Today’s article will shine a light on free VPNs. Now, our long-time readers are already accustomed to our stance on the topic. We do not condone free VPNs unless it’s an emergency, and you opt for a proven good-natured provider. Nonetheless, they are full of potential threats. However, we have also encountered a few free VPNs that are best for PC use. Also, we have made a list of premium VPNs that offer a free trial to safeguard user experience.
Such VPNs are the true entry-level products for beginners. Thus, we are always in favor. However, most free VPNs, especially mobile apps that offer VPN services, are not up to the task. Yet, we first have to understand the security features they offer. Today’s article analyzes how secure free VPNs are. Do they have potential or are they simply a scam? You’ll find out.
Why we doubt free VPNs
We have sufficient reasons to challenge the validity of a free service. We all know and accept that VPNs are a service and a costly one at that. Vendors have to maintain thousands of servers globally, as well as allocate bandwidth and invest in developing user end clients. Every one of these activities requires a hefty sum of money. If VPNs don’t charge you for the service, how can they afford it? How can they upkeep the servers?
There is no other model that can sustain a VPN operation. Even ProtonVPN, a vendor we selected as the best free VPN, subsidizes its premium user base to provide and maintain a genuinely free version. Thus, if you see a provider who promises a quality VPN experience without money, their claim is a pie in the sky.
How secure are free VPNs, really?
To answer this question, we have to consider which VPNs we are talking about. Although most free VPNs are a trap, they do manage to provide the bare minimum in the field. Also, free versions that come from reputed vendors often cap the data or time, but it doesn’t interfere with security. However, there are still lots of complimentary services that neglect user safety outright. Today’s article will tackle all the potential threats a free VPN may present to a user, so continue scrolling down.
What are possible issues with a free VPN?
There are numerous possible problems users can face with this type of VPN. Hence, when we talk about how secure free VPNs are, we must consider these facts:
Free VPNs engage in unethical collection and selling of user data
Probably the most common and most problematic of all concerns is the unwarranted collection and sale of user data. Free VPNs lure users with attractive promises and engage in dishonest data collection practices. Today, data is valuable, and all kinds of entities want data to exploit the masses. Out of those, the most popular are targeted marketing and selling data on the black market.
Hackers and malicious individuals use data to mine your PII (Personally identifiable information) and use it to commit illegal activities. Similarly, large corporations use this information to create a targeted advertisement to facilitate an upswing in sales. To sum up, most vendors who offer free VPNs sell user data to maintain profitability.
Free VPN can have vulnerabilities and sometimes malware
Low-quality gratis VPN services do not care about market reputation or a long-term business model. They are in it for the short-term profit. Thus, they leave potential vulnerabilities within the app to exploit users. Furthermore, they even backload malware to fulfill some agenda. Malware is harmful to your device, and some, like ransomware, can even result in financial loss. Thus, it is apparent why these vendors allow malware and vulnerabilities within their apps.
They slow the Internet speed down
When you install a free VPN, unbeknownst to you, the vendor can also flood your device with random bloatware. It makes your device slow, resulting in slow internet. Also, such free apps do not have a proper server architecture, which increases bandwidth and latency. As a result, you lose internet speed.
They have tons of ads
Yet another common problem with free VPNs is the unceasing array of ads. While we understand the concept of ads to maintain operation and profitability, it does reduce user experience. We are not against freeware with ads, but a VPN with adware can be problematic to any individual or company.
Free VPNs can use embedded tracking
Yes, VPNs are supposed to prevent tracking, but free ones employ VPN trackers. These trackers are detrimental. They collect your PII and hand it over to the vendor, defeating the sole purpose of the service: anonymity. Furthermore, all VPNs to some degree employ trackers. While the first-party trackers are not dangerous and even aid in enhancing user experience, third-party trackers are the bane of consumers. Thus, even with a no-logs policy, VPN trackers are harmful and mostly found in free VPN apps.
They are unreliable and often fail at unblocking
Most free VPNs are glorified proxies. Not only do they fail at encryption, but are also unable to bypass geo-blocks. Thus, what is the use of such products? Many users want a VPN to stream their favorite foreign content at home and rely on this technology. But complimentary ones aren’t powerful enough to do so. Yes, they change the originating IP, but can’t seem to bypass the firewall.
They ask for unnecessary permissions and pose threat on a device level
Many free VPN on mobile asks for unnecessary permission. This is suspicious and tarnishes the reputation of the tech as a whole. Granting such permissions can allow vendors to monitor your device and make changes to it. Hence, these VPNs pose device-level threats.
Free service can allow a government or third-party backdoor
VPNs are there to prevent third parties from snooping around, but what to do if your vendor has already provided a backdoor to such parties? Now, what is the purpose of the VPN? By allowing this to happen, providers can simply hand over user data to any interested third party at a whim. Also, the existence of a backdoor negates the safety of data traffic and the product loses meaning.
They may hijack browsers or other apps
Sometimes when you use a free VPN, it randomly controls your browser or other apps to do something. It can be as simple as opening a webpage without permission or redirecting users to an ad. But no matter the cause, that vendor fails as a service provider.
Their technology isn’t improving
Lastly, free VPNs are stagnant. Since there is no profit, they do not push innovation or ideas. They simply focus on using market strategies to lure more customers while maintaining the status quo. Consequently, no matter how secure free VPNs are we do not recommend them.