The Best Privacy-Friendly Services (Updated December 2018)

by Grey One •

Here are my recommended private and secure services. I’ve favored services that are easy-to-use and don’t require deep technical knowledge. This is a cheatsheet — if you need more information on these services, pleases see the other articles on this site.


  • I recommend these VPNs for speed & reliability: ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) or iVPN (Gibraltar — a British Overseas Territory)
  • If you are in a censored country like China I recommend: ExpressVPN or Cyberghost (Romania)
  • VPN for enhanced privacy or for avoiding censorship: iVPN or VPN.AC (Romania)
  • I recommend these VPN routers: FlashRouters
  • This is a reliable DNS leak test: IPX.AC


  • I recommend this provider for everyday private email: FastMail (Australia)
  • I recommend this provider for encrypted email: ProtonMail (Switzerland)

Cloud Services

  • The best instant sync encrypted cloud service: pCloud (Switzerland)
  • The best encrypted cloud service for businesses: Tresorit (Switzerland)
  • The best cross-platform password manager: Bitwarden (USA or self-hosted)

Web Browsing


Usenet Services


  • A good torrent client that is optimized for VPN use: qBittorrent
  • A good streaming torrent client: Webtorrent
  • Best public torrent indexes: PB Onion (requires Tor Browser)

Instant Messaging

  • A mobile app for encrypting phone calls and messages: Wire (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux)
  • An open-source instant messenger app: Pidgin (Linux, Mac, Windows)

DNS (Domain Name Service)

  • The most private and decentralized DNS: OpenNic
  • An ad-blocking DNS: AdGuard DNS
  • A reasonably private, adult-content blocking DNS: OpenDNS

File & Disk Encryption

  • I recommend this app for file encryption: AES Crypt
  • For disk encryption: Veracrypt (fork of TrueCrypt)
  • For encrypted file syncing (computer to computer): SyncThing


  • I recommend these cryptocurrencies: Bitcoin (pseudo-anonymous), Monero (untraceable)
  • For purchasing cryptocurrencies with USD: Gemini, Coinbase
  • For coin-to-coin exchange: Binance (full exchange)
  • I recommend this cryptocurrency hardware wallet: Trezor


  • The best media manager/streamer: Plex
  • The best YouTube downloader: youtube-dl
  • A reliable video and audio player: MPV or VLC
  • A good library-based audio player (like iTunes): Clementine

Operating Systems

Here are some other guides to privacy software: PrivacyTools, PrismBreak and DroidBreak

Comments 20

    1. Yes, Brave is another browser with useful privacy-friendly features. Soon it will be a complete alternative to Firefox once all the add-ons are fully supported.

  1. Do you have any opinions on good software wallets for cryptocurrency (for the moderately interested user that is dipping their toe in and doesn’t want to spring for Trezor just yet)?

    Thanks, love your site!

    1. For amounts less than $5000 I use Copay, an open-source wallet which works well. It uses multiple signatures which means it allows for multiple accounts and users. It also supports the full Bitcoin Payment Protocol (BIP 0070-0073).

  2. Based on your recommendation, I gave elementaryOS a try. While I think it’s a really interesting project, I found too many weird quirks/bugs to make the switch. ElementaryOS has not hit it’s 1.0 release yet (Loki is a 0.4 release). I think you should consider recommending a more stable Linux distribution for everyday use.

    1. I’m sorry elementaryOS didin’t work out for you. I’ve been using Loki since it came out, and it been very stable for me. Could you let me know the what type of issues came up for you?

      1. The biggest quirk was that out-of-the-box elementaryOS seems to be missing a driver for my MacBook Pro network interface controller. After I live booted my machine with elementaryOS, I set up connection to my wifi and still could not connect to the internet. My network card was not listed using `ifconfig` or `lspci -vnn`. After I plugged in a usb wifi dongle with a ralink wireless card, my wifi automatically connected. There were some other smaller quirks. For example, sometimes after a live boot I cannot open the Epiphany browser. I plan on spending more time with this OS as well as providing my feedback to the elementaryOS community.

        Thanks again for the suggestion. Keep up the good work!

        Also, I would love to hear your feedback on ParrotOS and Ghostery!

        1. Thanks for the details. I’m sure other readers will find your notes useful. Unfortunately, driver issues are continue to be problematic, especially on laptops.

          I bought my machines pre-configured from ThinkPenguin, so I avoided some configuration issues. I also hope to check out some of the other distributions that you mention.

  3. I’ve used Air VPN for several years. Lately I’ve experienced some slowdowns and inconsistent connectivity. When I tried to talk to their support team about it I was told it was “impossible” for ANY errors to occur and that I was “irrelevant” , “stupid”, and “absurd” to even think such a thing. I have read responses to people in the forums that are equally personal and dismissive. Although Air VPN is cheap compared to others you recommend, that low cost comes with a price: no respect for clients and zero customer support. And, given my recent experiences, I now question their reliability. I’ll be switching to another VPN as a result.

    1. Claudia, that doesn’t sounds like a good experience. I will investigate further, and I will change my recommendation if necessary.

  4. Hi,

    Right now, I am using Google Chrome and I have been using these extensions together for quite a while:
    – uBlock Origin
    – Privacy Badger
    – HTTPS Everywhere
    – Cookie AutoDelete
    – Decentraleyes
    – ExpressVPN

    What do you think of the extensions I used and please advice if whether I should add anymore recommended extensions or remove any extensions I am using right now? Thanks so much.

  5. Just curious why you don’t reccomend PIA anymore? My subscription is about to expire… wondering if I need to jump ship to one of these?

    1. I still recommend Private Internet Access (PIA). It is a reliable and inexpensive provider. However, ExpressVPN and IPVanish offer a bit more of a seamless experience, in terms of support, apps and documentation.

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