You might have heard your friends saying that they used the VPN to access something that's not available in your region online. Most commonly, you might have heard it in the context of a new amazon series or a Netflix film not available in your area. While VPN connection is supposed to establish a secure connection between you and the internet, using it doesn't make your digital presence invincible. In fact, the case is quite the opposite.
So, let's start by asking- what is a VPN?
VPN, or Virtual Private Network, takes our internet traffic and encrypts it through a tunnel. VPNs have been gaining popularity nowadays as the providers sponsor streamers and YouTubers. But what can a VPN do?
VPN can bypass geographic restrictions so we can use websites and streaming services of other countries (at least esports are spared form such restrictions for now). It protects us from untrustworthy networks and gives us the anonymity of hiding our real IP address and location.
The VPN market is booming as more users can subscribe to different streaming services, especially in unusual scenarios like the current pandemic. More players are entering the market, and new features keep adding on at a low cost.
But wait, is it safe to use VPNs?
Free VPNs are dangerous. Free VPNs can get the job done, but we may face security problems that could encrypt the data as we browse online. Unpaid VPNs can be hazardous because you either pay for a VPN through a premium subscription or your data. If you aren’t doing any of these two, it is a dangerous ballgame.
Around 86% of the free VPN apps have unacceptable privacy policies. According to some investigations conducted into free VPN apps, there is a sheer lack of transparency in sharing user data with Chinese authorities. The TOP10VPN research found out that around 80% of the top free VPN apps in the Apple Store share user data with third parties.
Risks in using Free VPN
Free VPNs are potentially unsafe and pose a risk as more users download them on Google Play Store and Apple Store. A report suggests that around 3.8 million users install free VPNs, and there is a relative increase in downloads with every passing moment. The numbers represent a lot of user data that can be collected for third parties.
The data could be misused to pose a threat to millions of users. Free VPNs allow malicious third-parties to snoop through our data. They keep track of our content and IP addresses, which are meant to protect us in the first place.
In addition to this, we may face slow speed, unstable connection, and out-dated encryption. A free VPN may lead to even detrimental issues like identity theft.
Android VPN Malware
Most of the Android VPNs contain malware, according to a CSIRO study. VPN Apps have millions of downloads, but your phone might catch a difficult bug if you are a free user. It is always better to have a secure VPN service than a risky service that could potentially steal our bank details (this is scary).
VPN’s privacy policies promise to keep our user information secure and anonymous. It is not always true. They give shady sites access to all our browsing activities. It is a reminder that they make money at our data’s expense.
VPN - Detrimental for Mobile Health
Ransomware attacks have been rapidly increasing in mobile phones. There are a lot of password-stealing trojans as well. The malware can corrupt the phone and steal data. This is not the only way to make money if we have free VPN services. There is more.
The annoying pop-up ads when we use free VPNs are dangerous territory too (even scientists can be tricked by hacking, and we are not kidding). Yes, some VPNs sneak hackers into those pop-ups to look through our browser and follow our digital trail. Hotspot Shield VPN has been caught for such allegations in 2017 when they were hit with an FTC complaint about privacy violations.
As per Carnegie Mellon University researchers, the companies secretly sell our data to third-party advertisers. The advertisements pop-ups and credit card fraud are a few of the major problems we deal with in free VPNs.
Why do people use Free VPN?
One of the leading reasons people use free VPNs is access to stream sites when travelling to other countries. One might even ask, what is the point in accessing the video content when it keeps buffering while using free VPNs?
Most free VPNs sell the bandwidth, putting us in a legal problem. The most famous was Hola VPN, which stole the users’ bandwidth and sold it. The CEO Ofer Vilenski admitted to having done this.
Free VPN services naturally slow down as the traffic bounces around between distant servers.
Trying to sneak into streaming sites through free VPNs can be too costly for you than paying for premium services. Free VPNs often use a stale batch of IPs that could take a long time to load.
Clearly, after knowing what we’ve told you, Netflix and Chill will never be “chill” for you when you are on a free VPN. And we’re glad to rain on your parade because we want you and your data to be safe.
Still, there is a ray of hope – invest in a paid VPN. The better features can shield your data and keep you out of dangerous territories. We trust VPNs with our online privacy and information to guard our digital life- it is only natural we do not get duped with the promise of free.