A virtual private network (VPN) service is a must-have for people concerned about privacy and want to have high-end protection. Free VPNs are quite tempting with their promise of protecting your online security. However, a free VPN might not be the safest option for protecting your privacy.
According to a Cybernews report, more than 18GB of connection log data was accidentally made public in 2021, allowing threat actors to abuse them. The risks of data breaches with a free VPN are far worse than if you didn’t install anything. Therefore, you should know the risks of using free VPNs to make informed decisions.
Why Are Free VPNs Dangerous?
VPNs are essential to boost your online privacy and security. They act as a bridge between your device and the Internet, encrypt your online traffic, and hide your IP address. However, free VPNs can undermine your privacy rather than protect it. The most common dangers associated with free VPN solutions are cited below.
Data Vulnerabilities and Malware Infections
Security research revealed extreme vulnerabilities associated with 10 free VPNs on Google Play.
Not only do they compromise your security by using weak encryption protocols. They also act as a facade for malware distribution. According to a CSIRO study, 10 of the most popular VPNs contain some form of malware, and six of them are free. These malware attacks usually manifest in the form of online ads.
These intrusive ads might be the price you pay for using free VPN solutions, which help their manufacturers earn. These VPNs may display pop-up ads and sometimes redirect you to malicious pages. Besides frustration, they can put your device at risk of malware or phishing attacks.
A VPN acts as a protective barrier against various digital vulnerabilities. It secures your online data and protects your activities and personal information from government surveillance and other prying eyes.
However, free VPNs can collect your data in exchange for providing the services. They can then sell your data to third parties, putting your security and privacy at risk.
Identity Theft and Hotlinking
In some cases, free VPN providers intentionally use your IP address. They may turn your device into an exit node, making it a gateway where encrypted traffic enters. The bugs in their free software enable them to use your device’s bandwidth to serve paying customers. That means someone else can use your IP address to engage in nefarious activities.
A VPN should allow users to safely and anonymously surf the Internet. It should encrypt your data, provide a secure tunnel, and let you explore websites without anyone knowing about it, except your VPN. The best VPN follows a no-log policy and shouldn’t track your activities.
However, free VPNs are not reliable. According to CSIRO, free VPNs embed at least one tracking library in their software, while the worst offenders integrate more than five.
How to Avoid the Harms of Using a Free VPN Service
Here are a few safety tips to ensure high-end security.
Find a Reliable Software
If you are not paying for a VPN service, you may be paying for it with your digital privacy and security. A popular and reliable VPN solution has an established reputation and won’t ever provide poor service.
Moreover, make sure the company behind the VPN is legitimate. To assess its legitimacy and reliability, explore its website, authenticate its business address, and verify other information. Always choose a reliable VPN solution with multiple layers of security to ensure safe browsing.
Read Customer Reviews
Whether you opt for a free or paid version, you need to check user reviews. Low scores, negative reviews, and frequent complaints are not good signs, so avoid such providers. Choose one with a decent number of positive reviews.
Do Not Click Malicious Pop-Ups
It is difficult to identify if an ad is malicious or not, so it’s best to avoid clicking it as it can install malware on your device. Some online ads are resistant and hard to remove. If that is the case, close the VPN and reopen it to continue browsing.
On the other hand, if you accidentally clicked a pop-up, run a deep antivirus scan to immediately find the issue. Some VPNs have a built-in antivirus but you should manually scan to protect your device.
Opt for a VPN with a No-Logging Policy
One way to avoid VPN spying incidents is to look for a service that implements a no-logging policy. That guarantees the VPN does not log user traffic. And should such an incident occur, the service provider would be held liable.
A reliable VPN protects against cyber attacks, malware, cyberthreats, and data breaches. Free VPNs are enticing options, but they may cost your online privacy and security. Therefore, investing in a high-quality VPN is wise.