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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Should You Use Free VPNs or Not?

VPN's stand for Virtual Private Network and its what people use if they want to block where they're using the internet, for a variety of reasons, but the most common, at least among my friends, is to be able to change their location to have access to websites and services that are location specific and restricted in specific places. (For example, my friend who went to China used a VPN to access Facebook, because Facebook is blocked in China.)

As my readers like to save money, we probably have all considered using free VPN's. Yes, I have, I just never got around to it. (Thankfully.)

Here's some reasons why free VPN's are a pretty bad idea.


VPNs are getting more and more popular, so it’s no wonder a lot of people are having a hard time saying no to free VPNs.

I mean, the deal sounds pretty sweet – who wouldn’t want to get all the perks a VPN has to offer without having to pay for it?

Well, you do know how the saying goes – “Nothing is free. Everything has to be paid for.”

That’s especially true for free VPNs.


First Things First – What Free VPNs Are (Somewhat) Good at

The first benefit is pretty obvious – they can help you save money. Normally, you don’t need to enter any credit card details when creating an account, so you can just use the service directly, free of charge.

Naturally, if the VPN asks you to share your credit card info, it’s better to not do it. The last thing you want is to deal with surprise charges you “accidentally” approved.

Besides that, a free VPN can be a convenient way to quickly unblock a geo-restricted or censored website. You don’t need to share any payment info – you just create the account, run the service, and unblock web pages on the go.

Just keep in mind you can get similar results with a free online proxy. Also, a free VPN will likely not be able to unblock popular websites like Disney+, Netflix, or BBC iPlayer.

Now, Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Use Free VPNs

Here are the main problems you’ll end up dealing with if you decide to rely on a free VPN:

Malware Infections

It’s hard to believe, I know – but the truth is that free VPNs can expose you to malware. Not all of them, of course, but the risk is still pretty big.

According to this study, researchers found that out of 283 free VPN apps on Android:

  • 43% of them contained adware.
  • 29% of them exposed users to Trojans.
  • 17% of them engaged in malvertising.
  • 6% of them contained riskware.
  • And 5% of them had spyware.

Poor Security

Following up on the study I linked above, the data also showed that 18% of the free VPNs in the study offered tunneling with no encryption. In fact, anywhere between 66% and 84% of the apps didn’t tunnel DNS and IPv6 traffic.

What does that mean?

Basically, if you use a free VPN, there’s a pretty big risk that hackers, ISPs, and government agencies can still spy on your traffic. Also, the risk that you’ll deal with IPv6 and DNS leaks is much higher.

That’s not all – even if a free VPN has encryption, there’s a good chance that it’s poorly configured. Whether that’s by accident or intentional, your traffic will still be compromised.



Bandwidth Hijacking

A popular free VPN named Hola actually managed to aggregate users’ own bandwidth, and sell it to the highest bidder. By doing that, the provider effectively turned its own users into a botnet for hire.

True, that was possible due to the way Hola works – it being a peer-to-peer VPN and all.

But since such a popular and reputable (at least at the time) provider did that successfully, others might manage to do it too.

Poor or No Privacy

Once again, according to the research I linked above, roughly 75% of the free VPN apps in the study used third-party tracking libraries. Also, 82% of them had requested permissions for accessing sensitive data (like text messages).

And if that wasn’t enough, it seems that free VPN providers also sell user data to advertisers and other third-parties.

So yeah, if you use a free VPN to protect your privacy, you’ll get the exact opposite.

Speed Limitations

A VPN slowing down your speeds is not really a surprise since your original speeds will take a hit whenever you use one.

However, free VPNs often enforce bandwidth caps – meaning your already slowed-down speed will go down even more when you go over your monthly bandwidth limit.

Ads-a-Plenty

Since you’re not paying for the VPN, the providers have to make money somehow. And that usually means they resort to spamming you with ads whenever you run the VPN.

If you want to use a free VPN, get ready to see annoying ads in the client.

And don’t forget – some ads might even be malicious!

Other Reasons Why Paid VPNs Are Clearly the Better Option

All those risks aside, there are other good reasons you should use paid VPNs.

For starters, paid VPNs can actually afford well-optimized servers that offer fast and stable speeds, and unlimited bandwidth. Also, they usually have a large number of servers, so you don’t need to worry about overcrowding.

What’s more, paid VPNs can offer decent support. In fact, most reliable providers offer 24/7 customer care, which is a must if you ever encounter any problems with the service.

Free VPNs normally don’t have around-the-clock support. If they do, they don’t offer it to non-paying users.

I already mentioned that free VPNs can’t really unblock services like Disney+ and Netflix, but here’s another secret – they also tend to block P2P traffic, so you can’t use them for torrenting.



Is There Any Way to Actually Use a VPN for Free to Unblock Content?

Yeah, there is. You just need to use a VPN service that comes with a free trial or a money-back guarantee. That way, you either don’t pay money upfront to use it, or you know for a fact you’ll get your money back if you’re not happy with the service.

Finding a good VPN can be tough, though. There are hundreds on the market, after all.

Thankfully, I’m going to make things simple for you – here’s a list of the best VPNs for Disney+. The guide has all the info you need to find the right VPN for you.

And don’t worry – you can reliably use any of the services on the list to try unblocking Netflix and other platforms too.

Do you use a VPN? Free or paid? What has your experience been like?

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