I have been a fan of Private Internet Access for a long time. Back in December I began looking at some other VPN options for iOS. This was due to one major limiting feature: the PIA iOS app did not support OpenVPN. This has changed recently and the Private Internet Access iOS app is now better than ever.
The majority of the changes revolve around the implementation of the OpenVPN protocol. Previously PIA had only supported IPSec on the iOS app. This change has two major benefits. The first is that it allows the best possible encryption (AES-256) of data. Secondly, it permits the user to connect on some networks that block VPNs. This second factor was important to me last week when teaching on a college campus that restricted all UDP traffic.
Private Internet Access iOS App
Switching the Private Internet Access iOS app to OpenVPN is easy. Open the app. If you haven’t not logged in, do so. Tap the hamburger button in the upper left of the interface. On the next screen select “Settings”. In the Settings menu tap “Protocol”.
The Protocol options allow you to choose IPSec or OpenVPN. Choose OpenVPN.
When you choose OpenVPN you will be given a number of options. These options include:
Socket: UDP or TCP. UDP is more efficient for VPNs, but is an easy target for networks attempting to block VPN traffic.
Remote Port: Port 443 is also used by HTTPS traffic. This makes your VPN traffic virtually indistinguishable from a connection to an HTTPS site. Port 80 is used for HTTP traffic and Port 110 is used for POP3 traffic. I recommend sticking with 443.
Data Encryption: AES-128 or AES-256 (in CBC mode). AES-256 is stronger but may be slower.
Data Authentication: SHA-1 or SHA-256. Again, SHA-256 is stronger by may be slightly slower.
Handshake Protocol: Myriad options. The strongest and best is RSA-4096.
Next there are a couple of application settings. The only one that I recommend enabling is “Automatically reconnect”. This attempts to keep the VPN connection active.
What this Means
This means that the Private Internet Access iOS app now gives you the best of both worlds. You get the convenience of an app that maintains an always-on connection. You also get security and speed of OpenVPN. Since learning of this change I have been using PIA on some of my iOS devices. If you’re on the fence about a VPN for your device I no longer have any reason to hesitate recommending the Private Internet Access iOS app.