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TunnelBear Review (2023): Is It Secure and Easy to Use?

Published on: March 28, 2023
Eric Goldstein
Eric Goldstein
Published on: March 28, 2023

TunnelBear Review: Quick Expert Summary

TunnelBear has excellent security features, extremely easy-to-use apps (with cute bears everywhere), and very fast speeds for smooth browsing and uninterrupted streaming and gaming. TunnelBear also allows you to connect as many devices as you want.

It’s consistently able to access popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, and it works in countries that restrict access to the internet, like China and Iran.

In addition to industry-standard VPN security features like 256-bit AES encryption, a strict no-logs policy, and a kill switch, TunnelBear also has:

  • Split-tunneling.
  • Torrenting on all servers.
  • Obfuscation.
  • And more…

I really like TunnelBear, but it has some drawbacks — it’s not transparent about the number of servers it operates, it doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee, and it doesn’t have 24/7 live chat. I’d also like to see TunnelBear add split-tunneling to its Windows and Mac apps and also include WireGuard in its selection of protocols for Mac and Android users (WireGuard is one of the fastest protocols out there).

TunnelBear has an affordable 1-month, 1-year, and 3-year payment plan, a plan for businesses, and a decent free plan that is good for testing out the product.

🏅 Overall Rank #8 out of 81 VPNs
🌍 Servers Unknown
📱 Number of Devices Unlimited
💸 Starting Price $4.16 / month
🎁 Free Plan Yes
💰 Money-Back Guarantee No

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TunnelBear Full Review

TunnelBear Full Review

I spent a couple of weeks researching and testing TunnelBear to see whether or not it has good security, fast speeds, and intuitive apps. I also compared TunnelBear to other top VPNs on the market to see whether or not it’s a good value.

TunnelBear’s apps and website are filled with cute animated bears and bear puns. But don’t mistake TunnelBear’s light-hearted approach to design for a lack of seriousness when it comes to security, privacy, or performance.

TunnelBear is one of the most transparent VPN providers in terms of privacy, it comes with top-notch security features, and it conducts a full-scale independent audit every year. You don’t get a lot of extra features, but TunnelBear is very intuitive, easy to use, and fun, making it perfect for people who are new to VPNs.

TunnelBear Features

TunnelBear has the following standard VPN security features:

  • 256-bit AES encryption. Used by militaries and government agencies worldwide, this type of encryption is one of the best encryption methods available (TunnelBear refers to 256-bit AES as Grizzly-grade encryption).
  • No-logs policy. TunnelBear doesn’t store any of your personal data (the websites you visit, the files you download, or your IP addresses). TunnelBear provides an easy-to-understand and transparent privacy policy.
  • Kill switch. This feature (called VigilantBear) shuts down your internet access if your VPN connection accidentally drops, and it automatically reconnects to a server once TunnelBear finds an internet connection (preventing any possible traffic and data leaks).

TunnelBear includes 3 internet protocols, WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2. I like how TunnelBear automatically chooses which protocol is the most optimal one for your connection, but oddly it doesn’t tell you which one you’re using (and there’s no way to find out) — WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 are available on iOS and Windows, but Mac and Android users only have OpenVPN. While OpenVPN is a reliable protocol, I hope TunnelBear eventually offers WireGuard for Mac and Android too, as it’s a little faster.

I also really like that TunnelBear has its own encrypted DNS servers to prevent DNS leaks, as well as built-in WebRTC and IPv6 leak protection. Unlike VyprVPN, which doesn’t have WebRTC protection and requires you to manually disable IPv6 traffic on your device, TunnelBear handles everything in the background so you don’t have to take any action to protect your devices against leaks.

