The Truth about Free VPNs

Updated on: 11 March 2019
Updated on: 11 March 2019

With the popularity of VPNs rising, and the demand for lightning-fast and secure browsing increasing, even more, we felt it important to publish a post that speaks to the truth about free VPNs. There are many reasons that we will detail in this post for why a free VPN simply isn’t worth the risk.

The very first question to ask yourself is this: If the provider is not being paid by you to provide this service, then how are they themselves being paid?

By no means is this question intended to make you feel uneasy. However, if you consider that free VPN providers, like any other business, must make their revenue somehow if they are not collecting a subscription from their users, then their income is being made elsewhere from the product. Like any other VPN provider, they need to pay money to run and support their business.

Free ALWAYS comes with a catch.

1. The Performance of a Free VPN is Always Weaker than a Paid-For VPN

When you review the top VPN providers, they have thousands of servers that are located in many different countries. The reason this is so important is that it enables them to offer robust servers that offer guaranteed uptime to customers. Simply put, this significantly reduces the risk of server outage which results in a loss of service for end-users. If you plan to use your VPN to stream content, then consider having to contend with constant buffering because the servers are not able to support the content you are wanted to watch or download. Not only is this incredibly frustrating, but it also wastes your time too. When you pay for a service, you are also given an assurance of a certain quality of service. With a free VPN, you simply ‘get what you are given.’

2. Free VPNs are Known to be Prime Sources of Malware and Intrusive Ads

One particular research study that was conducted in the US and Australia examined studies apps that provided free VPN services. Astoundingly, the findings uncovered that many of these apps were injecting malware into the exact devices they were meant to be helping to protect. Some of the worst culprits outlined in this study where Hotspot Shield, Super VPN, OK VPN, Easy VPN, and Cross VPN. Three out of every four of the VPNs surveyed deployed some form of tracking software, with over 80% of the providers being able to access private data such as text messaging, and individual user accounts. Around 40% of the VPNs contained adware and malware. Their study concluded that despite the issues, many of the users were unaware of the activity and the majority of users had no knowledge that their VPN was causing them these additional problems. Threat Researcher, Ryan O’Leary has clearly stated himself, ‘’The lower the cost of the app, the more chance you will have of security problems. Free should indeed be a great big red flag when choosing a VPN provider’’.

3. Free VPNs Use your Connection for Unauthorized Activities

Before you use any service, it is important to know exactly ‘ whom you are getting into bed with.’ While everybody loves to get something for free, this particular section outlines how some free VPN providers use the access you unknowingly grant them, to exploit your connection and potentially put you at risk for unsavory online activities. When you use a VPN, you will typically need to give the provider full access to your browsing activities. While this may seem harmless, the truth is, it might be a lot more damaging than you think. One particular free VPN provider Hotspot Shield has been highly featured in the press for doing just that. They were under investigation for the interception, tracking, and collection of all of their customer information. So, while users were happily using their free VPN, probably thinking it gave them a greater level of security; their VPN provider was potentially storing all their important information in the background, selling it onto advertisers and redirecting traffic in the background as well. As we mentioned at the start of this post, they need to make their money somehow. So often as is the case with free VPN providers, they potentially exploit their user information and earn money through the manipulation of data and details that do not truly belong to them in the first place. Another free VPN service that was dragged through the press was Hola. This company essentially sold off the unused bandwidth from their user’s connections. The result of which was that people using the Hola VPN were unknowingly launching attacks and carrying out other highly-illegal activities, some of which was quite disturbing, and all of which were carried out in the background, with users completely unaware of the activities.

4. Free VPNs Put your Online Security in Jeopardy

One of the most compelling features a good VPN offer is a highly secure way to browse the internet. When you use a free VPN, this could not be farther from the truth. As we keep mentioning, these companies must make their revenue somehow. A key method that is used by many free VPN providers is to record your web traffic and sell information about your browsing activities to companies. Another more disturbing tactic used comes in the form of a keylogger that can be deployed onto your device without you having any knowledge of its presence whatsoever. It will then track and transmit every single keystroke you make, including your personal identification numbers and yes, even your passwords. When you use a free VPN, you are essentially losing the control you have over your own personal data. A good VPN will encrypt your information. With many free VPNs, they are actually designed to compromise your data and put your information readily out into the public domain.

5. Why It’s Always Better to Go with A Premium VPN

Now we have explored the grim truth about free VPNs; you might be considering the options of paid VPN services. Before we get into the good stuff about why a Premium VPN is a far better option, it seems like a good point to let you know about pricing. Unlike many other services that offer true value and protection, a paid for VPN is relatively cheap. Many providers offer a tiered pricing structure that means for the cost of a cup of coffee at Starbucks; you can get unrivalled security online, as well as superb speeds and a robust service that will support even the heaviest of users.

