Think of a good(VPN) such as a bodyguard for your bank account. When you walk through the busy streets of public WiFi, your VPN protects you against pickpockets with passwords and keeps you out of unsafe areas. You trust your VPN ̵
Withon the rise, it is no surprise that the VPN market is booming because consumers want to protect their online information. The Global Web Index reports that 25% of internet users have had access to a VPN in the last month, while VPN apps account for hundreds of millions of installations for mobile operating systems. Meanwhile, growth in VPN market value is expected to generate $ 35 billion in revenue in 2022.
Finding a VPN that you can trust is not & # 39; t easily in this market. But there are some VPNs that you should never, never, choose: the free ones. This is why.
1. Free VPNs are simply not as secure
As our sister site Download.com previously reported, free VPNs can be very dangerous. Why? Because in order to maintain the hardware and expertise required for large networks and secure users, VPN services have to pay expensive bills. As a VPN customer you pay for a premium service with your dollars or you pay for free services with your data. If you do not order at the table, you are on the menu.
From June 3, Apple reportedly hit the hammer on apps that share user data with third parties. But 80% of the top 20 free VPN apps in Apple's App Store seem to be breaking these rules, according to a June update on the Top10VPN survey.
As of August, 77% of the apps are marked as potentially unsafe in the Top10 VPN VPN ownership survey – and 90% of the apps that are marked as potentially unsafe in the free VPN risk index – still represent a risk.
"Google Play downloads of apps that we have identified as potentially unsafe have increased to 214 million in total, by 85% in six months," the report reads.
Monthly installs from the App Store remained stable at around 3.8 million, which means a relative increase because this total was generated with 20% fewer apps than at the beginning of the year, since a number of apps are no longer available "
On Android, 214 million downloads represent a lot of user credentials from ignorant volunteers. And what is one of the most profitable things you can do with large amounts of user credentials?
Read more : All VPN conditions you need to know
2. You can catch malware
Now let's get rid of this: 38% of free Android VPNs contain malware, a CSIRO study found. And yes, many of those free VPNs were apps with a high rating with millions of downloads. The chance that you encounter a nasty bug is greater than one in three.
So ask yourself what costs less: a quality VPN service for around a hundred dollars a year, or hiring an identity theft repair company after a big job steals your bank account registration and social security number?
But it could not happen to you? Mass. Mobile ransomware attacks are taking off. Symantec detected more than 18 million mobile malware copies in 2018, which means a 54% annual increase in variants. And Kaspersky recently saw a peak of 60% in Trojan horses stealing passwords.
But malware is not the only way to make money if you use a free VPN service. There is an even easier way.
3. The ad valanche
Aggressive advertising practices of free VPNs can go beyond being hit with a few annoying pop-ups and moving quickly to dangerous terrain. Some VPN & # 39; s sneak trackers that present advertisements through the loops in your browser's media reading functions, which then stay on your digital path as a prison guard in a B-grade remake of Escape from Alcatraz.
HotSpot Shield VPN earned some painful fame for such allegations in 2017, when it was hit by an FTC complaint for excessive privacy violations when displaying advertisements. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University discovered that the company not only had a back door that was used to secretly sell data to third-party ad networks, but it also used five different tracking libraries and even redirected user traffic to secret servers.
When the story broke out, HotSpot parent company AnchorFree denied the researchers 'findings in an email to Ars Technica: "We never redirect our users' traffic to third-party sources instead of the websites they wanted to visit "The free version of our Hotspot Shield solution openly and clearly states that it is financed by advertisements, but we do not intercept traffic with neither the free nor the premium version of our solutions."
AnchorFree has since offered annual transparency reports. , although their value still lies with the reader.
Even if credit card fraud is not a problem, you do not have to weigh down pop-ups and ad-lag when you are already dealing with another major problem with free VPNs.
4. Buffering … Buffering … Buffering
One of the main reasons why people get a VPN is access to their favorite subscription services – Hulu, HBO, Netflix – when traveling to countries where those companies block access based on your place. But what is the point of gaining access to the geo-blocked video content that you have paid for when the free VPN service you use is so slow that you cannot view it?
Some free VPNs are known to be selling your bandwidth, which means that you may be hanging on to the legal hook for whatever they do with it. The most famous case of this waswho was caught stealing the bandwidth of their users in 2015 and sold it, in the rental soldier style, to every group who wanted to use their user base as a botnet.
At the time, Hola CEO Ofer Vilenski admitted that they had been a "spammer", but argued in a long-standing defense that this harvest of bandwidth was typical of this type of technology.
"We assumed that by declaring that Hola is a peer-to-peer network, it was clear that people were sharing their bandwidth with the community network in exchange for their free service," he wrote.
If being hired as part of a botnet is not enough to slow you down, free VPN services usually also pay for fewer servers. This means that your traffic generally jumps back and forth for longer between distant, crowded servers, or even waiting behind the traffic of paid users.
To top it off, subscription streaming sites are useful for those trying to sneak in their video services for free. These services routinely block a large number of IP addresses that they have identified as belonging to turnstile-jumping freeloaders. Free VPNs cannot afford to invest in a long list of new IP addresses for their users as a paid VPN service can.
That means that you may not even be able to log in to a subscription media service for which you have paid if your free VPN uses an old batch IP & # 39; s. Good luck getting HBO to load over that connection.
5. Paid options keep getting better
The good news is that there are many solid VPNs on the market that offer a range of functions depending on your needs and budget. You can browse through our ratings and reviews to find the right VPN service for you. If you are looking for something specific for mobile, we have.
If you want a primer before you decide which service you want the money to fall on, we have a VPN Buyer's Guide to help you get a grip on the basic principles of VPN & # 39; s and what to look for when choosing a VPN service.