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Free VPN: 7 reasons you should avoid using them

While free VPN saves you money, they pose a much bigger risk.

VPN or virtual private networks have become really popular over the years. While initially, it was meant as a way for people to access websites or services that were otherwise blocked in their countries, it has now become an essential tool to ensure that your browsing data remains hidden from prying eyes. And a simple search on Google about VPN software would lead to millions of results, and as human nature, you would certainly be interested to look for a free VPN software (whose searches are 207million on Google, at the time of the writing). However, as the popular saying goes, There ain't no such thing as a free lunch, it would prove more true for free VPN services than anything else. Wondering why's that? Well, read on to find out why you shouldn't be using free VPN software on your mobile devices or computers.
But before we do that, let's understand what is VPN and what does a VPN do. Simply put, whenever you go online and visit a website or open an app, your details such as IP address, device info, etc. are sent to the respective server to process your request. As you could see, this means your ISP (Internet Service Provider) can track your data and hackers can also do so. That's where a VPN comes in. As the name indicates, it creates a virtual private network or tunnel between you and the respective website / app by sending your request to the VPN server first. So, if you're using public Wi-Fi networks or want to ensure that your data remains safe, then using a VPN is advisable. Watch this video to understand the concept better. 

And yet, if you're looking for VPN free, then such services are kind of contrary to the reasons mentioned above. Confused? Read on till the end and we hope you'll get to understand.

Free VPN logs your online activities

As mentioned above, VPN creates a tunnel between your device and the website or application you want to reach. That means, the VPN server can actually log all your details, right from your browsing history to device info. Surfshark recently analyzed free VPN services such as Hotspot Shield and the results might just take you by surprise.

While this isn't right in any manner, the trouble arises when... 

VPN appCountry of originContains adsData being logged
Hola VPNIsraelYes- Browser type
- Web pages user visits
- Time spent on visited pages
- Access times and dates
- IP address
- User name
- Email address
- Screen name
- Payment and billing information
- Installed Applications: details of applications that are installed on the user’s device
- When user registers to the Services via social network account (e.g., Facebook, Google+), Hola VPN will have access to basic information from a user's social network account, such as full name, home address, email address, birth date, profile picture, friends list, personal description, as well as any other information made publicly available on such account.
BetterNetUSAYes- IP address
- Amount of data transferred
- Times when connected to service
- Information from and about the device user use to access services
- Device identifiers
- Browser type
- Device types and settings
- Operating system versions
- Mobile, wireless, and other network information (such as internet service provider name, carrier name and signal strength)
- Application version numbers
- Nature of the requests that user make to servers
- Timestamps, and referring URLs
- Approximate location based on IP address
Hotspot ShieldUSAYes- IP address
- Amount of data transferred
- Times when connected to service
- Information from and about the device user use to access services
- Device identifiers
- Browser types
- Device types and settings
- Operating system versions
- Mobile, wireless, and other network information (such as internet service provider name, carrier name and signal strength)
- Application version numbers
- Nature of the requests that user make to servers
- Timestamps, and referring URLs
- Approximate location based on IP address
Psiphon ProOntorio, CanadaYes- Connection timestamps
- Region codes (country and city)
- Chosen connection protocol
- Session count and duration
-Total bytes transferred and bytes transferred for some specific domains

Free VPN could sell your data  

Yes, that's right. Not only free VPN for Windows, Mac or Android track your data, but they sell it to third-party companies, advertisers and even government. If you scour through the privacy policies of some of the best free VPN then you'll find it being mentioned.  Surfshark's Naomi Hodges, a Cybersecurity expert states "it is clear that free VPN services are the biggest culprits of data abuse, as they have built a profitable business model by selling user information to the highest bidders. It means anyone can purchase their users' data, including government authorities or agencies."

Free VPN tracks device-related activities

It's not just your online behavior that's being tracked by the best vpn app for Android. In fact, as per the research paper "An Analysis of the Privacy and Security Risks of
Android VPN Permission-enabled Apps
", 82 percent of VPN services access things like your SMSes, location data, etc - stuff which they don't even need for functioning properly. 

 

Free VPN serves ads

It's the naked truth of using free services... "if you're not paying for a product, then you're the product". That's why almost all the services, be it social networks or anything else, serve you ads. And the free VPN services are no different. However, some of the VPNs even provide direct access to advertisers, which is even more troubling. Per TurboVPN's privacy policy, "advertising partners may set and access their cookies, pixel tags, and similar technologies on our services.

Free VPN contains malware 

While you might be okay seeing ads, what you may not realize is that some of the free online VPN might make you prone to malware. Since your data is being accessed by several third parties, it's completely plausible that a person with malicious intent can infect your device(s) with malware. According to the same research paper referred above, 38 percent of VPN apps have at least one positive malware as per VirusTotal.

Free VPN offers lower speeds or limits the data you could use 

Truth be told, there's nothing wrong with this as you're still not compromising on your privacy. Yet, it does mean that you won't be able to use the virtual private network the entire time. Top free VPN does it in two ways: lowering your internet speed or limiting your data. For the former, the bigger issue is that many VPN services aren't even transparent about it. And for the latter, one of the most popular examples is Tunnelbear free version, which offers you just 500MB data for a month, and thus prodding you to upgrade to the paid versions.

Free VPN could use your device's power and bandwidth

Another app that ranks high on the list of free VPN download is Hola VPN, and while it's really popular and offers free unlimited VPN, did you know that it shares your internet bandwidth with other users of the service? Hola VPN's privacy policy bares it all: "In return for free usage of Hola Free VPN Proxy, Hola Fake GPS location and Hola Video Accelerator, you may be a peer on the Luminati network." If you dig deeper, then it also states "The Services may improve your use of the Internet, among other means by re-routing some of your requests through other Hola users (the "Value Exchange"). Your free use of the Services will in turn enable other devices using the Services to be re-routed through your device. By using the Services you consent to the use of your device in the described manner and agree that other Hola devices may use your network connection and resources. Note that Hola will make its best effort not to enable any use of your device's resources unless your resources are at that time idle and are not using your battery power or roaming, and to maintain the highest levels of privacy and security.

As per the 10VPN Global Mobile VPN Report 2019, over 80 percent apps downloaded on mobiles were free services. So you can imagine the risk. So what's the solution? Well, we'd really urge you to go for a paid VPN that has clear privacy policies rather than opting for a free vpn trial. 

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