Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access (commonly known as PIA) is a capable VPN provider, now owned by Kape, which also owns CyberGhost, ZenMate and ExpressVPN.

PIA has servers available in just about every single state in America, which is great if you want to encrypt and protect your connection but don’t want to get locked out your account for suspicious activity. Choosing a server in a remote country for instance can have some benefits but it is not always the most practical choice.

PIA Log Policy

In the book Resistance, Liberation Technology and Human Rights in the Digital Age author Giovanni Ziccardi shares this response from Private Internet Access:

“We absolutely do not maintain any VPN logs of any kind. We utilize shared IP addresses rather than dynamic or static IPs, so it is not possible to match a user to an external IP. These are some of the many solutions we have implemented to enable the strongest levels of anonymity amongst VPN services. Further, we would like to encourage our users to use an anonymous e-mail and pay with Bitcoins to ensure even higher levels of anonymity should it be required.” Q2: “Our company currently operates out of the United States with gigabit gateways in the US, Canada, UK, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.

We chose the US, since it is one of the only countries without a mandatory data retention law. We will not share any information with third parties without a valid
court order. With that said, it is impossible to match a user to any activity on our system since we utilize shared IPs and maintain absolutely no logs.”

According to my research, PIA VPN predominantly uses CDNext, GTT, and M247 servers depending on where you are connecting to.

Use of virtual servers

While it’s not uncommon for VPN providers to use location virtualization, some do see it as dishonest and another deceitful marketing technique. During our testing, we discovered that PIA does in fact use location virtualization. For instance, 100% of the servers advertised as being in the Philippines were actually located in Singapore.

IP                Advertised Country   Actual Country  ISP    ASN   Philippines          Singapore       M247   AS9009	

ASN Diversity

In the realm of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), diversity is a key indicator of network resilience. A significant measure of this diversity can be evaluated using the Shannon Diversity Index (SDI), a concept borrowed from ecology to measure the biodiversity in a given community. In the context of VPNs, the SDI offers a quantitative assessment of the diversity of Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) among VPN servers. Theoretically, a higher SDI correlates with increased network diversity, indicating a more resilient network structure less prone to single-point failures.

An examination of Private Internet Access (PIA), with its SDI value of 1.8, reveals a comparatively lower network diversity in relation to other VPNs. For instance, Windscribe, Surfshark, and NordVPN have reported SDI values of 3.6, 2.88, and 2.75 respectively. This suggests a potential susceptibility in PIA’s network to failures or targeted attacks, owing to its relatively less diverse network.

However, it is crucial to emphasize that SDI, while informative, is not the sole determinant of network performance and resilience. Several other factors, including the choice of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), geographical server distribution, total network capacity, and VPN service management practices significantly influence a VPN’s overall performance. Thus, while PIA’s SDI value may not place it at the pinnacle of network diversity, it is important to consider the holistic context when evaluating VPN performance and resilience.

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