TunnelBear also supports The Onion Router (Tor) on most of its servers — all you need to do is connect to a TunnelBear server and then begin using the Tor network. When you connect to a TunnelBear server to surf the Tor network, TunnelBear keeps your IP address hidden from other Tor users (including the entry node) — if your IP address is leaked, Tor users will only be able to see the VPN’s IP address, not your real one. TunnelBear’s Tor support is pretty good, but I slightly prefer Proton VPN, as it allows you to browse the Tor network within regular browsers like Chrome and Opera.

TunnelBear also has a handful of extra features.

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Split-Tunneling (SplitBear)

TunnelBear FeaturesSplitBear allows you to choose which apps to route through the VPN tunnel and which apps to route through your local network. TunnelBear’s split-tunneling tool is pretty good, and it worked great in my tests — but keep in mind it’s only available for Android (the iOS app allows split-tunneling, but it’s only for websites, not apps).

To test SplitBear, I connected to a US server to download a large file and I routed Disney+ through my ISP. SplitBear allowed me to simultaneously maintain fast speeds for torrenting and watch my favorite TV shows and movies on Disney+ without interruptions.

TunnelBear’s SplitBear for Android is a lot like ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN’s split-tunneling features, which also allow you to redirect only apps. But my favorite VPN for split-tunneling on Android is Proton VPN because it also lets you exclude web browsers and IP addresses from the VPN tunnel.

Overall, SplitBear is good for redirecting apps from the VPN tunnel — it’s easy to use and it worked great during my tests. However, I’d like to see TunnelBear add split-tunneling to Windows (it’s very rare to find a VPN that has split-tunneling on Mac).

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Obfuscation (GhostBear)

TunnelBear FeaturesGhostBear is TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool that masks your VPN connection from prying eyes, like your ISP, making it seem as if you’re browsing the internet without being connected to a TunnelBear server.

GhostBear is great for bypassing internet firewalls in restrictive countries, like China and Iran.

But make note that using GhostBear will slow down your internet speed a little bit because it adds extra encryption. In my tests, websites took an extra 5 seconds to load and Netflix content had a bit of lag. While TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool is able to maintain decent speeds, I prefer ExpressVPN’s obfuscation feature, as it’s significantly faster.

Overall, I really like TunnelBear’s GhostBear feature. It is reliable for overcoming VPN blocks, it’s very simple to use, and it has pretty fast speeds. 

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TunnelBear Privacy & Security

TunnelBear has one of the most transparent and straightforward no-logs policies out there. I love how TunnelBear explains its Privacy Policy in easy-to-understand terms instead of with complex and vague language like most other VPNs — TunnelBear has charts that show what data it collects and provides an explanation as to why it collects the data. TunnelBear claims that it strives to collect the minimum amount of information required to operate its service — it only stores your email address (to communicate with you) and payment information (to process refunds and in fraud prevention).

TunnelBear has also conducted an independent audit every year since 2017 for holes in its codewear, infrastructure, website, and apps, and it published the findings of each audit on its website.

TunnelBear Privacy & SecurityTo back up its no-logs policy, TunnelBear also issues an annual transparency report (like CyberGhost VPN) that shows how many times government or law enforcement agencies requested user data and how many times TunnelBear complied with the requests (none). TunnelBear is based in the US, which is part of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances (an intelligence-sharing agreement between various countries). But if the US government requested user data, TunnelBear wouldn’t have any to turn over because the VPN doesn’t store user data.

Overall, TunnelBear has a transparent and strict no-logs policy that’s been audited multiple times and an easy-to-understand Privacy Policy. TunnelBear also backs up its no-logs policy with a transparency report that is released each year.

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TunnelBear Speed & Performance

I ran speed tests in all 45+ countries where TunnelBear has a server to determine its average internet VPN speed. The average decrease in download speed from my baseline speed was about 42%, which is pretty good — I maintained good speeds for browsing, streaming, making Voice over IP (VoIP) calls, and torrenting on most servers.

