What You Need to Know About Free VPNs
When somebody says something is free, the first thing you’d expect is that it shouldn’t cost you a dime. With free VPNs, you won’t have to pay for any subscription fee. But this makes you wonder, where do they get the money to run the service?
Running a VPN needs a lot of money. First, you need to invest in equipment. Setting up and maintaining servers require money.
Other expenses include employees’ salaries, utilities, and other services needed to run the VPN. If the VPN service provider does not ask for payment from its customers, where does it get the money for these expenses and how does it make a profit? Well, of course, the users are the ones paying for all these.
To give you a better understanding of how these free VPNs earn money, let’s look at the different types of free VPN and how VPN service providers use them to trick their users.
Unlimited VPNs – These free VPNs allow users full access to their services without asking for payment. The more you use the service, the more information the service provider can gather from you and sell to interested third parties. These unlimited, free VPNs collect your browsing data, search history, and other personal information that would interest ad agencies, marketing researchers, and government agencies.
Capped VPNs – The second type of free VPN is exactly the opposite of the first. Users will be given limited service and are required to upgrade to the premium service once the data cap or free trial has run out.
The paid subscribers shoulder the usage of free users. Some VPN providers also use this opportunity to bundle the VPN client with malware or adware.
It is obvious that free VPNs do more harm than good, but a lot of people still fall for this scam. In fact, using a free VPN might be more dangerous than not using a VPN at all. Let’s explore the dangers of free VPNs in the section below.
The Danger of Free VPNs
Free VPNs use different tactics to lure customers. Here are some of the strategies that free VPN service providers employ to trick customers and get what they need.
1. Annoying ads
This is the most popular, but probably least harmful consequence of subscribing to a free VPN. VPN service providers partner with ad companies and marketing agencies to deliver ads, while users are using their service. Most of these ads are hard to get rid of because they keep on popping back up even after closing the ads.
Onavo Protect, a VPN service owned by Facebook, has recently been in the news because of sharing user information with affiliates and third parties for advertising purposes. So make sure to read the fine print.
2. Information gathering and selling
Aside from annoying ads, collecting and gathering information by free VPNs can compromise your online privacy and security. And this can be done in different ways. Betternet, a free VPN with more than 38 million users, allows its advertisers to install cookies in the user’s browser to collect browsing history and other information they may need.
Psiphon also installs cookies and other web beacons to help their advertisers gather usage data. On the other hand, Opera’s built-in, free VPN service allows third parties and its marketing partners to track user’s data.
The main job of a VPN is to protect its users from malware and other malicious entities that may want to steal information or gain access to the user’s device. Sadly, the free VPN that’s supposed to protect you may end up installing the malware instead.
The installed malware can cause a lot of trouble in various ways. It can steal account information and use it to log into your accounts or transfer money from your online banking account. It can hold your device hostage and ask for ransom. Or it can use your personal information for identity theft and commit crimes on your behalf.
4. VPN leaks.
Free VPNs are severely lacking when it comes to quality equipment and technology, leading to problems such as IPv6 and DNS leaks. Instead of protecting your information, these leaks can reveal your IP address and location, compromising your anonymity and privacy.
5. Stolen bandwidth.
One of the biggest scandals in VPN history involved Hola VPN, a popular Google Chrome extension with more than 152 million users all over the world. Unknown to its users, Hola VPN was, in fact, discreetly selling its users’ bandwidth via the Luminati brand.
This allows other people to buy traffic in bulk and redirects it to the target website or server as a Denial-of-Service or DOS attack. Hola doesn’t have its own bandwidth or servers. It simply redirects the bandwidth of its users for its own use.
Free vs Commercial VPN
Finding a free VPN that would give you quality service without getting something from you in return is next to impossible. If you happen to find one, you still need to be wary because it is probably doing something or taking something from you that you’re not aware of.
If you want to ensure that you get the protection that you need, use only a reliable and trustworthy VPN service, even if it means paying a monthly, quarterly, or annual subscription fee. Unlike free VPNs, premium VPNs invest in their technology, equipment, and infrastructure to ensure that their users are getting the protection that they paid for.
Why You Need to Get a Paid VPN
In this digital age where information is a hot commodity and fraud is a common occurrence, protecting one’s personal data becomes a priority. Using a reliable virtual private network or VPN is the best way to ensure that your internet connection is encrypted while you connect to the public internet. Whether you’re connected to your private network or a public hotspot, snoopers won’t be able to spy on you or steal your data.
Unlike free VPNs, commercial VPNs keep you safe from hackers who may want access to your personal information, ISPs that monitor your internet usage and store (or even sell) your information, government agencies that want to regulate what information you can or cannot access, and marketers or advertisers that target you based on your browsing history.
But not all VPNs are created equal. Getting a free VPN just for the sake of having one does not guarantee 100% online protection. Subscribing to a free VPN service can lead to more risks instead. Paying a monthly subscription for a trustworthy VPN to protect your online privacy is a smart investment.
When choosing a commercial VPN service provider, here are some features you should pay attention to:
- Secure encryption technology – A VPN protects your internet traffic by encrypting it using reliable encryption technology.
- Leak-free – VPN leaks can compromise your IP address and location so make sure to choose a VPN with no leaks.
- Fast connection – A VPN should never compromise speed for security, so find a VPN that has great speed and foolproof security.