How To Setup a VPN on an iPhone

If you regularly use coffee shop Wi-Fi or other open Wi-Fi networks, you need to set up a VPN on your iPhone. It is an essential layer of security that can keep your traffic from prying eyes and help stop you falling prey to the many threats that exist in the wireless networks in our cities.

The iPhone natively supports L2TP, PPTP and IPSec so setting up a VPN connection is actually very straightforward. With most VPN solutions, you also gain access to a VPN app for iOS, so you can either set things up manually or use the app. It is entirely up to you.

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Why do you need a VPN on your phone?

Since free Wi-Fi became popular in bars, coffee shops, malls and other public places, we have all taken advantage of free web access while on the move. Most Wi-Fi networks are unsecured and open, meaning you don’t have to log into them to access the internet. This presents quite the opportunity for hackers.

A popular hacking method is referred to as ‘man in the middle’. This is where a hacker sits somewhere in the network with a laptop and pretends to be the wireless node. So when you walk into the network and connect to Wi-Fi, what you are actually doing is connecting to the hacker’s laptop and then to the Wi-Fi network. You get access to the internet as usual but all your traffic flows through the laptop.

If you log on to email, do any banking, log on to check your balance or anything that includes personal data, the hacker can capture it and use it for their own gain. Some Wi-Fi hacks have also served malware or set a popup window pretending to be the network asking you to confirm access and then downloading a virus.

It is perhaps important to note that not every Wi-Fi network is hacked or contains any threat. The trouble is, you don’t know which network is safe or not until it’s too late. That is where a VPN comes in.

In the above man in the middle scenario, if you used a VPN on your iPhone, all traffic being sent through their laptop would be encrypted. So they would see you are using the network but would not be able to make sense of what you are doing. This is an essential layer of protection and should become automatic when connecting to any network that isn’t your own.

Set up a VPN on an iPhone

To use VPN, you will of course need a VPN provider. You can then use their app or manually configure the VPN. I’ll show you how to do both.

Use the VPN app

The easiest way to set up a VPN on an iPhone is to use the provider app. Most quality VPN vendors provide Android and iOS apps for you to use.

  1. Download and install the app from your provider.
  2. Open the app and use the login details supplied by the VPN provider.
  3. Select an option that looks like ‘Set up VPN’
  4. Allow the app to use Touch ID or PIN if it asks.
  5. Allow the app to add VPN configurations if it asks.
  6. Tap the On or Start icon within the app to connect to the VPN.
  7. Tap it once more to disconnect from the VPN.

As you can imagine, there are dozens of VPN providers out there that all do things slightly differently. The above is a rough outline of how a couple of the more popular providers set up their app and connect to the VPN.

Manually set up a VPN on an iPhone

Setting up a manual connection is quite straightforward too.

  1. Select Settings from your iPhone Home screen.
  2. Select VPN and Add VPN Configuration.
  3. Select Type and VPN Type. Add the connection type provided by your VPN vendor.
  4. Return to the previous screen and select ‘VPN settings information’. Enter the server details.
  5. Add your login and password and select Done.
  6. Toggle the Status on the VPN page to on to use the VPN.
  7. Toggle it to off to stop using it.

Once set up, you can quickly turn the VPN on and off by accessing the first VPN screen and using the Status toggle.

Here are some VPN vendors that provide iOS app to use with their service. Each is well worth checking out but are only a fraction of the VPN providers out there who offers iOS apps to keep you safe.

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NordVPN is one of the most popular VPN providers in the world but also one of the most expensive. It uses OpenVPN, IKEV2 and L2TP protocols, allows up to six devices per account and has over 600 destination servers that all provide fast, reliable VPN access.

At $12 a month, it isn’t cheap but is one of the better performing VPN providers out there. Download the app from iTunes.


PureVPN is another popular provider that has an iOS app. It also has a good number of destination servers, a range of security protocol options, good encryption and a reliable service. PureVPN also offers VoIP compatibility, so you can use Skype or other voice app over the VPN for an extra layer of security.

There are a range of plans from $5 a month so you can tune your service to exactly what you need. Download the app from iTunes.

Private Internet Access VPN

Private Internet Access VPN is another provider with a slightly smaller footprint than the previous two. Run in the US, the company offers fast throughput, no logging and a range of destination servers across the world. It also offers a range of protocols, up to 256-bit encryption and an iOS app.

Plans start at around $7 a month which includes up to five connections at a time. Download the app from iTunes.

Those are just three of the many VPN services that will work on your iPhone. All offer a credible level of service and good security. If you regularly use open Wi-Fi networks, using a VPN is not an option, it is a necessity. For less than a cup of coffee, you can provide robust security for your devices that keep you safe online. Why would you not?

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This Guide Last Updated: May 12, 2017

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