I started my tests by establishing my baseline speed while connecting to my local network:

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Next, I used TunnelBear’s Fast Connect tool to connect to the fastest server, and TunnelBear connected me to a server in New York. My download speed decreased by 10%, which is pretty good for a local VPN server. My internet activities were barely affected — I browsed the internet, streamed content on Netflix, and had a 2-hour Zoom call without any glitches.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Then I tested a server in Germany and my download speed was actually faster in Europe than in the US! My speed drop was only a meager 5%, and I surfed the web, played video games, and downloaded files almost as if I wasn’t connected to a VPN.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Finally, I connected to a server in Australia (one of the furthest servers from my location). TunnelBear reduced my speed by 80%, which significantly affected my online experience. Websites took 5-7 seconds to load and TV shows and movies took 10 seconds to start, but I didn’t have any interruptions or buffering once the videos began.

TunnelBear Speed & Performance

Overall, in my speed tests on all of TunnelBear’s servers, the VPN had really fast speeds on local servers (the US), as well as on servers located in Central and South America and Europe. I only experienced significantly slower speeds connected to very distant servers in Australia and New Zealand.

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TunnelBear Servers & IP Addresses

TunnelBear has servers in 45+ countries. The number of countries is smaller than a lot of the top VPNs like HMA (200+ countries), ExpressVPN (90+ countries), and CyberGhost VPN, (90+), and Private Internet Access (78), but TunnelBear does a good job of spreading out its server locations all over the world, so most users can either connect to a server in their own country or one that is relatively close (to get better speeds).

TunnelBear doesn’t publicly publish how many servers it has worldwide. When I contacted TunnelBear support via email, a TunnelBear representative said that the provider adds and removes servers as needed (depending on demand). And because of the constant fluctuation, the rep said the server count total wouldn’t remain accurate on the website — but this reason isn’t good enough for me. Most of the top VPNs release their server counts to the public and many update the number on a daily and weekly basis, so I’d like to see TunnelBear provide a more transparent server count in the future.

Also, TunnelBear doesn’t list the cities where its servers are located (like Proton VPN and CyberGhost VPN). TunnelBear only allows you to connect to a country, but I checked to see which city I was connected to while performing my speed tests. For large countries, like the US, TunnelBear has a server located in multiple cities. I was connected to a server in New York, Virginia, and San Francisco. In smaller countries like Portugal, Greece, and Colombia, I was connected to the same city each time.

Another thing I don’t like is that TunnelBear doesn’t provide the server load percentage (how many active users are connected to a server) or latency (how long it takes for the internet signal to travel from your device to the VPN server).

That said, I really like that TunnelBear supports torrenting on all of its servers  this allows you to connect to a local server to get the fastest speeds. There are VPNs (like Proton VPN and CactusVPN) that have a limited number of dedicated P2P servers, which could make it hard to find a nearby server.

Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t offer dedicated IPs. If you’re looking for a VPN that has dedicated IPs, Private Internet Access and CyberGhost VPN offer them for a small additional cost, while PrivateVPN provides dedicated IPs for free.

While TunnelBear is only located in 45+ countries, the servers are spread out pretty well all over the world. However, I’d like to see TunnelBear release its server count to provide more transparency.

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TunnelBear Streaming & Torrenting

TunnelBear works with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer — as well as less-popular streaming sites like Pluto TV, CBC (in Canada), and ABC. While TunnelBear is pretty good for streaming, I was disappointed to find that it doesn’t work with Disney+ and ESPN+.

TunnelBear Streaming & Torrenting

TunnelBear is great for torrenting  it allows P2P traffic in all locations, but it recommends connecting to a server in Canada, the US, UK, Romania, the Netherlands, Germany, or Sweden if you encounter problems downloading files in other countries. In my tests, I didn’t have any trouble downloading files from any location, and TunnelBear worked with all of the top torrenting clients like qBittorent, BitTorent, Deluge, and others (qBittorent provided the fastest download speeds for me). My only complaint is that TunnelBear doesn’t include port forwarding (which provides faster speeds).

