This article started as a simple concept. A YouTube creator I don’t like very much created a video I disagree with, which is not a rare occurrence. He mentioned that his sponsor was VirtualShield, and explained what a VPN is and why he preferred VirtualShield. I was planning on a short post about VPNs and why a YouTube channel is a bad way to find the right one, but things quickly spiraled out of control.
WHAT IS A VPN?
If you know the answer to this question, skip ahead to the next section. If not, here’s a short explanation. Whenever a person uses the internet, they open themselves up to data collection from various companies. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, protects this data by sending it through their servers first. Imagine that you wanted to send a letter to your friend across town, but were also convinced that the USPS is opening your mail in transit. You could hand off the letter to a trusted friend and have them deliver it. VPNs result in a slower connection and cost money, but there’s a more important catch. The people operating the VPN are equally able to spy on your activity, so the user must trust that they will not do so. How would one know if a VPN is trustworthy? I’m glad you asked.
A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE VERY WRONG ABOUT VIRTUALSHIELD
To start, here is an list of YouTube channels that have endorsed VirtualShield. I have excluded all channels with fewer than 200,000 subscribers.
Roaming Millenial — 222K subscribers SpectreSoundStudios — 230K subscribers No BS — 230K subscribers Andywarski — 260K subscribers Lisa Haven — 267K subscribers Lauren Southern — 395K subscribers Bearing — 424K susbcribers HighImpactFlix — 456K subscribers
These eight channels have, either explicitly or implicitly, told their millions of viewers that VirtualShield can be trusted. They’re dead wrong, and here’s why.
WHOSE COMPANY IS IT ANYWAY?
“Who is in charge of VirtualShield?” should be an easy question to answer. I’ve been investigating all month, and I still have no definitive answer. In fact, I have four different entities with connections to the company. Not one of these is a part of the company, they’re all third parties designed to hide the people in charge of VirtualShield.
- VirtualShield is owned by VirtualShield VPN, LLC, an LLC based in Delaware. VirtualShield VPN LLC was formed on May 1st 2017 through a registered agent. A registered agent allowed the owners to avoid providing any contact information and to found the company without residing in Delaware.
- The trademark on VirtualShield was filed by Philip Thomas Horton, who as far as I can tell has not performed work for other companies.
- The domain is registered to Domains By Proxy, a service that allows registration of domains without providing WHOIS information to the rest of the world.
- VirtualShield’s business address is actually the address of a company that will allow use of their address for $45.
At this point it’s very clear that VirtualShield wishes to avoid disclosing their ownership, which doesn’t inspire confidence in their service.
REAL PEOPLE DON’T LIKE VIRTUALSHIELD
VirtualShield’s legitimate reviews are abysmal. The application has a 3/5 on iOS and a 3.4/5 on Android. Accusations of scamming, broken software and refusal to accept returns abound. If those apps are so terrible, why does the Chrome version have a stellar 5-star rating? Fake reviews. I can’t prove it definitively, but I can give examples of the 25 perfect reviews that it received on the same day.
“Simple to use and full version. Just love it.”
“This VPN works perfectly. I am use this VPN always.”
“very good speed and changes address often. Nice works.”
“VirtualSheid VPN are great VPn. Its works good and easy to use.”
“Awesome vpn extension. This vpn app good for chrome browser. Like it”
“This vpn extension can’t slow my internet speed. When I connect the vpn, I get the same speed.”
If the app is as good as those YouTubers say, why were obviously faked reviews necessary?
ENOUGH HEADINGS, HERE ARE THE REST OF THE REASONS
Virtual Shield’s pricing strategy is absurd. The base plan is $11 per month, which is high but not too unreasonable. VirtualShield’s “innovative” plan to break up features that are standard in other VPNs for more money is the issue here. Want a vague promise of increased security? That’ll be $13 a month. Access to “premium” support, which will presumably accept refunds unlike the regular support? That’s another $15 a month. The most offensive of all is the VPN plan, which artificially splits their users into another support tier. This is their plan that includes a dedicated support team, all addons and their “security suite.” The VIP Plan is $129 per month. As a comparison, I use Private Internet Access. I have never and will never take money from them, but I have given them money twice for yearly subscriptions. I paid $40 for a year both times if my memory serves, which means that one month of the VirtualShield’s VIP plan would cost more than two years of PIA.
VirtualShield’s home page suggests that six prominent news outlets have written about their product. I checked all six, and none of them have.
VirtualShield’s YouTube Channel features three completely different videos. Each video has a different art style and a different narrator, which suggests that these were contracted out and not created by the company itself.
WHAT’S THE MOTIVE?
Why would a low-level celebrity endorse a terrible product like VirtualShield? They’d do it for the timeless reason behind countless questionable sponsorships: The sponsor pays very well. Each of the individuals I listed placed an affiliate link in the description of their video. These affiliate links give a cut to the creator whenever they are used to register for VirtualShield. The affiliate page explicitly states that “We have the best commission structure of any VPN affiliate program.” Let’s take Lauren Southern as an example and suppose that 5% of her 395,000 subscribers purchase one month of VirtualShield. She would take home $256,750 for the small cost of her integrity, and it’s clear that many are willing to make that deal.
A HEARTFELT MESSAGE TO VIRTUALSHIELD AFFILIATES
I was browsing your [conspiracy theory network/metal community/right-leaning commentary channel] when I came across a video [insert link]. In that video, you promote VirtualShield as a trustworthy Virtual Private Network. Unfortunately, I must ask you to retract your sponsorship and issue an apology. This is entirely out of concern for your audience, not disrespect for your opinion on [reptilians/music/politics].
Some Random Guy With a Medium Page.