Today I am going to discuss Private Internet Access for iOS. This is going to be in two parts: the PIA app (available in the App Store) and the option to use OpenVPN, which requires a separate app. Both of these methods have some advantages, and both have their disadvantages. In this installment I am going to discuss the App.To get started with Private Internet Access for iOS, download the application from the App Store. Next, either sign up for an account or enter your login credentials. The app is incredibly simple and does most of the work for you. Unfortunately this also means there aren’t very many settings that you can manipulate and the app is somewhat fixed in its mode of operation.
Private Internet Access for iOS App
Toggling the ON/OFF slider will turn the VPN on and it will attempt to establish a connection via the cellular data or Wi-Fi, depending on what is available. Tapping the gear icon in the upper left will allow you to modify the few settings available, namely Automatically reconnect and PIA MACE™.
Automatically reconnect: this setting will attempt to automatically establish a new tunnel with the VPN server if the connection is dropped. This is the most important setting in the Private Internet Access iOS app! This setting ensures that you nearly always have a VPN connection and the maximum amount of data possible is protected by the VPN. If the connection is dropped, the device effectively has zero connectivity until it is established again. Why would the connection be dropped? It might become stale and drop over time. You might go from cellular data to Wi-Fi data which would cause the connection to drop. You may temporarily lose cell coverage. Any of these things and many more could cause the connection to drop, and without “Automatically reconnect” enabled, you would have to a. notice this fact, b. open the app, and c. toggle the slider to ON.
To make sure there are no conflicts in the iOS settings, you should also go into the phone’s native VPN settings. Navigate to Settings >> VPN. Tap the expanded information button (the cicled “i”) beside Private Internet Access. On the next page ensure that “Connect On Demand” is toggled to on. This will ensure that the VPN always attempts to maintain a connection.
As you can see in the VPN settings, the PIA iOS app uses the IPSec encryption protocol. Unlike the desktop and Android apps, there is not option to manage connections or encryption settings. While I think IPSec is a decent protocol, there is some conjecture in the security community that it has been purposefully compromised. For this reason many prefer the OpenVPN encryption protocol. Stay tuned – in the next installment of this series I will explain how to do this.
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