Dangers and Security Risks of Using a Free VPN

Do you love using a free VPN? Think again, free VPNs are economically unviable and are probably not offering what they promise. Read this article to know how you might be endagering your data and privacy by making use of a free VPN.

Many people are attracted to free VPNs because there is no direct subscription cost. Most savvy consumers understand that in this world nothing free is truly free though. Even people who win prizes through raffles or on game shows learn that Uncle Sam still wants his tax money on that new car they won. There is a good reason to be suspicious of a free VPN. Just think, running a VPN is expensive. There are technicians to pay, there is an expensive infrastructure, and there is a hefty marketing budget.
Free VPN 1
All of this begs the question, why would a VPN service give something so valuable away for free? A subsequent question could be if they are not getting money from you, what is it that "free VPN" services get from you?

In this article, we are going to take a look at some of the commonly known and hidden costs, risks, and dangers that come when you use a free VPN service. We will also talk about what you should look for when choosing your next VPN.

What Do VPN Companies Mean When They Say "Free"?

VPN data flow model

The first pricing model is a free VPN service that does not include the option to upgrade to a premium service, nor does it include any limitations on bandwidth or usage. These services should raise all sorts of red flags. They are suspicious because there is no clear idea of how they are financing their supposedly "free" service.

Free only VPN services make their revenue directly using third-party software distribution. They use advertising, and they sell the user's bandwidth. The thing is that you have no idea what you are being sold or if you are being sold as a product. Something you hear often when talking about free software is that if you are not paying for something, it means that you are the one being sold to someone. Stay away from free only VPNs. Their business model is shady.

Freemium is another business model where you are offered a free VPN service with some limitations. For example, your bandwidth is limited or you are not able to access all of the servers. Once you pay for the subscription, these limitations are removed. These types of services have a more clearly identifiable revenue stream, so they may not engage in some of the questionable practices that free only VPN services dabble in.

Why Free VPN Services Are Risky

Whether it is free only or a freemium model, there are a number of reasons why you should shy away from free VPN services.

1. Security

The first reason is security. Free VPNs are not as security conscious as their premium counterparts. For example, when you look at NordVPNs IP logging and technical details, you will see that as a premium service, they are very security conscious. Their reputation, and by extension their ability to garner paying customers, depends on their ability to keep their clients secure and safe.

Free VPNs do not have these concerns, so it's more likely that your connection will be less secure and easier to compromise, either by hackers or other nefarious individuals. A number of studies have been done looking at free VPNs used on Android devices. Many of these studies have found that free VPNs come equipped with malware, usually in the form of advertising.

2. Limited Servers and Limited Services

With free VPNs, you get what you pay for. Free VPNs have limited services. With a premium VPN, you have options, like a kill switch or DNS leak protection. These are designed to keep you safe. However, they require a more intense infrastructure on the part of the VPN provider. If the VPN provider is not getting paid, they have no incentive to invest in this infrastructure.

Additionally, free VPNs have limited servers. They offer few locations and are swamped with all of the other people looking to get a free VPN. This means that your service is going to be a lot slower than what you would get with a premium service.

3. Unable to Get around Geo-Blocking

Geoblocking users from website
If you talk to people living in countries where media and internet access is relatively free and you ask them why they want a VPN, the vast majority are going to say because they want to unblock their favorite streaming service. Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu don't work or don't offer the same programs outside of the United States. Premium VPNs are able to get around this geo-restriction. In fact, a number of premium VPNs have servers that are dedicated to helping their clients view the streaming service they want.

If you use a free VPN, you will be fortunate if you are able to accidentally unblock Netflix or another streaming service. This is because free VPNs have limited infrastructure and a number of users. IP addresses are easily banned.

4. You Get Sold As a Product

As we mentioned earlier, free VPNs need to get money from somewhere. They may do it by tracking your online behavior. Remember, when you use a VPN, the VPN company is able to see what you see and potentially monitor the sites that you visit. They know what you are buying, what you are interested in purchasing, the vacations you are thinking about taking, and your financial plans for the future if you investigate this information on the internet.

They will take all of this valuable information about you and sell it to third parties. These third parties include marketing and ad agencies. This allows brands to target you. Of course, free VPNs cannot do this without letting you know. They will include it as part of the convoluted language that makes up for their privacy policy. But, honestly, who reads those privacy policies or terms of use anyway?

Wrap up

We have only scratched the surface of the dangers that come from using free VPNs. Other issues include aggressive advertising, slow connection speeds, interruptions in service, and more. Premium VPN services are relatively inexpensive. For the safety, reliability, and trustworthiness they offer, it is worth it to spend a few extra dollars and protect yourself adequately.

We would love to hear from you. What VPN services are you currently using? Let us know in the comments section below.

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