The Trouble With Free VPNs
Here at Compare VPNs we’re passionate on the idea of everyone – every man, woman, child – connecting to the internet via a VPN.
Despite the increasing popularity of VPNs, especially during the age of lockdown pandemics, some web users remain ignorant or dubious. So what’s the answer?
Well, it certainly isn’t “use a free VPN.” Unless provided by well-known VPN service as a limited service for you to use in a pinch, or to get a taste of a virtual private network, reject free VPNs at all costs and use a paid VPN.
Why You Think You Need a Free VPN
You’ve taken a look at a VPN provider’s sale page and noticed one key thing: it costs money. There isn’t an obvious free version of the VPN app, not one without a trial, at least.
You think you need a free VPN because you’re short of money, or at least loathe to pay for a VPN service when you’ve never used a VPN before. It makes sense, therefore, that you should choose a free VPN service – if you can find one, that is.
That’s where things get tricky. You can find a paid VPN in seconds with a quick Google search. But if you want a free VPN provider, you need to look a bit deeper. The problem is, finding a free VPN service that is reputable is even harder. It can be done, and there is a good free VPN option, but if you make the wrong choice it could put you off even the most reputable premium VPN for life.
This is why, in most cases, you should avoid using a free VPN app or service and pay for the enhanced privacy and encryption a paid VPN delivers.
Why You Should Avoid Free VPNs
Need a reason to avoid free VPNs? Don’t worry, these shoddy con jobs are adding new reasons every day. Here are some particularly concerning examples:
- Lack of regulation. Unlike Internet Service Providers (ISPs) there is no regulation of VPN services. While paid VPNs work hard to manage expectations and deliver a good level of service to maintain their reputations, free VPNs have no such concerns.
- Track and sell your data. Free VPNs need a source of income, or else there’s no point. The people in control of free VPN services track your online activity and sell data on your behavior. While paid VPNs protect your activity with audited zero-logging practices, free VPNs know exactly where you’ve been. In short, free VPNs reduce your privacy, rather than increase it.
- Adware. Free VPNs already operate with severe limits on your bandwidth and data. Along with tracking and selling your data, free VPNs force adverts on you, and these take priority over your own online activity. The result is a slow VPN experience that will put you off paying for a legitimate VPN.
- The Hola VPN scandal. Once a popular free VPN provider, Hola VPN became notorious in 2015 after it became clear it was selling access to its customer database. But it wasn’t personal data being sold, but actual users connections. IP addresses were logged, and illegal activity by other users could have been incorrectly traced to an innocent Hola VPN user. There’s no reason why your chosen free VPN wouldn’t let you down in the same way.
- The risk of DNS leak. A flaw in the VPN software can lead to DNS leak. This allows your supposedly encrypted IP address to be visible to your ISP’s DNS servers. While paid VPNs have dealt with this vulnerability, there is no reason to expect a free VPN provider to have done so.
- VPN server security. When you use a premium VPN, you’re paying for a level of service. This includes ensuring the virtual private network provider keeps its servers secure from malware and vulnerabilities that could invite hackers. If your VPN server doesn’t do this, you should drop it. There’s a very good chance that your free VPN doesn’t keep its server secure.
- Streaming is unlikely. It’s almost certain that your aim of circumventing the Netflix region blocking software using a VPN won’t work if you’re using a free service. Netflix region blocking is achieved by selecting a different server location to the one you would normally use. So, for someone in the UK to access Netflix in the USA (and a different library of content), they would select a server location in, say New York, rather than London. But this is a cat-and-mouse game between Netflix and the VPNs, and free VPNs just don’t have the resources to manage this.
As you can see, using a free VPN service is risky. There really isn’t any reason to use one. Need to avoid region blocking? Use a web proxy instead.
Free VPNs You Can Use
As alluded above, there are some free VPNs that you can trust. They’re in short supply, however, and are strongly linked to well known, successful VPN services.
Of these, we recommend the free VPN from ProtonVPN. It’s perfect for using on one device, offers three servers, no logs, no data limits, and the same level of encryption as the paid service. There’s a desktop application and even a mobile VPN app you can use. Go check out ProtonVPN free VPN and encrypt your inline activity today.