Singapore’s status as a business and technology hub in Southeast Asia has never been in doubt, but there are question marks over the levels of internet freedoms granted to residents of the lion state.
Despite boasting an impressive 82.5 percent internet penetration rate, aspirations to be a ‘Smart Nation’, and a vibrant economy that prides itself on business-friendly policies, Singapore’s internet landscape was ranked by advocacy body Freedom House in 2016 as being ‘partly free’. The report pointed to arrests of online bloggers and throttling press freedoms as worrying developments.
If you don’t want to read the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for Singapore:
Hence it’s essential to use a VPN to harness the full power of the internet in Singapore. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the internet traffic flowing to and from your device and tunnels it via an intermediary server outside your location. It’s impossible for hackers or surveillance agencies to keep track of your web history.
A VPN is also a handy tool for expatriates living in Singapore looking to unlock local media content from back home such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, or BeIN Sports.
Our ranking of the best VPNs for Singapore is based on the following factors:
- Speed and reliability of service
- Strong encryption parameters
- No usage logs
- Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease
- Servers in Singapore
- Apps for Android and iOS
ExpressVPN combines a neat, minimalistic, and functional design with impeccable service making it one of our highest-recommended VPN providers.
The company operates over 1,500 servers spread across 94 countries including some in Singapore. Finding an adequate connection won’t be a problem. Servers in Singapore mean it’s possible for Singaporean citizens and residents to access local cable television content like StarHub TV while traveling abroad.
ExpressVPN does not store any traffic logs so it ranks well from a privacy and anonymity perspective. It does, however, extract some minimal user information such as the “date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used”. This is used to improve service quality standards.
The company adds that it will never log your individual IP address. If you’re still feeling uneasy, it’s possible to sign up for the service via a burner email account and pay through Bitcoin. There’s no way for the activity to be traced back to you.
Encryption standards are robust. The service leverages 256-bit AES-CBC protocols as well as HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. There’s an internet kill switch included, referred to as a ‘network lock’, which means all web traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
The service is able to unlock geo-restricted content on Netflix. It’s compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer and supports torrenting.
There are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop clients for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.
Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.
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IPVanish is another sturdy VPN that delivers fast speeds without compromising on encryption standards or user privacy. It’s a completely logless service – meaning there’s no storage of web activity or metadata. The only time it retains some information is when an account is registered for the first time.
Encryption protocols are stringent – IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. What that means is that in the unlikely event that a hacker gains control of your account, they will still not be able to decrypt past session data to figure out what you’ve been up to on the web.
IPVanish includes an internet kill switch, which means traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops out of the blue. Servers are optimized for speed, stability, and security – with over 850 of them spread across 60 countries, including 18 in Singapore.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work well with Netflix or Hulu but is an excellent choice for BBC iPlayer.
There are apps for both iOS and Android as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
IPVanish is popular with Kodi users because it allows them to download the Android APK directly to their device. The interface is also remote control friendly for Kodi devices that lack a keyboard and mouse.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
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NordVPN has been in the business for over a decade – a testament to the exacting standards the company maintains for itself.
It continues the tradition of holding zero data about its users – no browsing habits, timestamps, or server information. The company has received requests for information in the past but it says there was nothing on its servers that could incriminate users.
NordVPN operates 976 servers in 56 countries – with some optimized for anti-DDoS, video streaming, double VPN, Tor over VPN, which should cater to your needs regardless of your requirements.
26 of these are located in Singapore which is ideal for local residents traveling abroad.
It’s able to overcome the Netflix VPN ban with ease, as well as unlocking content from Hulu and BBC iPlayer.
Encryption standards are impressive – NordVPN uses the 256-bit AES protocol encryption standard by default coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys. DNS leak protection is enabled.
There’s support for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android.
Here’s our full review of NordVPN.
Cheap deal: There’s a whopping 72 percent in savings here if you sign up for Nord’s two-year plan that works out to be roughly $3.29/month.
Cyberghost Pro is headquartered in Romania and has a policy of not logging any user behavior or content of communications. But it was recently acquired by a firm headquartered in the UK so we’ll have to see if this policy changes.
Over 850 servers are spread across the world with six of them located in Singapore.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
The service isn’t able to circumvent the Netflix ban on VPNs but does work on BBC iPlayer.
Concerns about data loss should be quelled because Cyberghost Pro uses 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and MD5 HMAC authentication. These are generally viewed as top-tier standards.
There’s also an internet kill switch included, which means web traffic will be halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.
Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.
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Some users might be vexed by VyprVPN’s policy to store data, specifically “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time, and the total number of bytes used.”
But the company says that it’s only kept for a period of 30 days and is used for troubleshooting purposes. There’s no way of determining exact details of web traffic.