Before I started to download files, I ran leak tests while connected to 10+ TunnelBear servers, and fortunately all of them came back with 0 leaks. 

Overall, TunnelBear works with a lot of streaming sites and supports torrenting on all of its servers. I was able to access content on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, and my colleague in the UK was able to access BBC iPlayer. Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t work with Disney+ and ESPN+.

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TunnelBear Bypassing Censorship

TunnelBear uses the GhostBear tool to overcome censorship on the internet. It claims that it works in restrictive countries like China, Iran, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia.

TunnelBear Bypassing Censorship

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TunnelBear Plans & Pricing

TunnelBear offers 3 plans:

  • Free.
  • Unlimited (includes 3 subscription options).
  • Teams (for businesses).

The free plan comes with all of the features of the premium plan, but you only get 2 GB per month — in my tests, this was enough for about a few hours of basic browsing to test out TunnelBear’s product. If you’re looking for a good free plan, I recommend Proton VPN, which has the best free plan out there (providing unlimited data and bandwidth, access to servers in the US, the Netherlands, and Japan, and good speeds).

Starting at $4.16 / month, the Unlimited plan has several subscription options that include unlimited data and unlimited device connections.

The Teams plan comes with unlimited data, unlimited connections, a dedicated account manager, and centralized team billing and management.

TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoin (and of course, there’s also an option to pay with jars of honey!), but I was a little disappointed that TunnelBear doesn’t accept PayPal.

Also, TunnelBear is one of the few VPNs on the market that doesn’t include a money-back guarantee, but it will consider offering a refund on a case-by-case basis. Other top VPNs like ExpressVPN, Proton VPN, and CyberGhost VPN all back every purchase with a money-back guarantee.

Overall, TunnelBear’s payment plans are competitive with many other top VPNs. TunnelBear accepts credit cards and Bitcoin, but I wish it took PayPal payments. There’s no money-back guarantee, but you can test out TunnelBear with the free plan.

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TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear includes apps for Android, iOS, Windows, and macOS, and it also has browser extensions for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

I had no issues installing TunnelBear’s apps. It only took me 1-2 minutes to do it on my Android and iOS smartphones, and 3-4 minutes on my Windows 10 PC and MacBook.

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TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop AppsTunnelBear’s Android app is my favorite TunnelBear app — it’s feature-rich, really well-designed, and easy to use (it took me about 1 minute to get used to).

I love how simple it is to use TunnelBear’s Android app. You can connect to a server with one tap by using the Fastest server option. To manually select a server, just tap on the small arrow at the bottom of the screen, which then displays all of TunnelBear’s server locations, or tap on a designated country that is indicated by a small jar of honey on the world map. The best part is that when you connect to a server, a bear digs a tunnel from your current location and pops up out of a jar of honey in the country that you connect to (the bear also lets out an adorable roar)!

I also really like that there’s only one section under the Settings tab. Click on Options and you can enable the bear sounds (of course you will!), GhostBear (obfuscation), VigilantBear (the kill switch), and SplitBear (split-tunneling). The only other choices you have in the Settings tab are links to TunnelBear’s Help support, to post a review on the Play Store, to view the privacy policy, and to log out.

Unlike the desktop apps, TunnelBear’s Android app doesn’t have convenient connection options like automatically launching when your device starts or adding trusted networks that TunnelBear will automatically connect to.

Otherwise, it’s a lot of fun to use TunnelBear’s Android app. It includes a lot of features, it’s easy to navigate, allows for quick connections, and an animated bear roars each time when you secure your connection.

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TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

TunnelBear’s iOS app is the weakest out of all of the VPN’s platforms. The iOS app is missing GhostBear and VigilantBear (although most VPNs don’t have a kill switch for iOS). But I like that the iOS app at least comes with an option to automatically connect to TunnelBear on a Wi-Fi network or cellular networks, and you can add trusted networks — this is something you can’t do on Android.

