You should be using a VPN on your phone and PC, but you definitely shouldn’t be using FREE VPNs. And this is why…
Free is good. Sometimes. But when you’re talking about your private internet data, free is never good. In fact, it’s downright scary once you know what’s going on behind the scenes at many popular “free” VPN providers.
This article is designed, not to scare you, but to make you aware of the risks associated with free VPNs. And it comes from experience too; I used to use free VPNs all the time. Then, I attended a security conference in San Francisco and was basically “scared straight” by the nefarious nature of free VPNs.
5 Reasons Why You Should NEVER EVER Use Free VPNs
#1) Your IP Address Could Be Leaked
When you use a proper VPN, you’re leveraging state of the art encryption tools and software. That’s what you’re paying for. With a free VPN, the tunnel through which your data passes is not state-of-the-art. In fact, it is likely full of holes, and this means your data and IP address can be leaked to snooping outside parties.
The entire point of using a VPN is for privacy and security, but if your VPN has holes in it – as the majority of free VPNs do – then your data is no more secure than if you weren’t using one at all. Worse still, hackers can monitor and access free VPN traffic to exploit holes and access your private data.
#2) They Use YOU To Make Money on Adverts
Nothing in life is free. You will always have to pay in some way. And online, free means adverts. A free VPN needs to make money, and it has two ways of doing this: 1) adverts and 2) selling your data. Neither is good, to be frank. But, say you can live with a few adverts, this is how the internet works, after all. How bad can it be, surely?
Free VPNs do adverts differently. They leverage ad networks that are unique to your proxy server location, so what you’re seeing isn’t even relevant. And because free VPN services WANT to make money, the adverts are even more invasive than usual.
#3) They Will Track You And They Will Sell Your Data
Most paid VPN providers will not track or store your data – at least, the ones we recommend don’t. This is kind of the entire point of a VPN – you can browse the web without being tracked and your data is secure. However, with free VPNs, this is not the case.
Many free VPNs will not only track your data, but they will also actively sell it on to the highest bidder. A recent study by CSIRO that investigated over 283 free VPNs found that a whopping 75% of them actively tracked their users’ sessions.
Bottom line? If you’re using a free VPN, you might as well not be using one – the risks are far worse than browsing unprotected.
#4) There is ZERO Regulation on Free VPNs
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are heavily regulated. They’re held accountable to standards and can, in certain instances, track and record your internet activity. They do this for security and also because they have to, thanks to the way governments work in the US, UK, and Europe.
However, most free VPNs get around this by locating themselves outside of the jurisdiction of governments in the west. Places like China and Russia do not have the same standards for security and data protection as we do in the west. This is why many free VPNs are located in China and Russia, so they can harvest your data, track it, and sell it on to ad networks and/or other nefarious entities. Do not chance this happening to you, for the love of god – it really is not worth it!
#5) You Could Get Arrested For Something You Didn’t Do
Back in 2015, a huge story broke about Hola VPN turning its users’ connections into endpoints. This was a HUGE scandal, as Hola was using your connection to increase its own bandwidth. Not only that, but Hola was also selling your endpoint too. And this is not good, as your IP address will be contained in server logs…
And if your IP address is one server logs, and those servers are doing something illegal, guess who’s going to come knocking on your door? That’s right, the bloody feds! And you really don’t want to implicated in something scandalous, just because you didn’t want to pay for a legit VPN now, do you?
Are Free VPNs Safe? In A Word: NO…
These are my top five reasons why everybody should 100% avoid free VPNs. The Hola VPN scandal alone should be enough to show you just what is possible when you use free VPNs. Sadly, not enough people are aware of it, so free VPNs are still widely available online and inside the App Store and Google Play.
“Our analysis has also revealed an alarming 18% of VPN apps that implement tunneling technologies without encryption,” noted the CSIRO report, “as well as 84% and 66% of apps leaking IPv6 and DNS traffic. As a result, these apps do not protect user’s traffic against in-path agents performing online surveillance or user tracking.”
A Free VPN is No Better Than No VPN
What’s the bottom line here? Simple: free VPNs are not only ineffective at what they’re designed to do (make your web activity private) but are also extremely dangerous from a security and privacy perspective (84% of them leak IP addresses).
This means you should never, ever use free VPNs, even if the company promises they’ll never track or use your data. Remember: there is no regulation here, nothing to protect you. And any company can say anything they want online, no one’s going to stop them or make them prove it. You HAVE to be savvier. But if you must use a free VPN, you’re best off going with a company that focuses on security and offers a free version of its VPN service – something like ProtonVPN, for instance. Its free VPN is one of the most secure on the market, it just lacks much of the features you get with the paid version.
The Most Secure VPNs (Our #1 Picks)
That’s it for now if you’d like a more detailed overview of the VPNs listed in the above table, check out our Best VPN Guide.