What you should know
Guest post by Timothy Watson
The rise of virtual private networks (VPNs) has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. With a promise of strict privacy and anonymity on the open world of the internet, a VPN is indeed essential. Over the years, VPNs have also seen massive growth in terms of appearance. Nowadays, there are tons of companies that offer a “secure internet browsing or usage” service. As businesses, these providers would typically charge a fee. After all, it’s “commerce,” and running its operation does not necessarily mean it’s without a cost.
And yet, there are VPN companies that can manage to offer their services free of charge. The business perspective of running a VPN service alone should attest to the fact that it is simply not feasible as a model. Of course, there’s a catch—a handful at that.
That said, here are the dangers of using a free VPN:
It Tracks Your Online Activity
You might think that your online presence is already secured when using a free VPN service. The idea that the figurative “Big Brother” of the internet might not be following you online might seem like comfort.
But the thing about free VPNs is that they track on behalf of the bigger entities of the internet. It’s like having someone watch over you whom you believe is trustworthy, not knowing what happens behind your back.
You are unwittingly paying for the service, which is supposedly free but is not, with your user data. Your information becomes a commodity, which thus leads to the next point.
Your Free VPN Sells Your Data or Bandwidth
To think that free VPNs do not make money is a sham. They do. This happens when you unknowingly provide your information to them whenever you’re actively using their “service.” Typically, these “business partners” would be in the form of third-party companies whose line of business is either marketing or advertising. Mainly, your free VPN service provider sells your browsing habits to marketers who could potentially make a profit through sales. You could simply be browsing or shopping online, and you wouldn’t know that your data is already being sold.
If that isn’t enough, your free VPN can also steal your internet’s bandwidth without you knowing about it. Having a slower-than-usual internet speed while using a VPN is one thing. But it is another when it is no longer an issue of just re-routing or a certain algorithm.
They Contain Malware
One of the major red flags of using a free VPN is that a majority of them may contain malware. According to a study conducted by the ICSI Networking and Security Group, among the 283 VPN services that they had observed, a large number has malware. To be specific, 38% of the population of the study has a form of malware embedded with them. Malware, or malicious software, regardless of the kind, is never good. You would do well to stay away from them when possible.
For a reliable VPN service that does not contain malware, but rather guards against it, a subscription-based program like ExpressVPN makes for an excellent choice. You can use an ExpressVPN coupon to get a discount when you sign up for the service.
Offers Low Level of Security
For a type of company whose profit does not come from consumers, free VPNs are pretty lax when it comes to security. Not only do they lack the necessary resources to bolster their server’s safety, but they also employ protocols that are less secure than their premium counterparts. It only means that free VPN users are more likely to get “hacked,” which would endanger the system and its data.
One thing that easily separates a free VPN from a premium one would often boil down to features. Whereas one is packed full of functions and conveniences that uphold user safety and security, another is a minimalist that offers nothing but the basics.
For instance, when a premium VPN service has impressive features like the Kill Switch and DNS Leak Protection, a free VPN is sorely lacking similar characteristics.
With almost literally “barebones” in the level of protection, free VPN users render their devices compromised. It is especially true when browsing the rather unsafe areas of the internet, which they shouldn’t be doing with only a free VPN.
You might think that by opting for a free VPN, you’re saving yourself money while reaping the benefit of safety and security online. To a certain extent, this may be true for some VPNs. But, for the most part, it takes a premium VPN service for you to get the level of quality you’re looking for with a VPN. Considering the potential dangers that come by choosing to be “cheap,” premium VPNs are well-worth spending.
For a list of reliable VPN services you can subscribe to for the ultimate safe and secure internet experience, Time suggests the following.