These days, everyone is talking about cybersecurity. With all the online dangers and privacy breaches happening every day, protecting your online security has become essential.
Due to this, more and more people are turning to VPNs and other online privacy tools. However, sometimes these tools can bring more harm than good.
Making an uneducated decision and opting for a shady VPN can be very dangerous and lead to serious trouble. That's why it's incredibly important to learn how to recognize and avoid a bad VPN.
Nothing Is Truly Free
A free VPN is supposed to provide data encryption and open access to everything you want to do online, no matter where you are – and all that free of charge.
Well, unfortunately, nothing in this life is free and free VPNs have to make a profit somehow. In fact, most of these free VPNs actually carry hidden dangers with them that can cost you more than money.
Here's why you should stay away from free VPNs:
First of all, a good VPN needs to protect your anonymity with powerful encryption. To explain it visually – a strong VPN creates a tunnel between your computer or phone and the Internet so that everything you do online is hidden from the prying eyes.
Free VPNs often have weak encryption protocols that create holes in that tunnel and let your IP address and your private data leak. This leaves you exposed, just as if you weren't even using a VPN.
Earlier this year, none other than Facebook was accused of blatantly monitoring their users' activity through their mobile VPN app Onavo Protect. Supposed to protect the users, Onavo was actually sending information to Facebook even when the app was off.
One of the most common strategies free VPNs are using to make a profit is through advertising. But this often means another danger is waiting in the dark – data tracking.
A devastating fact is that 75% of free VPNs use data tracking to collect information about their users that is later used for advertising and analytics. This pretty much means that you're willingly letting spyware roam through your sensitive data.
In 2015, a then-popular free VPN service called Hola VPN was exposed for their fraudulent activities. Among other things, they were caught selling their users' bandwidth.
And the consequences of stolen bandwidth are not just slowing your connection down, they are much more dangerous. For example, if the person who is using your bandwidth is doing something illegal, you will end up being responsible for it.
Malware in Disguise
Many free VPNs are actually malware in disguise. While promising you online protection, they are doing the exact opposite. That means that after you download a VPN like this, you are actually downloading malware that can harm you in more than one way.
In the best-case scenario, these VPNs will use your data to spam you with ads and emails. In the worst-case scenario, this malware will steal your credit card details, hijack your online accounts or steal your sensitive data for ransomware.
How Much Do You Value Your Online Safety?
At the end of the day, it all comes down to the question – how much do you value your online safety?
When it comes to VPN services, you get what you pay for. Which means that free VPNs come with strings attached, and those strings could cost you a lot. So, it really pays off to invest in a reliable VPN that will ensure your online safety and protect your anonymity at all times.