The prospect of using a free VPN appeals to everyone. But did you know, nearly 38% of free Android VPNs contain malware, this is according to research by CSIRO. This means that while most free VPNs grant you access to some geo-restricted sites, they do so at the expense of your privacy. Which is scary.
With both Android and Apple stores striving to eliminate these potentially harmful VPNs from their store, you need to be careful when using a free VPN.
Risks of Using a Free VPN
Some of the risks users expose themselves when using free VPNs include:
1. Breach of privacy
You probably use a VPN to protect your sensitive information when browsing – that’s what VPNs are for. However, some of the free VPNs don’t live up to this promise. They have malware that collects your data and sells it to advertisers. This violates your privacy policies and beats the point of having a VPN.
2. DNS leak
According to a study by top10vpn, 25% of the free VPNs tested had issues with DNS leakage. This means that your browser history and data traffic is visible to third parties and your ISP. And since most VPN users don’t know how to test their connections, their security remains at risk when using the VPN.
3. Activity tracking
Some free VPNs have also been found to contain third-party trackers that track your location and your phone’s status. They do this by asking for some outrageous permissions like permission to your messages, camera, and microphone.
These are but a few of the many risks that many users expose themselves to every day while using a free VPN. While all of them prove to have proper encryption tunneling, there’s still no point in having a VPN that stealing your data.
Which VPNs were found risky?
There have been many studies done on various VPNs to find out their privacy and security strength With Free VPNs, some of them were found to be using malware to leverage on the large pool of users. So even though you’re not paying upfront, the free VPNs ensure they get something from you.
Some of the most risky free VPNs found by the CISRO study include: OkVpn, Easy VPN, SuperVPN, Betternet, CrossVPN, Archie VPN, HatVPN, sFly Network Booster, One Click VPN and fast Secure Payment.
Collectively, these VPNs grossed over 250 million downloads on the play stores – meaning that nearly a quarter-billion people have malware in their devices owing to free VPNs. These apps alter your data usage, slow down your internet speeds, and bombard your devices with ads.
Some free VPNs even sell your bandwidth to make a quick buck.
So, does this mean all premium VPNs are good?
No! While most free VPNs offer bogus services and only risk your privacy and data, not every premium VPN will offer quality privacy and security. Some Premium VPNs still bear with them the same risk levels as free VPN – but this is a small number.
Good VPNs ensure zero leakages, optimum privacy, and offer excellent security features. They also have ad-blocking features while providing great speeds for your browsing.
The best way to choose a VPN would be to read online reviews and ask for recommendations from friends. Also, find out which VPN Reddit users recommend – they’re always very accurate. You can also learn how to test your networks and so VPN tests before committing your finances to them.
While paying for VPN services can be a burden, it’s much better than having to lose most of your personal data using a free VPN.
What can you do?
With the statistics of free VPNs having malware being high, there’s so much you should protect personal data and devices. However, the best thing to do is to ensure that you check all the permissions requested by any free VPN you download.
As a rule, don’t grant a free VPN permission to manage or write external storage, access location, read external storage, Bluetooth, camera, SMS and Phone, Record audio, read calendar, or even Activity recognition.
Your VPN doesn’t need a lot of permissions, and so, a VPN asking for that many permissions should be a huge red flag.
Using Free VPNs is always an easy and fast way to get through geo-restricted sites and encrypt your data traffic. But it can also be the decision that costs you your data and leaks your private information.
Therefore, before rushing into installing a free VPN from your play store, take a moment, and think about the risks you expose your data to.