The Most Popular VPNs – Uncovering the Top VPNs

most popular vpns

Most people are familiar with VPNs, or virtual private networks, as a way to protect their online privacy and security. However, there are a few things that many people don’t know about the most popular VPNs, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision when choosing a VPN. Want to learn more about the popular VPN options available to you?

Not many people know this, but several VPNs, especially the popular ones, are owned by the same company. For instance, you’ll find Kape Technologies is the same owner behind ExpressVPN, CyberGhost, PIA, and ZenMate. Interesting, right? Even so, despite falling under the same parent company, no two VPNs are the same.

While some VPNs are highly reputable and offer robust security and privacy features, others are less trustworthy and may even sell your data or engage in other unethical practices. It’s, therefore, important to do your research and choose a VPN that has a good reputation and is transparent about its policies and practices. And that brings us to the purpose of this guide. We’ll compare the 5 top VPNs’ ownership structures and bring out their positive and relatively unknown negative sides.


Owner: Kape Technologies

Year Established: 2009

You can’t discuss popular VPNs and leave out ExpressVPN. Ranked as one of the high-performance VPNs on the market, the VPN was founded in 2009. Users have Peter Burchhardt and Dan Pomerantz, two close friends, and serial entrepreneurs, to thank for this genius brand. It’s currently based in the British Virgin Islands but has staff in several countries, including Portugal, Toronto, and Australia.

ExpressVPN was acquired in 2021 by Kape Technologies, a digital privacy and security company listed on the LSE. By then, it enjoyed a staggering 3 million active user base from around the globe. Under the guidance of Kape, the VPN boasts extensive server coverage in over 160 locations worldwide. Also, it has a long list of safety features, from Kill Switch to Split Tunnelling, to encourage safe browsing.

Like its competitors, ExpressVPN isn’t very forthcoming about its ownership, only displaying little information on its website. If you need to put a face to the company, there’s Vice President Harold Li, who works closely with organizations like Fight for the Future and Open Media.

Uncovering ExpressVPN

It’s not all rosy with ExpressVPN. Some of its employees were accused of working with the UAE government in 2021 in a hacking operation. The operation targeted high-profile persons and heads of state. As you can imagine, the incident left a bitter taste in users’ mouths. But that doesn’t nullify its position as a leading and efficient VPN brand.


Owner: Nordsec Ltd

Year Established: 2012

NordVPN is another popular VPN service that was founded by a group of childhood friends who shared the same vision on cyber security. The VPN operates from Panama and has no affiliation with the Five Eyes or the Fourteen Eyes. As part of its corporate social responsibility, Nord has participated in various initiatives that support causes like cybercrime prevention and internet freedom.

In 2019, the VPN provider got a directive from Russian authorities to join the country’s state-sponsored websites. Its sole role was to prevent Russian NordVPN users from bypassing the state’s censorship. Nord refused to comply and shut down all its Russian servers instead. The whole incident proved some level of integrity was ingrained in the company’s DNA.

Its noteworthy reputation also lies in the VPN’s resolve to offer an affordable VPN service with features from high-end VPNs. You can count on the VPN to access a large number of servers and to enjoy strong security features such as the coveted WireGuard Protocol.

Uncovering NordVPN

Even though NordVPN scored points with the above-mentioned Russian incident, it doesn’t have a spotless track record, so to speak. The VPN was found in the middle of a server breach back in 2019 after leaking a private key. It has since redeemed itself as one of the trusted VPNs, even though users may still need to tread with caution.


Owner: Subsidiary of Nord Security

Year Established: 2018

SurfShark is a subsidiary of Nord Security, which obviously is the parent company of NordVPN. It’s hard to view the two VPNs as sister brands, considering they compete quite brutally against each other. As for SurfShark, its headquarters were previously in the British Virgin Islands but are now based in the Netherlands.

Ever since its launch in 2018, SurfShark has grown to be a reputable VPN with a full-featured suite of products. It offers a top-tier data leak protection system and private search tool, among other features. In fact, it received an official seal of approval in 2019 from AV-Test, an independent IT security establishment. The following year, SurfShark bagged an award for the Best VPN. The VPN later merged with Nord Security in 2022, and the brands continue to operate independently.

Uncovering SurfShark

Despite its impressive list of accolades, SurfShark isn’t exactly squeaky clean. It was part of the six popular VPNs that failed security tests conducted by AppEsteem, a security research firm. This, incidentally, put its ability to keep users safe under scrutiny. It has, however, since bumped up security features to include fast protocols like WireGuard as well as strong encryption technology.


Owner: Proton AG

Year Established: 2014

Proton VPN is another notable VPN, launched in 2014 and operated by a Swiss company called Proton AG. This happens to be the same company behind the email service Proton Mail too. The two are basically one and the same, even sharing the same management, resources, and offices.

It’s not the biggest VPN brand around, judging from the 1,800+ servers. Its peers, the likes of ExpressVPN have almost double that number of servers. Despite its smaller server coverage, Proton still has quite a number of features that make it a worthy contender. We’re talking about the AES-256 encryption used by most of the top-notch VPNs listed here.

Proton can proudly state that it owns all its servers, as the VPN runs through the company’s network. That’s pretty impressive, considering you have brands like Nord that exclusively rents some of its servers. Also, Proton has put itself on the map after identifying companies with the biggest data breaches in history.

Uncovering Proton VPN

In these times of endless cybersecurity malice, it’s refreshing to see a VPN like Proton that’s scandal-free. If you’re to fault Proton, its limited P2P availability and the fact that it’s prone to VPN blocks compromise the VPN. But overall, it’s an impressive service to work with.

Private Internet Access (PIA)

Owner: Kape Technologies

Year Established: 2018

PIA is another popular VPN with an excellent reputation that found itself under Kape Technologies’ acquisition sprees. The VPN was created by Andrew Lee in 2018 but later merged into Kape Technologies. Formerly known as Crossrider, there were talks of the company changing its name to Private Internet at some point.

The aim of the merger was for the parent company to expand its presence in the North American market. Despite privacy and security concerns about Kape Technologies being raised, PIA is doing well post the acquisition. It has gone on to receive high ratings from several leading cybersecurity review companies. Specifically, PIA received praise for its no-logging policy and compatibility with torrents, among other features.

PIA even willingly brought Deloitte, a leading auditing firm, on board to examine its server network and privacy. As expected, the VPN passed the tests with flying colors. True to form, its privacy policies aligned with the server configurations.

Uncovering Private Internet Access

Like most VPNs, PIA isn’t immune to skepticism from users. The VPN was embroiled in a lawsuit after the makers of the Hollywood movie, Angel Has Fallen challenged its no-logs policy. As mentioned earlier, the policy proved true, so PIA is in the clear.

Final Words

We don’t doubt you encountered a few eye-opening moments while going through our reviews. What with a string of competing VPNs being essentially run by the same company. The good news is sharing a parent company didn’t encourage monopolistic traits in the VPN service industry. All VPNs still compete independently and effectively to give users the best service possible.

Sure, some of our loved VPNs may have had run-ins with law enforcement at some point. However, this doesn’t take away from the integral private and secure service they offer internet users worldwide.