Update April 2023: We’ve updated this article to introduce NetShield Privacy Panel.
Today, we’re releasing an exciting new feature that makes it easier for Proton VPN users with a Proton VPN Plus, Proton Unlimited, or Visionary plan to keep your devices secure and your browsing private.
NetShield is now available on our Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows apps and is in beta on our Linux command line tool. It blocks malware, ads, and online trackers before they even load. This helps keep your device safe and improves your browsing speed.
How NetShield Ad-blocker protects you
When you turn NetShield on, it offers you two levels of protection:
- The first level prevents your browser from loading resources from domains that host malware, spyware, or other malicious software.
- The second level blocks ads and the online trackers that adtech companies use to target you, in addition to blocking malware. This advanced level of protection is on by default when you first enable NetShield.
If you want to use NetShield Ad-blocker to block ads and have a faster and more private browsing experience, upgrade to a Proton VPN Plus or Proton Unlimited plan.
When you enable NetShield, any time you try to go to a website, the Proton VPN app will check that website’s address against a massive database of sites known to host malware, spyware, or any other malicious software. If it finds the domain of the website you are trying to visit or any of its components (scripts, images, etc.) on one of these lists, NetShield will automatically block it from loading.
If you enable ad blocking in NetShield, not only will it protect you from malware, but it will also block the annoying ads that clutter your screen. And unlike most popular ad blockers that only work in your browser, NetShield’s ad and tracker blocking works for the entire device. In addition to being annoying, these ads also eat up data and slow down your browsing experience.
With NetShield Ad-blocker, you can enjoy a faster, ad-free internet and reduce your data usage. And with the Netshield Privacy Panel, you can see how NetShield is protecting your privacy using easy-to-understand statistics that measure how many ads and trackers have been blocked, and how much data has been saved for the current session.
How NetShield works
To visit a website, you need to type in or click on a URL to get to the specific webpage you want. However, most people don’t realize there is a step between entering the URL and arriving at your desired webpage. That extra step involves making a domain name system (DNS) request.
Website URLs are created to be memorable for humans (e.g., www.protonvpn.com), but they don’t mean much to computers. They prefer IP addresses, (e.g., the IP address for Proton VPN’s website is 18.104.22.168). The DNS is the system that translates a human-friendly URL to a machine-friendly IP address. When you type in a URL and hit enter, your browser automatically tries to match it to the correct IP address by sending out a DNS request.
To prevent DNS leaks that could let attackers track your online browsing, Proton VPN encrypts all DNS requests in the VPN tunnel and handles them with a dedicated DNS server.
If you enable NetShield, when your device makes a DNS request, the DNS resolver on Proton VPN’s server runs a quick check against databases of web domains known to host malware, trackers, spyware, and any malicious software that could compromise your device’s security. NetShield checks not only the website’s domain, but also all additional domains for the scripts, images, and any other resources associated with that webpage.
If NetShield finds a match between your DNS request and this list, it stops the DNS request. This prevents you from loading the corresponding IP address and resource.
If you think a website or online resource is being blocked in error, you can turn NetShield off to access it.
The system works the same for ad and tracker blocking, only NetShield checks your DNS request against a database of known advertising agencies and online trackers. These lists are continuously updated so they will block new ads and trackers.
Proton VPN does not keep any logs of your DNS requests, so none of this data can be shared with any third parties.
Netshield Privacy Panel
The Netshield Privacy Panel shows how NetShield Ad-blocker is protecting you and improving your browsing experience. With just a glance, you can see:
- The number of ads blocked
- The number of trackers blocked
- The total amount of data saved
These statistics are for your current session and are reset when you manually disconnect from the VPN. The Netshield Privacy Panel doesn’t reset if you suffer an accidental disconnection, change your kill switch settings, or change VPN protocols.
The Netshield Privacy Panel is available to everyone on a paid Proton VPN plan.
Protect yourself with NetShield Ad-blocker
You can protect your browsing with NetShield today. You will need to have the latest version of the Proton VPN app to use NetShield to block ads and trackers. (You can check for updates in the Settings or About section of the app.)
NetShield is part of our effort to make safe online browsing easier and faster. Let us know what you think of NetShield on on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, and Linkedin. And thank you to the Proton VPN community. Without your support, advancements like NetShield would be impossible.