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Free VPNs are a Privacy Nightmare: Here's Why
In my past years of writing, I’ve written many blogs on VPNs, internet privacy and security. In this tenure, many people asked several questions about the tools and services that protect their digital privacy like VPNs. Last week, I received an email from an internet user, asking about Free VPNs. This is what she asked: Is free VPN worth it? I found this free VPN. What do you think of it?
Before answering these questions, I want people to understand the details and the primary difference between free VPNs and paid ones.
Free VPNs vs. Paid VPNs – What Are the Differences?
VPN is a tool that establishes a secured network between you and the server. It allows them to transfer data securely through encrypted tunnels created by the VPN. It protects you from the prying eyes of govt agencies, hackers, and snoopers who want to capture your online activities and personal information. It is a great tool for digital privacy, security, and anonymity. But not all VPNs are as secure as others, and this is especially the case with free VPN providers.
Out of 100, 90 of the Free VPNs are data farm, and they are insecure as they track, collect and sell users data to different companies and authorities. The study revealed that, 75% of free VPN apps contained tracking embedded in the source code, and they give the third-party access to your data. Free VPNs can sell your bandwidth and they keep logs of users, whereas paid VPNs don’t have a reason to keep activity logs and no reason to monitor user data either. At most, some paid VPNs might use connection logs, but you can also find providers that keep no logs.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Free VPNs - 5 Strong Reasons
There is no such thing as a free lunch. However, there are free VPNs. Most people jump with excitement to the idea of a free VPN, but little do they no that instead of paying with money, users end up paying with their personal data and information.
Free VNPs Sell Users' Bandwidth. If you use free VPN, you will experience slow internet speeds. This is because you are letting thousands of other internet users to use your bandwidth and processor. Furthermore, a free VPN can aggregate the bandwidth and sell it to the highest bidder. This means that if someone bids higher, they can use the user bandwidth as a botnet to launch attacks against other websites. Moreover, if they do something illegal, you will be held responsible because it was your bandwidth that was used for illegal means.
Free VPNs Track and Sell Users' Data. In 2012, Facebook bought a free VPN app for $150-200 million. It makes no sense why Facebook would invest such an amount to keep its users protected. However, looking at all the angles, it has become evident that Facebook’s VPN Onavo collects your information such as the web pages you visited, your GPS Location, preferences and interests, and your shopping history. Free VPNs collect all of this information and then sell it later on to other companies or for their personal benefits.
Free VPNs Gives Third-Party Access to Your Data. Free VPNs are fatal to your privacy and security. Not only do they collect your personal information but sell your private data to third-parties. You may be interested in knowing why third parties and advertisers will be interested in buying your data from VPN companies. To clarify, this data is used to profile you so that you can be targeted with better and relevant ads. Moreover, If your VPN service is dishonest, they can then do whatever they want with it – often by selling it to third parties or stealing your identity.
Free VPNs Contains Malware. Most people decide to buy a free VPN because they do not need premium services and are not ready to pay up for it. While they do save up on a few bucks, they do as well lose out on their privacy and security, and get exposed to hackers and criminals online. Most free VPNs are known to put your private data and the integrity of your device at risk. They also expose you to adware, riskware, malware, trojans, spyware and countless other online malices.
Free VPNs Don't Offer Security Centric Features. Free VPNs, as well as many low-cost VPNs, don’t have their own servers, and their features are generally limited. Furthermore, they can’t afford to offer you multiple VPN protocols and encryption options such as OpenVPN. In most cases, free VPNs just offer PPTP and L2TP VPN protocols.
What do people say about Free VPN Providers?
On social media and communities, we can see a huge number of people who don’t recommend free VPNs, some of the sources are mentioned below:
What is an Alternative to Free VPNs?
An alternative to free VPNs is to use a reliable, and safe paid VPN service that provides value to its users, by giving them a good experience with top notch security and privacy features. Following are the factors to consider before buying a paid VPN service.
VPN Protocols. Does the VPN Provider offer support for multiple protocols or is it limited to a few? There are many VPNs the gives a range of VPN protocols and some of them includes OpenVPN, PPTP, SSTP, iKev2, L2TP etc.
Price. How much does it cost? Some paid VPNs increase while other doesn’t increase the price of your subscription after the first billing cycle. Remember to check their price and compare it with others.
Refund Policy. Does my VPN have a refund policy? VPN providers have different refund policy. Some of them gives 7-day money back guarantee, some give 15, and some provide 30 days money back guarantee. Read their refund policy before buying.
Compatibility. What devices or OS are compatible? Check the devices supported by VPN providers. Some of the most used devices supported by VPNs are Windows, Android, Mac, iOS, router etc.
Payment Methods. How can I pay to the VPN subscription? Most VPNs allow customers to pay with Cryptocurrency or Bitcoin, credit card, PayPal to ensure that your transaction is completely anonymous. Check their payment methods to decide if it is feasible for you.
Provider History. Do they hold a good reputation? Do read about the VPN provider and read its reviews published by authentic sources. Check where the service lacks, does it leaks IP address or DNS? Read the news and PR about their services.
Number of servers and locations. How many servers do they vave? Check the number of location and servers offered by VPNs from different regions. It important if you want to access a particular website from other countries that is restricted.
Number of connected devices. How many devices can connect at a time? It’s important to check this feature because sometimes your loved ones also want to use VPN from different devices simultaneously.
Technical Support. Are they helpful and quick to respond? Contact them to test their support, check their offerings. Test them via live chat as most of the companies setup bots and they don’t have customer support team which results inaccurate answers about the concern.
If your VPN has passed all the tests and has all the mentioned above features, don’t take time to get one. Just keep in mind, you generally get what you pay for with VPNs. Running a safe, secure, reliable, and fast server network with good VPN apps and helpful support is not a cheap endeavor.
If you want to protect yourself from digital attacks, malware and identity theft, prevent third-party trackers and advertisers slurping our private information, and keep your kids safe when online, go for a good VPN service rather than saving you bucks. Remember, a good reliable VPN can keeps you secure when browsing.