VPNs are essential tools for securing your Internet access within an unsecured network. By using a free VPN that you have not read Terms and Conditions agreements carefully, you might be exposing your privacy at a more dangerous risk than it would have been in the case if you chose to use a paid VPN service. With VPNs, the software that literally keeps you safe and private on the Internet, the savings offered by low-cost or free VPN services could present a dangerous risk at the end of the day. If you have used a VPN already or you are considering of using one soon, you are probably aware of the key benefits they grant, such as ensuring privacy, preventing spying and snooping as well as avoiding search engine sites from logging your search history, information and inquiries among other things as well.
Are all free VPNs safe?
The answer is NO. Recent research and tests have found that free VPNs pose numerous privacy threats and huge risks to user Internet security. With increasing corporate and government surveillance, many people are looking for privacy solutions and are trying to find a way on how to avoid being spied on and how to keep their information from prying eyes. Unfortunately, most of these appealing and moreover, free “solutions” are most likely to endanger your online privacy making you even less secure than before. Shady VPN companies and scammers from around the globe are ripping-off users who might not know a lot about cyber security and with open arms can run into huge security problems. Also, as there is a big rise of interest in online security and user privacy matters, users become even more vulnerable to dangerous software that might be used to steal their personal data or other sensitive information. The major problem is that most people are simply not aware of what to be on the lookout for.
We have mentioned all the risks shortly in our other article about free VPNs with the best alternatives to the paid VPNs. You can read the article here and find out which free VPNs are the best to use.
Malware may come in a vast range of forms and is focused on ripping cash off the Internet user. If malware is hidden inside a VPN, it can access some sensitive user information and can be used to send users spam, ads, emails as well as steal credit card information, hijack several online accounts with stolen data and lock devices (the nowadays popular ransomware). The worst part of malware is that if the user is infected by it, the spam emails the user might get can be personalize and confuse the user. There are instances when emails were customized and personalized by name and surname, so many users thought that it couldn’t be spam. While malware is probably the most popular way of infecting users but is still somewhat transparent and foreseeable, studies have found that many of the free VPNs, especially the ones that are for Android, contain malware. This means that a large portion of applications can infect you and it is scary how many people trust these free services without even trying to find out more information about these service providers.
It is surprising that some free VPNs might steal your bandwidth too! There were instances when some of the free VPN service providers were found of stealing user bandwidth and then reselling it to third parties and advertisers without the users even knowing about it. The most frightening aspect of bandwidth theft is that other users used the stolen bandwidth and engaged in their usual Internet activities. However, knowing that your bandwidth could be used by another person is terrifying, as you never know what that person might do and what pages they might browse. There might be occasions when someone might be using your bandwidth to buy guns, watch child porn or engage in other highly illegal activities.
Hidden tracking aims at collecting your private information and then selling it to third parties. A few of the free VPN service providers were found to contain tracking though they promised high-level encryption and security. Free VPN services will claim to give you safety and privacy, but many of them have been found installing malware and hidden tracking into their VPN apps (mostly on mobile). Some might think why is tracking taken so serious, but many companies might personalize advertisements based on your shopping habits, most visited places and more.
The biggest risk of free VPNs is perhaps the risk posed to your finances and identity. Subscribing to a free VPN places you in a dangerous path, simply because the free VPNs might collaborate with other third parties granting them access to your sensitive data (credit card credentials, numerous financial accounts, bank accounts). This dangerously exposes you to problems such as financial fraud and identity theft. Users who have run into such problems noticed that there were numerous instances when someone tried to access and login into their accounts or buy something with their money. It’s a good thing that most banking services notice and warn users about fraud attempts, but it is still incredibly unpleasant.
Trusting free VPNs to safeguard your privacy is a dangerous game to play. Especially knowing that most of the VPN users never even read Privacy Policies or information about service and what information a VPN provider might collect and store. So, when you see a free VPN, try to understand that in most occasions the product of the said service will be you, not the other way around. Most of the free VPNs collect data and sell it, so be sure to read their terms and conditions, what kind of information the providers might collect, where are they located and based in. The base location might seem irrelevant, but countries have their own laws and regulations concerning Internet privacy and data logging, as some Internet Service Providers are forced to keep their user data logs.
One of the most annoying methods of acquiring user information is using browser hijacking. This occurs when a free VPN hijacks and forwards your browser to a partner website without your consent. Moreover, whenever you turn off your computer and turn it on later again, you might find various software, browser extensions and other programs installed on your device. What is more, these are quite hard to get rid of.
Internet traffic leaks
A good VPN should encrypt and secure all traffic between the VPN server and your choice of device. Unfortunately, many free VPN services develop problems with the IP address leaks. For instance, when your IP address leaks out of a free VPN tunnel, your original location is left exposed. IP leaks is a serious problem with most VPNs, both paid and free. A VPN may leak both IPv6 and IPv4 addresses out of the VPN tunnel, leaving you dangerously exposed when using your free VPN services. This is completely contrary to protecting your security and privacy. Though most of the paid VPNs offer a killswitch feature – if your IP address gets exposed, the VPN will turn off certain programs or disconnect from the Internet to not leave the user with unproteced traffic.
Free products and applications from free VPNs are putting you at risk by abusing your security, moreover, free VPNs can make a lot of money out of your private information and data. Keeping high-security standards is worth a few dollars per month, as it comes with other features as well. Therefore, if you choose a good and reliable service provider, a VPN can be a great tool in your arsenal just in case you wish to improve your privacy on the public web and remain protected and anonymous. However, the wrong free VPN services are likely to prove the very opposite of such goals. You must, therefore, choose your VPN services carefully in case you are serious about protecting your privacy and you want to avoid falling a victim of leaked financial details, identity theft or be used to commit online crime activities without your knowledge.
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