Yes, free VPNs are tempting, we know. Why would anyone want to pay monthly or annual subscription charges when you can get the same thing for free? Well, yes, and no. On the surface, things might look similar but there is a lot going on behind the scenes with free VPNs. You must have heard the saying that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
This is especially true in the case of free VPNs. Your data might be for sale on some site on the dark web or be used to train some AI algorithms or worse, you could become the victim of a cyber-attack. A recent CSIRO research concluded that over 75% of free VPNs had some form of tracking embedded.
The sad thing is that nobody can save you then, not even your ISP with a herculean customer service team like Quantum Fiber customer service. Let’s be honest. You brought this on yourself. They cannot protect you when you go on actively seeking problems, which is exactly what using a free VPN is. Here is why we don’t recommend using a free VPN.
Data Tracking and Selling
You have to understand is operating a VPN is resource-intensive and costs some money too. You will need servers in different countries, which will continuously need power and internet connectivity to run. Admittedly, these costs don’t amount to much when you look at a single user, but can quickly compound when you have multiple users using your service.
Moreover, you will need to keep updating the mobile and web experience as newer versions of different operating systems come out. In addition, you’ll need a developer to fix the bugs that users might encounter while using your service.
Paid VPNs can charge up to $100 or more per year, depending on their plans. This gives them a lot of wiggle room to cover overhead costs and still spend money on marketing and advertisements. Conversely, free VPNs don’t have a set revenue stream. Therefore, they resort to alternate means of making money, which often comes at the expense of the user.
Lack of Regulation
In the European Union and North America, VPNs are heavily regulated just like any other business. While it’s not completely risk-free, you should be okay as long as you keep paying attention to their terms and conditions and other rules. These rules are easily accessible to all users.
However, some VPNs intentionally establish their setups abroad in countries with lax regulations. Additionally, you should always avoid VPNs originating from China, Russia, North Korea, etc., since they’re more likely to track your data and use it for immoral or illegal activities.
IP Address Leaks
Once you log in to the system, the free VPN resumes logging in your history and data. A case could be made that the data from these VPNs can be used to make a virtual profile of you. This could potentially expose you to a whole set of vulnerabilities that you should avoid.
Moreover, paid VPNs employ several measures to create a safe tunnel for your data so that it’s untraceable when it reaches the open web. Free VPNs don’t have stringent measures in place and are more susceptible to attacks caused by IP addresses and DNS leaks.
You could become a Network Endpoint
You might have heard about the controversy around Hola VPN, which was one of the top free VPNs worldwide at one point. They offered good speeds unlike most free VPNs, which caused more people to use their service. A team of experts found out that the app was increasing the network’s bandwidth by turning each user into an endpoint.
For example, if someone wasn’t using the full bandwidth of their connection, the extra bandwidth was being diverted to other users. To other users, it would feel like they were enjoying super-fast speeds, but in reality, they were stealing bandwidth from other users.
Malware and Phishing Attacks
Free VPNs and malware and phishing attacks often come synonymous since it’s easier to bypass their security protocols. Some of the free VPNs are fronts for cyber attackers and can easily capture all of your traffic, which can later be used to harm you. If you access sensitive information like your card or bank details while using such free services, there’s a high chance of you getting targeted by these attackers.
Since most of these free VPNs rely on running third-party ads, they often make them intrusive. If all people keep skipping the ads and nobody watches them, the VPN host might not get paid. Therefore, they push it as much as they can, which can be incredibly frustrating and time-consuming.
This is why you should never use free VPNs. The pricing plans of some of the top-rated VPN services might look steep, but paying a few dollars to stop intruders from obtaining your private data seems logical. Be sure to read the reviews of whichever service you’re planning to use from multiple sources.