Internet users are increasingly turning to VPNs to protect their online privacy. A lot of them are opting for free providers to save a few bucks, which might not be the best idea. Using a free VPN could actually put your personal info at greater risk.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) reviewed 283 VPN apps on the Play Store in 2016 and found frightening results. Eighteen percent of the VPNs didn’t encrypt data at all, while 75 percent used third-party tracking libraries. It’s important to choose a reputable VPN, which means skipping the ones offering their services for free.
Running a VPN is expensive, and a provider has to make money somehow. If it’s not making money via subscription fees, it might be selling your personal info or your browsing history (or both). Basically, it could be doing the exact thing it should be protecting you from.
Not all free VPNs are evil. Some make money through advertising, showing you ads on the websites you visit. This gets annoying fast and can also slow down load times. The ads shown can also be sketchy at times, redirecting you to websites with malware that can cause all sorts of problems.
If these things don’t scare you off and you still want to use a free VPN, here are a few tips. Do as much research online about a provider as possible — check out what various publications, as well as users, are saying about it. Make sure the company isn’t based in a country with a bad track record on online privacy, like China or Russia.
Based on all the drawbacks of free VPNs, you’re better off going with a paid one. Even then, just because a VPN charges for its services doesn’t mean it won’t track your activities or sell your data. That’s why it’s important to go with a reputable provider.
The one we recommend is ExpressVPN, which guarantees zero connection or activity logging. It also offers impressive speeds and loads of security options including a network kill switch that turns off internet access if the VPN loses connection. It’s one of the best VPNs around, though it isn’t the cheapest. A monthly subscription will set you back $12.95, but you can bring that price down to $6.67 if you choose a 15-month plan.
If you’re looking for a VPN on a budget, NordVPN is a great option. The monthly subscription is as low as $2.75, although you’ll have to sign up for a three-year plan to get it. Just like ExpressVPN, it also has a zero activity logging policy and comes with tons of features like a network kill switch. There are other, even better deals in our Best cheap VPNs of 2018 post.
If privacy is a real concern for you, avoiding free VPNs is the way to go. Based on the CSIRO’s research as well as the rest of the info mentioned in this post, not having a VPN can sometimes be safer than using a free VPN. It’s sad but true.
Have you ever had a bad experience with a free VPN? Let us know in the comments!