Avoid the malware, ad tracking, and slow connections that come with free VPNs — by using the free versions of secure providers.
Your VPN should be reliable, fast and able to work on both your laptop and phone with zero issues. In a world where working remotely is the new normal for many people, VPN issues are not something you should risk trying to save a little cash each month. With your VPN, quality should come before the price tag.
While free VPNs are a popular choice for discount shoppers, as recent security issues show, it’s worth paying for reliable technologies that encrypt your data as you browse online. if you absolutely of course Use a free VPN, access the introductory versions or access the free trial deals our service offers.
Yes, you’re reading that correctly: if you need to use a free VPN for a short period of time, the safer option is to take advantage of the money-back guarantee on a paid service, or to test out the VPN free trial offer. on a paid VPN. To that end, our top recommended VPNs all offer either a free version of the premium service or a 30-day evaluation period. Here are the top contenders we reviewed in full:
- NordVPN offers a risk-free 30-day trial period.
- ExpressVPN is our current Editors’ Choice VPN and, while it doesn’t have a standard trial period, it does offer a 30-day money back guarantee. Express currently offers three months of free service (in other words, 15 months of service at the cost of 12) when you sign up for a one-year plan. However, there’s one exception: If you sign up for ExpressVPN by downloading the app on an iOS or Android device, you’ll be offered a seven-day free trial there. But it only works in some countries including the US.
- If ExpressVPN isn’t in your budget, check out Surfshark’s $2.49 per month offer on its two-year plan.
- ProtonVPN offers a limited free version of its product (one device only, limited download speed) so that users can get a fee-free trial drive of the service. This is a narrow exception to the “avoid free VPNs” rule (see below).
Why Use a Trial Instead of a Free VPN?
Staying in the realm of trusted providers by test-driving free versions of secure products can seem cumbersome, but with this competitive VPN market, there’s no better way to find the right fit for you. And it’s better than handing over your login and browsing history to an untrusted entity.
For example, in July 2020, Hong Kong-based free VPN provider UFO VPN was one of seven free VPN services to have detailed information on its users, as revealed by Comparitech. A database of usage logs – including account credentials and potentially user-identifying information – uncovered, highlighted. To make matters worse, six more VPNs, all of which apparently shared a common “white label” infrastructure with UFOs, were reportedly logging data.
It’s helpful to think of a good VPN as a bodyguard for your bank account. Your VPN protects you from password pickpockets and keeps you out of unsafe areas when you take a stroll through the bustling streets of public Wi-Fi. You trust your VPN with your online privacy and most valuable information. Maybe your family too. So when a VPN provider offers to protect your digital life for free, the first question you should ask is: what’s in it for them?
Whichever virtual private network you choose, here are five reasons why you should never use a free VPN.
1. Free VPNs Aren’t As Secure
As our sister site Download.com reported earlier, free VPNs can be very dangerous. Why? Because of maintaining the hardware and expertise needed for large networks and secure users, VPN services have expensive bills to pay. As a VPN customer, you either pay for a premium VPN service with your dollars or you pay for free services with your data. If you’re not ordering at the table, you’re on the menu.
Some 86% of free VPN apps on both Android and iOS – accounting for millions of installs – have unacceptable privacy policies, ranging from a simple lack of transparency to explicitly sharing user data with Chinese authorities, according to two independent 2018 investigations. According to VPN apps from Top10VPN for free. Another 64% of apps had no web presence outside of their App Store pages, and only 17% responded to customer support emails.
As of June 2019, Apple reportedly hammered away at apps sharing user data with third parties. But according to a July 2019 update on the Top 10 VPN investigation, 80% of the top 20 free VPN apps in Apple’s App Store appear to be breaking those rules.
In August 2019, 77% of apps in the Top10VPN VPN Ownership Investigation were flagged as potentially unsafe – and 90% of them were flagged as potentially unsafe in the FreeVPN Risk Index – yet There was a risk.
“Google Play downloads for apps we flagged as potentially unsafe have totaled 214 million, up 85% in six months,” the report said. Monthly installs from the App Store held steady at approximately 3.8 million, which represents a relative increase as this total was generated by 20% fewer apps than at the beginning of the year as many apps are no longer available.
On Android, the 214 million downloads represent a lot of user login data, taken from unintentional volunteers. And what is one of the most profitable things a user can do with massive amounts of login data?
2. You Can Catch Malware
Let’s get this out of the way for now: 38% of free Android VPNs contain malware, a CSIRO study found. And yes, many of those free VPNs were highly rated apps with millions of downloads. If you are a free user, your chances of catching a bad bug are more than 1 in 3.
So ask yourself which one costs less: Hiring a secure VPN service for about $100 a year, or an identity theft recovery firm that steals your bank account login and social security number after a few chumps. ?
But that couldn’t happen to you, right? wrong. Mobile ransomware attacks are skyrocketing. Symantec detected more than 18 million mobile malware instances in 2018 alone, leading to a 54% year-on-year increase in variants. And last year, Kaspersky noted aPassword stealing Trojan.
But malware isn’t the only way to make money if you’re running a free VPN service. There’s an even easier way.
3. Advertising Avalanche
Aggressive advertising practices from a free plan can go beyond being hit with a few annoying pop-ups and can quickly enter dangerous territory. Some VPNs sneak ad-serve trackers through loopholes in your browser’s media-reading features, which then remain on your digital trail like the prison warden in the B-grade remake of Escape From Alcatraz.
Hotspot Shield VPN earned some painful notoriety for such allegations in 2017, when it was hit with a Federal Trade Commission complaint (PDF) for over-the-top privacy violations by serving ads. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that the company not only had a built-in backdoor for secretly selling data to third-party ad networks, but it also employed five different tracking libraries and was actually able to track user traffic. Redirected to secret server.
When the story broke, Hotspot parent company AnchorFree contradicted the researchers’ findings in an email to Ars Technica: “We do not redirect our users’ traffic to third-party resources rather than the websites they intend to visit.” The free version of our Hotspot Shield solution openly and clearly states that it is funded by ads, however, we do not block any traffic with neither the free nor premium version of our solutions.”
AnchorFree has since offered annual transparency reports, although their value is still up to the reader.
Even if possible credit card fraud isn’t a concern, you don’t need pop-ups and ad-lags to deal with another big problem when you already have free VPNs. have been found.
4. Buffering… Buffering… Buffering
One of the top reasons people get a VPN is to access their favorite subscription services — Hulu, HBO, Netflix — when they travel to countries where those companies block access based on your location. But what’s the point of accessing paid geo-blocked video content if the free VPN service you’re using is so slow you can’t watch it?
Some free VPNs have been known to sell your bandwidth, potentially putting you on a legal hook for whatever they do with it. It was the most talked about, which was caught in 2015 quietly stealing users’ bandwidth and selling it in a mercenary style to whatever group wanted to deploy the user base as a botnet.
Subsequently, Hola CEO Ofer Wilensky acknowledged that they were committed by a “spamer”, but argued in a lengthy defense that this harvesting of bandwidth was typical of this type of technology.
“We assumed that Hola is a . [peer-to-peer] network, it was clear that people were sharing their bandwidth with community networks in exchange for their free service,” he wrote.
If being pressed into a service as part of a botnet isn’t enough to slow you down, even free VPN services usually pay for fewer VPN server options. This means that your traffic is generally…