I like that TunnelBear’s iOS app includes the SplitBear (split-tunneling) feature, but you can only choose which websites to exclude from your VPN connection — you can’t exclude apps. This is beyond TunnelBear’s control, however, as iOS doesn’t support app-based split-tunneling.

The iOS app’s design is basically an exact replica of the Android app, and because there are so few features, it’s even easier to navigate than the Android app. Also, the iOS app includes the bear roar when you connect to a server, and there’s a cute option that allows you to change the app’s icon on your device.

There are better iOS apps out there that have more features, but TunnelBear’s iOS app is user-friendly and it does have those cute bears!

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Windows/Mac (Desktop)

TunnelBear’s desktop apps are nearly identical to the mobile apps, and not surprisingly, I also really like both the Windows and Mac apps. They have an intuitive interface and you can connect to the fastest server with 1 click.

Like with the mobile apps, it’s easy to manually find a server —  just click on the drop-down arrow next to the on/off slider to get a list of countries or simply click on a jar of honey in a country on the map. Sadly, the bear doesn’t roar once you’re connected on the Windows or Mac apps, but your connection is confirmed with a bear wearing a hat that resembles that country.

TunnelBear Ease of Use: Mobile & Desktop Apps

Unlike the mobile apps, the Windows and Mac let you enable TunnelBear to launch on startup, enable notifications if you connect or disconnect from the VPN server, and receive an alert if an unsecured network is detected. Like the iOS app, the desktop apps allow you to automatically disable TunnelBear on trusted Wi-Fi networks.

But I miss split-tunneling on both desktop apps and the macOS app only comes with OpenVPN.

Overall, TunnelBear has good desktop apps — they’re user-friendly, have a fun interface, and come with a good set of features.

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TunnelBear’s Apps: Is TunnelBear Easy to Use?

TunnelBear no doubt has some of the most intuitive apps on the market.

They are all well-designed and have a simple interface that takes about a minute or two to get used to. The Android app is the best one because it has the most features, but the iOS, Windows, and Mac apps are also very good.

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TunnelBear Customer Support

TunnelBear Customer Support

TunnelBear’s Help section includes an extensive set of guides and frequently asked questions (FAQs), important announcements, an email portal, and a search option (where a cute bear types on a keyboard as you enter your question), but there’s no 24/7 live chat.

I really like the support guides, which are neatly organized into 3 categories: Getting to know your Bear, Accounts, and Troubleshooting. Inside each category are sub-categories — for example, Getting to know your Bear has individual sections for FAQs, Privacy and Security, and Features. The guides are pretty thorough and I found most of the answers to my questions either inside the guides or through the search option.

When I couldn’t get an answer with the guides, I used TunnelBear’s email support, which is good. I received replies to my emails within 1-2 hours during TunnelBear’s office hours in the US, but when I emailed support during off hours, I didn’t receive a reply until the next morning. Each response was personal, friendly, and provided me with a solution to my issue or question.

But I really wish TunnelBear had 24/7 live chat (like ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, and PrivateVPN). While the email response is usually fast, it doesn’t beat the help you get in real time with knowledgeable live chat reps. I hope TunnelBear launches a 24/7 live chat option in the future.

Overall, TunnelBear’s support isn’t great, but it’s still pretty good. I really miss the live chat, but the email response time is good as long as you contact support during working hours.

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Is TunnelBear One of the Best VPNs in 2023?

TunnelBear is secure, has high-level privacy features, a well-designed and fun interface, is really easy to use, and maintains pretty fast speeds.

TunnelBear works with a lot of streaming websites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, is P2P-friendly, and bypasses internet firewalls in countries that restrict access to the internet, like China and Iran.

In my speed tests, TunnelBear wasn’t the fastest VPN, but I was still impressed with the fast speeds TunnelBear provided on local servers (in the US) and even in Europe and Central and South America. I had an average decrease in download speed of 42%, which is above average. Thanks to TunnelBear’s good speeds, I was able to watch content in HD and without any buffering, make VoIP calls that didn’t freeze, download large files fast, and browse the internet with mostly only minor delays.

