds. It would be best if you used industry standard protocols such as OpenVPN or WireGuard.
- Actively working kill switch: Kill Switch is essential to VPN security. Ensure that your VPN has one.
- Streaming compatibility: since VPNs are used for streaming, ensure you have reliable features that help stream on all platforms, including Netflix US.
- Features to bypass censorship: VPNs are often used to bypass geo-blocks and censorship. Your VPN should have such features to remain a prominent choice for users.
These features are some of the most crucial things VPN users usually look into, and offering them in your VPN can significantly help you remain a reliable choice.
There are several VPNs available that promise the utmost security and privacy to their users. However, various security incidents involving VPNs have robbed users of their trust in merely the VPNs’ “no logs” or “most secure” claims. Amidst this, the only way left for VPN providers to validate their security standards is to rely on external audits. Since these audits are from renowned firms that guarantee unbiased reviews, users now prefer VPNs that have undergone such audits frequently.
Moreover, since these audits are essential to gain users’ trust, choosing reliable auditing firms with a solid reputation for providing unbiased and thorough results is crucial. Therefore, we have covered a comprehensive guide on some of the top years of cybersecurity firms that offer third-party audits to VPN providers.
Yes, some VPN services get audited, although it is not a universal practice in the industry. Independent third-party companies or organizations can audit to ensure that the VPN service meets its stated privacy and security policies and practices. The audits can cover various aspects such as data handling, logging policies, encryption, and security protocols. It’s important to note that not all VPN providers undergo auditing, and the quality and scope of audits can vary widely among those that do. Therefore, it’s essential to research and choose a reputable VPN provider that has a track record of transparency and a commitment to user privacy and security.