What are the risks with free VPN? You are probably aware of the increase in VPN usage – a growing number of people are now using VPNs for various reasons from; increased security, increased anonymity and as a means of overriding government or ISP enforced censorship.
So why pay for a VPN when you can get one for free? Unfortunately in reality nothing is free. VPNs cost money to setup and have on going operating costs. So how do these “free” VPN providers cover these costs?
Like many free services on the internet if you don’t pay for the service in money, you’re more than likely “paying” for the service in other ways. You become the product!
1. Biggest risk; your security is in danger!
Now it may sound obvious, but the one of main points of using a VPN service is to increase your online security. Its quite shocking to discover that a large amount of free VPNs will actually compromise your security.
A recent study by CSIRO found that 38% of VPNs contained malware. Now most of the malware reported turned out to be advertising malware, which at most is annoying. However malware is also used to track your online activity. It can also be used to intercept personal and sensitive information such as passwords, or credit card information. This is essentially the main income revenue that free VPNs use.
2. How about that increased anonymity?
They track your activity! Your increased anonymity whilst using a VPN is a close second to your security – and yet the study from CSIRO that analysed 283 VPNs found that “75% of free VPN apps” contained tracking code embedded within the software.
75% of free VPN apps track your activity!
3. Adverts… adverts everywhere!
Now you may think being shown adverts is a fair “trade off” for using a service for free. However VPN apps need to make money and un-targeted adverts often have a low value, so some of these adverts are “targeted” to you. Which means there are tracking your activity, just like above in point 2.
4. Free VPNs can be painfully slow
One of the most common complaints whilst using free VPNs is speed – or rather the lack of it! A lot of genuine VPN providers may offer you a “free” account, this is meant to make the user eventually upgrade to a paid plan.
ProtonVPN is a good example of this. Whilst they are a reputable VPN provider and they are honest about speeds. Their free account is restricted, which is fair enough as they have to prioritise bandwidth for paying customers!
5. They sell your bandwidth!
Rather than simply selling your online activity for advertising space. Some “free” VPN services such as Hola have gone one step further. They sell your bandwidth to their sister company “Luminati”. So Hola’s free VPN users are put at risk as their bandwidth is used for Laminati’s customers activities – simply put someone, somewhere can be using your real IP address to engage in possibly illegal activity; read more at pcworld.com
To many risks with free VPN!
In a lot of cases you probably will be better of not using a VPN at all – rather than potentially risk your security and anonymity. Of course there will probably be legitimate free VPN’s out there that don’t sell your data, that don’t steal your bandwidth and so on. However all VPNs cost money to operate so even if a free VPN is currently legitimate, they will soon need an income to cover their own cost, so whats to stop them from quietly changing their practices further down the line.
Stay Safe! A quality VPN doesn’t cost a lot!
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