Why using a free VPN might not be such a good idea
You’re probably aware that the internet isn’t as safe as it’s made out to be. From fraud to hackers to viruses that can destroy your device, the virtual world can be a scary place.
By now, you’ve also probably heard about using a VPN (a virtual private network) to protect yourself. In a nutshell, it should hide your IP address and encrypt all communication from your device.
If a virtual network is legit, hackers will have difficulty pinpointing your device because your real IP is hidden. And, even if they manage to get their hands on your data, they’d have a real problem trying to make sense of the encrypted communication.
So getting a VPN is a good idea. But should you get a free one?
Why you should think twice before hitting install on a free VPN
As tempting as it is to get a free VPN, the saying: “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” definitely applies. Building and maintaining a high-quality VPN that keeps its subscribers safe takes a lot of manpower and cash. That’s why the top-of-the-range apps have a subscription.
On the other hand, if the app is free, the question to ask is: “Where are they getting the income from?” Most likely, they are selling their user’s data or their app is not as secure as it should be.
Here are the reasons why you should not install a free VPN:
1. Known security vulnerabilities
A virtual network is as safe as the encryption and protocol it uses. If you’re using a free VPN, there’s a chance that it’s not built with the latest encryption and protocol, which are:
- AES-256 (encryption)
- OpenVPN / IKEv2 (protocol)
In order to get the best protection, you’ll want a service that uses both. Outdated security protocols are just downright risky in today’s world.
2. Potential malware infection
As unbelievable as it sounds, many of these free VPNs are built to inject malware (aka viruses) into devices. These malicious programs can transfer unnoticed onto your device because you gave them the green light when installing the app.
If you’re lucky, you’ll probably end with a laggy mobile phone. However, malware can easily retrieve passwords and other sensitive information on your phone to the perpetrator. By then, you’ll regret not opting for the $9.99 per month premium service.
3. Privacy concerns
You have the right to privacy when you’re on a VPN. Sadly, you can’t expect that right to be met when you’re using a free VPN. Chances are, to pay the bills, the app collects users’ data and sells it to third parties. Or it could host ads that lead you to websites that are after your personal data.
From the above, you can see that it’s definitely worth considering a paid service. But, what if you are on a shoestring budget? Is it better to have a free virtual network than none at all?
Is a free VPN better than no VPN?
That’s a good question and not an easy one to answer. When you don’t have a VPN, you tend to be more careful with what you do on your device. For example, you might not use public wifi because you know that a hacker can get into your device in a couple of seconds if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, if you have a free app, you might be tempted to chance it “just this once” and put yourself at risk. That’s only asking for regret.
With that said, there are occasions where you can use a “free” VPN, particularly if it’s proven to be safe.
What you should do instead
There are a handful of free VPNs that are considered safe. But, usually, these are free trials or a limited version of a paid reputable virtual network.
Most paid VPNs offer a trial or a money-back-guarantee that allows you to use the full range of services for a time period. Sometimes these apps also offer great deals, so it’s worth trying them out. Other VPNs may have a limited version that you can use but it still offers full security even though you might not be able to do too many things on your device.
Using a free VPN for your online interactions can be dangerous even without you knowing that. We take your online safety seriously. That’s why we've created ClearVPN — the first effortless VPN for a secure and personalized online experience. Learn more about ClearVPN.