When it comes to security, TunnelBear protects your data with 256-bit AES encryption, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy (that has been independently audited). TunnelBear also publishes an annual transparency report that proves it didn’t provide any user data to the government or law enforcement.

While I’m a big fan of TunnelBear, it has some drawbacks. TunnelBear doesn’t publish a server count, it doesn’t work with Disney+, the split-tunneling feature is only included on the Android and iOS apps, and there’s no 30-day money-back guarantee.

Otherwise, TunnelBear is one of the best and most user-friendly VPNs on the market. TunnelBear allows unlimited connections with one account and offers 3 affordable payment plans.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is TunnelBear free?

TunnelBear has a free plan, but it’s not very good. You only get 2 GB per month, which is only enough to browse the internet for a few hours. But TunnelBear’s free plan is decent if you just want to test out the VPN — it gives you access to all of the features of the premium plans. TunnelBear’s free plan lets you connect unlimited devices and allows you to connect to a server in all of TunnelBear’s 45+ countries.

I usually don’t recommend that you use a free VPN because many of them aren’t safe, may keep logs of your online traffic and files you download, set a limit on your data, and have slow speeds. But if you’re looking for the best free VPN, I recommend Proton VPN, which allows unlimited data and bandwidth and maintains good speeds.

Does TunnelBear work with Netflix?

Yes, TunnelBear works with Netflix. In my tests, TunnelBear was able to consistently access Netflix, and thanks to its fast speeds, I watched TV shows and movies in HD and without interruptions.

TunnelBear also works with Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer, but it’s unable to unblock Disney+ or ESPN+.

Is TunnelBear safe?

Yes, TunnelBear is one of the most trustworthy and secure VPNs on the market. First, it protects your data with industry-standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption (one of the best encryption methods in the world), a kill switch (to prevent data leaks if you’re disconnected from the VPN), and a strict no-logs policy.

One of my favorite things about TunnelBear is that it has been independently audited every year since 2017 for holes in its codewear, infrastructure, website, and apps. Also, TunnelBear has built-in DNS leak protection, secure protocols, and obfuscation (to bypass internet firewalls and hide your VPN connection from your ISP).

Does TunnelBear work in China?

Yes, TunnelBear is able to bypass the Great Firewall and overcome heavy internet censorship in other restrictive countries like Iran.

TunnelBear’s obfuscation tool (GhostBear) is very good at masking your VPN connection, making it seem as if you’re browsing the internet without a VPN.

TunnelBear Products & Pricing

$0.00 / month
$4.16 / month
$5.75 / month
Bottom Line

TunnelBear has top-notch security features, user-friendly apps, and provides fast speeds — it’s a good choice for browsing, torrenting, gaming, and streaming (works with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and BBC iPlayer). TunnelBear protects your privacy with a strict no-logs policy, includes useful extras like split-tunneling (Android and iOS only), supports Tor over VPN on all of its servers, and works in countries that restrict access to the internet like China. It allows unlimited connectinos, you can choose from several budget-friendly payment plans, and there’s also a free plan to test out the product. Unfortunately, TunnelBear doesn’t have a money-back guarantee.

About the Author
Eric Goldstein
Eric Goldstein
Chief Editor

About the Author

Eric Goldstein is Chief Editor at SafetyDetectives. As an internet security researcher and IT journalist, he has over 2 years of experience writing and editing articles and blog posts about VPNs, antiviruses, password managers, parental controls, and identity protection products and tools. In addition, Eric writes and edits news stories focused on cybersecurity issues for SafetyDetectives. He also spent 20+ years as a sportswriter for multiple media outlets and served in a communications role for a national corporation. When he's not working, he can be found spending time with his family, working out, and watching his favorite sports teams.

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