When 20 million free VPN users got their data exposed in 2020, the adage “you get what you paid for” rang truer than ever. Though the virtues and value of using a VPN service are well established, the quality of the VPN service matters.
Data that got leaked included names, email addresses, physical addresses, payment information, IP addresses, text passwords, device details, etc. Although a free VPN sounds better than none, bargain shopping for a product or service that is crucial to your safety and security is not advisable.
Top 6 reasons free VPNs put your Privacy and Security at High Risk
Clearly, there are some known risks of using a free VPN. But below are the top 6 reasons that not just any VPN server will keep you and your data safe and why.
1. Low-level encryption leads to dangerous leaks
One of the main benefits of using a VPN service is that it creates a protective, encrypted tunnel to keep your data away from the prying ‘eyes’ of third-party entities. Many of the free VPN service providers, however, don’t use adequately encrypted tunnels leading to data leaks.
2. Putting your data up for sale
Unlike paid VPN services, free VPN services have to rely on other ways to earn a profit. One of the ways they do so is by selling your data. While one of the best advantages of using a VPN service is to protect your data and activity online, the free VPN providers take the data stored and sell it. When you install a free VPN app, you are often agreeing to these terms and conditions!
3. Free VPN with a side of malware
If leaving your data exposed and blatantly selling your data isn’t bad enough, many of these free VPN apps actually introduce malware to your device. According to a study by The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), 38% of free VPN apps on Android devices contain some malware presence.
Some free VPN apps are fake apps that basically just glean any information from you so they can sell or compromise the user.
4. Slows down your connection
Free VPN services not only create dangerous data leaks but can make your overall online experience terribly slow. Unlike paid, premium VPN services, a free VPN service can create connection speed issues because they are often routing too many users to a few servers. Paid VPN services usually utilize multiple servers to minimize lags.
5. Constant CAPTCHA
Those annoying Completely Automated Public Turing Test (CAPTCHA) where google or a website asks you to prove that you’re not a bot and actually a human will become a regular fixture of your online experience if you use some free VPN services. [These tests are the ones that make you identify images multiple times to prove you’re not a bot.] When thousands of users make requests from the same IP address, which often happens with free VPN services, it triggers Google’s algorithm because there is more data being sent and received from a single IP address than is possible for one human to send or receive. Premium VPN services, such as ExpressVPN, have more servers and more IP addresses so they don’t get flagged as a potential bot as much. Plus, if you hit a CAPTCHA ‘roadblock,’ you have many IP addresses to use instead when you’re using a premium or paid VPN service.
6. Prepare for AD Bombardment
The other cost of using free VPN apps is that you will get bombarded by ads, pop-ups, and redirects to sponsored pages. Not only is it annoying to click through, but it could be a privacy and security issue. These apps will be registering your reaction or interactions with these ads. There’s no way to verify that these pop-ups or redirects are safe and they could be introducing malware or adware to your device.
You get what you pay for
While it may seem safer to have some VPN service than none, the type of VPN service can make or break your privacy and security. More often than not, the free VPN will actually cost you more in the long run by leaving your data exposed, selling the data you’re trying to protect, and potentially introducing malicious components to your devices to the nuisance of slowing down your internet connection.
My #1 pick for the best VPN is ExpressVPN. ExpressVPN will help protect against who can track you, who can see what you write, and what websites you visit. Benefits include:
- adds a layer of enhanced security
- prevents Internet service providers from monitoring your online activity
- offers a way around geo-fencing blocks
- can help increase your connection speeds
Sign up for 12 months of unlimited access to ExpressVPN and their ultra-fast global network, and you’ll get an extra 3 months totally free. That’s a 49% discount off the regular monthly price. Deal: Save 49% and 3 months free – $6.67 per month
Have you tried a free VPN service? Have you run into any of these issues? Comment below!