Are free VPNs safe?

Windows VPN
Windows VPN

Advertisement

People now understand the importance of their Internet privacy. Internet providers access our growing history and sell it to advertisers. Several government agencies can spy on us and most websites track our internet activities for ad targeting. That’s the reason VPNs are now high in demand. 

VPN services establish a protected network connection and also encrypt internet traffic. The encryption takes place in real-time and makes it difficult for third parties to track your online activities. I have already talked about VPNs in several previous articles. You can explore our VPN section to find out good VPNs for PC or mobile platforms.

Now when VPNs are high in demand, there are also several free VPNs that promise the same level of privacy and encryption. Now when free VPNs exist, thousands of people use them.  Free VPNs are bad for you. Yes, they are. In this article, I will explain how free VPNs provide their services for free and why you should stop using free VPNs if you truly care for your privacy.

Most people use VPNs to access the internet anonymously, access blocked content on streaming websites, and bypass censorship. VPN service establishes an encrypted connection between your system and a VPN server. Then routs all the traffic through the VPN server. So, ISPs can no longer snoop because of encryption. VPNs also hide your IP address, so websites you access won’t be able to see your IP address and track your location.

For offering a global VPN service, VPN service providers need to own thousands of servers located in different countries across the globe. Maintaining thousands of servers costs big. That’s the reason VPN services charge a subscription fee. So, how do free VPN providers offer the service for free? 

“If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.” This line is true for free VPNs as well. 

If a company is offering a free VPN service, they will have to find a way to earn to support the company for a running VPN service. Several free VPN providers promise to keep you anonymous online but they keep a log of your activities and sell it to advertisers. In a study, it was revealed that 72% of free VPNs embed third-party trackers in their websites. So, it is important to read the privacy policy of the service provider to learn if they actually sell your data.

Some free VPNs rely on ads for revenue. They don’t sell your data to advertisers but they show ads. 

Most free VPN services don’t invest much to keep their system safe and secure. Back in 2020, personally identifiable data of more than 20 million users were leaked online. Last month, the data of 21 million VPN users was shared on a Telegram group for free. This data belonged to free VPN providers. In place of keeping you safe, free VPNs may actually put you at risk. Recently, a study on VPNs identified Betternet as one of the most malware-infested VPN apps. Betterment is actually a popular free VPN provider.

There are also many free VPN apps that come with malware. In most cases, malware is related to advertising. Back in 2019, Top10VPN’s extensive research claimed that 20% of free VPN apps were flagged as a potential source of malware. Those free VPNs also have intrusive permissions and user privacy-breaking code.

If a free VPN isn’t tracking you or offers a secure service, they will put other restrictions. You will get a slow connection and limited bandwidth. For example, Tunnelbear offers just 500MB of monthly data for free.

Premium VPN services offer a fast and secure connection. You get unlimited bandwidth along with built-in protection from internet threats. Premium VPNs also offer a built-in adblocker. This is the reason I recommend people to use a premium VPN in place of free VPNs. Premium VPNs don’t cost much if you pay for the long term and are actually worth the money you spent on them.

When we talk about good premium VPN providers, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, SurfShark, CyberGhost, and PrivateVPN are some big names. I personally recommend SurfShark for being budget-friendly while offering AES 256-bit encryption, geo-block, web tracker blocking, ad blocking, and fast connection.

Advertisement