VyprVPN is one of the few services that’s able to circumvent China’s Great Firewall. But this could change due to recent developments such as Apple’s expulsion of VPN apps from its China store. We’ll keep our readers posted on this front.
The company owns and manages entire data centers – as opposed to other services that utilize a combination of owning and renting servers. This helps VyprVPN retain control of all traffic flowing through its servers – optimizing speed and stability of connection. Traffic is secured by the OpenVPN protocol, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication.
VyprVPN includes an internet kill switch by default which means internet traffic will be halted temporarily if the connection drops.
A premium version of the package allows access to the Chameleon ™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it. This is a valuable feature for users that are mainly interested in securing their privacy at all costs.
There are over 700 servers, including a few in Singapore – but the company doesn’t say how many exactly.
Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.
VyprVPN can unlock content on Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.
Read our full review of VyprVPN.
Try it free: VyprVPN is free for the first three days for Comparitech readers, followed by 50% off the first month if you continue.
Should I use a free VPN?
Free VPNs are lurking around on the web and they’re not terribly hard to come across. Users might be tempted to sign up because there’s no upfront payment involved, but there’s more than what meets the eye.
Such services aren’t charities – they have to make money to pay for server maintenance, salaries, and other overhead costs – and the most likely route they’ll choose for this is via unsuspecting users.
Examples are rife of free VPNs inserting tracking cookies, mining that data, and selling it to third-party advertisers. Privacy and anonymity are far from guaranteed. And even if you miraculously escape this scenario, you should still be prepared for invasive advertisements and the threat of a malware infection.
The VPNs given in this list offer robust encryption and a wide array of servers. Free VPNs have a fraction of the same service standards – expect data caps, bandwidth throttling, and only one or two servers to pick from. We recommend you avoid these traps.
Some VPNs to avoid in Singapore
Reducing internet freedoms in Singapore mean that most people opting to use a VPN there value their privacy on the web. The VPNs mentioned in this article have had no documented cases of violating that trust, but there are some others floating around that have compromised on their ethical commitment to maintaining privacy without a second thought. We recommend you turn your back on them.
Here are two such cases:
Paid VPN provider PureVPN recently collaborated with the FBI to help identify Ryan Lin, accused of online blackmailing and extortion attempts on an unnamed 24-year-old woman.
The US law enforcement agency got involved after a complaint was lodged. They traced the activity back to PureVPN who promptly analyzed their logs to identify the culprit.
PureVPN insists that the content of communications was not recorded but the company did have a ‘no-logs’ policy at the time.
Israel-based Hola, which once boasted a userbase of almost 50 million, shockingly turned this critical mass into a massive botnet in 2015.
Part of users’ bandwidth was bifurcated illegally by the company for Distributed Denial of Service Attacks and for distributing copyrighted content. That’s without any user consent whatsoever. We recommend you avoid Hola like the plague.
While we don’t condone the use of VPNs to commit illegal acts – which is clearly what both Cody Kretsinger and Chris Dupuy were accused of doing – we do maintain that a VPN company needs to put ethics and privacy as its top-most priorities. So when it violates that principle, there should be no second chances.
Is porn legal in Singapore?
The city-state forbids the download or distribution of any form of material showing sexual acts – these could be movies, pictures or books. You won’t be arrested if you accidentally stumble across a porn site, but it’s illegal to stick around and try to download content.
Having said that, such laws are rarely enforced with very little instances of residents being prosecuted for violating the act. Many porn sites are blocked in Singapore.
Using a VPN keeps you anonymous on the internet. So if streaming or downloading porn is what you’re after, a VPN will help you bypass blocks and stay out of trouble.
Are torrents legal in Singapore?
Singaporeans love downloading content from the internet, but laws passed in 2014 make it illegal for citizens to infringe those protected under copyright. Before the passage of this law, the copyright holder was required to send a takedown notice to their ISP in order to disable access to said material. But compliance on the part of ISPs was not mandatory so the law was rarely enforced.
Copyright trolls have also made their mark in Singapore. In 2015, at least three internet users received legal notices asking them to fork over $5,000 for illegally downloading the Dallas Buyers Club. The case was later settled out of court, but remains a warning for people who flout the rules.
We don’t condone the download of copyrighted material but, if you really want to engage in torrents, then a VPN will hide the contents of download traffic from your ISP.
How can I blog anonymously in Singapore?
Between May 2015 and June 2016, there were at least four reported cases of bloggers and media executives being fined, arrested, jailed, or coerced for things ranging from insulting religious groups to defaming the Prime Minister.
Penalties handed out were stiff too – one blogger was ordered to cough up $150,000 to secure his release. The other was put in the slammer for 10 months. It’s an ordeal that shouldn’t happen to anyone.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide for journalists and bloggers in order to protect themselves and their sources from the wrath of governments around the globe. Read through it in order to understand how to remain safe and secure while continuing to spread your message.