Today I’m signing up for CactusVPN, an anonymous VPN service that has attracted much attention from privacy advocates. Keep reading this CactusVPN to learn more.

Follow along with my experience to help decide if this service is a good fit for you. I’m going to tell you why you need CactusVPN and give you a play-by-play account of my experience with the service. From signing up to initial testing, you’ll see why CactusVPN might solve your need for online privacy and security.

Why do you need CactusVPN?

Thanks to WikiLeaks, Edward Snowden, and other privacy advocates, we know that traditional online security measures cannot protect you from the prying eyes of the CIA and NSA. Making things worse, the Vault 7 document dump let the world know that many of the NSA’s hacking tools were stolen, putting the entire world at the mercy of hackers. Additionally, tools that we previously thought were secure have been proven to be wide open to the prying eyes of the government.


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Even your internet service provider threatens the quality and security of your online experience by throttling your data while streaming video and disabling your account in response to “intellectual property” violations.

Additionally, internet providers, including those offered by your cable, telephone, and satellite companies have been caught selling to third parties your browsing habits and other information that helps you become inundated with unwanted digital advertising.

Other factors, including location-based blackouts, can keep you from watching particular movies and sports events in your area. CactusVPN can protect you from these and other threats by adding layers of anonymity and encryption to your online experience.  As a result, no one can trace your IP address or internet activity to your computer. Also, your service provider cannot tell what type of content you are accessing.

Ultimately, CactusVPN can make you safe (or at least safer) online. Read a recent article at ARS Technica to learn about how the United States Congress has moved to further diminish online privacy.

Signing up for CactusVPN

CactusVPN is one of the few anonymous VPN services that give you a chance to try their service for free for a 24-hour free trial. Here’s what my screen looked like when I first arrived at https://billing.cactusvpn.com/aff.php?aff=2256:

CactusVPN home page

After I clicked the “Start Now” button, I arrived at a screen that gives me the chance to buy one of five product service levels on monthly, quarterly or annual terms. So far, there’s no indication that a free trial of the service is available.

CactusVPN service options

With every VPN package, you will get OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, SoftEther, SSTP and PPTP VPN protocols and Proxy.

Try CactusVPN for Free

Continue scrolling on the home page and you will see some testimonials from satisfied customers. I suppose no company would put irate, dissatisfied customers on their main page, would they? Anyway, keep scrolling and you will find out that you can try CactusVPN for free.

CactusVPN Try it for Free

You also have the opportunity to choose to try Cactus’ Smart DNS service for free. Hmmmm. I’m mostly interested in the VPN service, so I’m going to click the ‘Try VPN for Free” button. First, I want to scroll to see the rest of the page.

CactusVPN Advantages, Payment Methods, and Bundled Discounts

Here’s what the bottom of the screen looked like when I finally got there:

CactusVPN Payment Methods

Clicking the ‘Try VPN for Free” button

Online, you never know what to expect when clicking a button. I ratcheted-up my courage and clicked my mouse. I clicked the button. Here’s what happened:

CactusVPN Register for Free Trial

As you can see, you have to register for the free trial. No credit card is required, so I feel good about this right now. Let’s see what happens next.

Clicking the “Create Trial Account” button

I’m not going to show you all the info that I typed into the “Create Trial Account” button. Suffice it to say that I went through the hoops. Here’s what happened on the other side:

CactusVPN What's Next?

CactusVPN – The first email

I received the following email after finishing the registration form:

CactusVPN First Email

Getting started

I set up my password and gained access to the client area. Everything went smoothly, so now it’s time to setup the CactusVPN services. The application download screen was pretty straightforward as shown in the below screenshot.

CactusVPN VPN software

Trying CactusVPN

Installation of the CactusVPN software on my MacBook Pro was fast and easy. Now I’m going to log in. Below, you can see what my screen looked like. I was forced to return to the client area after discovering that my account login credentials won’t work for the client. Despite the inconvenience, I easily located the system-assigned username and password and logged in.

CactusVPN about to connect

I only have 24 hours, so I’m not going to spend much time on the minutiae of the CactusVPN client. Right now, I want to see how it works. I chose Chicago.

I chose Chicago from the surprisingly short list of available servers. Also, I chose the OpenVPN protocol because I’ve heard that it’s faster than L2TP.

I clicked the “Connect” button. Below you’ll see what happened.

CactusVPN connected to Chicago

Does CactusVPN work?

I’m not too sure how to tell for sure how secure my connection now is. I went to DoIleak.com to get an idea of my new online anonymity.

To begin with, the Do I Leak website took several minutes to load over my 1 GB/sec connection. OMG.

UPDATE: After about 4 minutes, the Do I Leak website loaded. After that, however, it and other websites such as Google, Bing and DrudgeReport began to quickly load. Maybe this was some sort of configuration initialization issue.

Well, Do I Leak?

Well, to my surprise, DoILeak.com reported my true IP address and internet provider! OMG! What happened? Well, for unknown reasons, CactusVPN had disconnected and left me 100% completely exposed.

This was very, very bad because I thought that I was protected. Fortunately, I was behaving myself ;-).  Later, I discovered that for these kinds of situations the client app has the feature “Reconnect if VPN connection is dropped” in settings. I feel more confident now that I have that feature enabled.

I have connected again and I’m going to try to see what DoILeak.com has to say.

CactusVPN VPN software Do I Leak?

CactusVPN: I don’t leak

I was pleased with the results I got from my IP leakage test. Please note something very positive: The time on my computer matches the time disclosed by the VPN server, despite the fact that I am in a different time zone. This feature keeps websites from detecting the fact that I’m using a third-party connection to browse the web.

CactusVPN: The Verdict

Signing up, registering for, and setting up CactusVPN was incredibly easy. Beware for the minor glitches that I had while getting started. Make sure that the first website that you visit is DoIleak.com. This will alert you, as it did for me, if your VPN client has unknowingly disconnected.

Also, keep an eye on the cactus icon on your menu bar to make sure the time reported makes sense. For example, if you’ve been online for 30 minutes and the cactus reports your connection time as 1 minute, guess what?

CactusVPN VPN software Menu bar timer

So, your timer can be a primary, if not primitive, defense against unexpected service disconnects.

UPDATE:  My 24-hour trial is almost over. I have experienced fast browsing speeds. I’ve also played around with some of the features of CactusVPN, including the AppsKiller, which terminates applications and/or network interfaces when and if the CactusVPN connection gets severed.

I give CactusVPN a thumbs up and will recommend the VPN service to a client tomorrow.

Learn more about CactusVPN

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