How Much Does a Good VPN Cost?

The cost of a good VPN varies between $2.75-$12.95 per month. Usually, the benefits offered are exactly the same, the core price differentiator is due to the length of term you commit to when taking out the service. The table below shows the prices for some of the best VPN service providers.  

6. Benefits of a Premium VPN

Low Pricing As we have outlined in the section above, a premium VPN does not come at a premium price. The cost of this service is a hugely important factor, and while we consider Nord VPN to be the best provider on the market right now, with prices starting at just $3.29 per month, you can start to see why they are superb value for money, and an affordable VPN service you can depend on.

Highly Secure A premium VPN is a highly secure way to browse the internet. With encrypted traffic, you are free to browse and download content safe in the knowledge that even your ISP cannot see nor gain access to your history or logs. Many of the top VPN providers, including Nord VPN, have a zero-logging policy. This means that they will not track or store information about your online activities.

Superb Speed of Service Another outstanding feature of a paid-for VPN service is the guaranteed speeds you get, ideal for those who wish to download or stream content on their devices. Many of the top VPN providers have hundreds if not thousands of servers located across the globe. Not only does this give you incredible speeds, but it also means that the service will be robust and is unlikely to be interrupted or lost for any period of time.

Customer Support Unlike a free VPN service, because most of the top VPN providers have a fully-fledged team of support staff, if you encounter any issues, you will be able to get support from the company and help to fix any issues that you may encounter. When you pay for a service, you are a customer of the company. Most of the top VPN providers have a superb service reputation and reassuringly offer extensive support via a number of different channels.

Ease of Accessibility The majority of paid-for VPN providers build bespoke apps to suit their native applications. This makes it incredibly easy for you to use their VPN across a broad spectrum of devices. Many of the top VPN software companies offer VPNs that work on Android, iOS, Mobile, Mac, Linux, Windows, Desktop, and Smart TV systems. Check out our lists of Best VPNs for Android, Mac, and more here.

7. Best Premium VPN Providers

The Top Three VPN providers are Nord VPN, CyberGhost, and IP Vanish.

NordVPN NordVPN is the ideal choice for those who need a quality and performant VPN service, that offers great value and provides high speeds of up to 500 Mbps, high security, and great flexibility. Their plans cost between $3-12 per month. They have over 4,000 servers across the globe, and their service delivers a completely untraceable promise that is backed-up by a zero-logging policy for their customer data. It is easily accessible on Mac, iOS, Mobile, Windows, Desktop, Linux, Smart TV, and Android.

IPVanish While they are not the lowest priced VPN, they provide robust security and give users the ability to run their software on up to ten devices at any one point in time. They have around the clock support via live-chat and boast an impressive 40,000 IP addresses across their 1000 servers. Their connection speeds are said to be around 200 Mbps which are adequate for even 4k content streaming. Their plans cost between $6-10 per month. They have also developed a range of apps that make it really easy to access their services across a range of devices, such as Mobile, Mac, Linux, Windows, iOS, Desktop, Smart TV, and Android. They have additional security features such as a killswitch that instantly disconnects all devices in a single click and offers the same zero-logging policy for their customer data.

CyberGhost Another top provider of VPN services globally, they are regarded as one of the fastest VPN providers in terms of their speeds. Privacy is also comprehensive along with the overall affordability of the service. It is easy to use and can be run simultaneously across seven different devices at the same time. Their plans cost between $2-12 per month. CyberGhost is thought to be one of the best VPN providers for privacy, they have a zero-logging policy and run their service over 2500 services worldwide. Due to their headquarters being in Romania which is notorious for its lightning-quick internet connectivity, it’s no wonder they are regarded as one of the best VPNs for streaming content online. To conclude, a free VPN will end up costing you money if you have to deploy additional virus removal, get your device repaired, or worse still, have to contend with a breach of your data that results in a financial loss. It will slow you down and leave you with a poor-quality connection that is slow and interrupts your browsing or downloads. More importantly, it will completely disrupt the quality of your service, and if you like to use the internet to view or download heavy content, it will lead to much frustration and angst. For the same price as a single cup of coffee a month, you will be far better off buying a low-cost, high-quality VPN that enriches your online experience rather than obliterating it!

Written by: Elizabeth March

Advanced ITSEC Specialist Based in Cambridge, England, Elizabeth has held notable positions for a range of high-profile vendors and clients in the European IT Security and Communications Sector. As a former IT Trainer, Technical Specialist, and Product Manager; she transitioned into the role of an expert IT Copywriter in 2015. Since then, her works have been published globally, and she continues to help people easily decipher complex technical challenges and make informed decisions about their digital lives.

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