A virtual private network, commonly known as a VPN, is a security tool that helps you protect your online security, privacy, anonymity, and internet traffic, especially when connected to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network.
After connecting to a VPN server, your actual location and IP address is completely hidden, and your internet traffic is completely secure from the prying eyes of hackers, ISPs, and even government agencies.
VPN providers use military-grade encryption to scramble your data so that no one can intercept or read your data packets.
However, using a VPN doesn’t guarantee ultimate online privacy, as your VPN provider will know your VPN IP address and what websites you visit. That is why it is essential to use a VPN that you can completely trust.
A VPN that doesn’t track your data, log your VPN activity, or provide your sensitive information to other agencies should be your preferred choice.
While many VPN providers offer paid services, others don’t charge a single penny. Free VPN providers may cost you nothing, but they can easily cost you your privacy.
However, not every free VPN provider poses a risk to your online privacy. There are plenty of top free VPN providers that don’t harvest any ill intentions towards you.
If you are considering using a free VPN for any reason, you should be aware of the following 7 things before using free VPNs.
According to a study done by CSIRO, six out of 10 VPNs most likely to be infected with malware were free VPNs.
As free VPNs usually rely on advertisements to generate revenue. Most of the malware was related to advertisements.
2. Embedded tracking
CSIRO study also revealed that only 28% of free VPN providers didn’t utilize embedded trackers for tracking and advertising purposes.
Only 10% of free VPN services had one tracker, and another 10% had two.
The study also revealed that 8% had four trackers, while 18% of free VPNs had third-party trackers.
3. Unblocking capacity
Many internet users rely on VPNs to bypass regional and other types of geo-restrictions associated with streaming services.
Suppose you reside in the UK and wish to watch a TV show exclusively available to the US audience, then connect to a US server. In that case, you can bypass the region’s regional geo-restriction.
The problem here is that free VPN providers don’t offer enough server locations that can allow you to bypass these restrictions.
Also, if you do get enough server location by any chance, the free VPN provider itself wouldn’t be able to circumvent the streaming service geo-restriction mechanism.
4. Bandwidth restriction
Almost 90% of free VPN providers offer a limited bandwidth on their accounts. These bandwidth restrictions make it completely impossible to stream a sufficient amount of streaming content.
The bandwidth is allotted on a monthly basis, meaning once the allowed bandwidth is consumed, you’d have to wait till the next month to get a bandwidth renewal.
With premium VPN providers, you get unlimited bandwidth 24/7 on your account.
5. Slow connection
Due to a very limited server network, normally, free VPN servers are overcrowded. This causes VPN users to receive very slow VPN connection speeds.
Unlike premium VPN providers, free VPNs don’t have enough resources or funds to manage a huge server network with thousands of server locations in it.
These VPN providers always face network congestion, slow speed, and bandwidth restrictions with limited funds and infrastructure.
6. Online advertisements
Free VPN providers need to generate revenue for themselves. They do this by targeting their users with various pop-up advertisements. Not only is it annoying, but it can seriously slow down your internet and device as well.
A good example of pop-up advertisements can be the ad-serving trackers. They track your online activity and then display appropriate advertisements.
Hotspot Shield – a popular free VPN provider, was accused of using five different tracking libraries and selling the user data to third-party advertisers.
Hotspot Shield parent company denied these accusations and has been offering annual transparency reports since then.
7. Browser Hijacking
Free VPNs are often found hijacking the browser and redirecting the users to various websites without consent. Hotspot Shield was found to do this to its users, for example, redirecting them to alibaba.com.
8. Data Collection for Government
A study from VPNPro revealed that a total of 23 parent companies operate the top 97 VPNs. Surprisingly, many of these companies are operating in countries that have weak privacy laws.
China has strict VPN bans. These companies might be forced into collecting and sharing their users’ data with such a government to receive approval from them.
It is a wise decision to invest only in a reliable premium VPN service. Premium VPN services do more to help you protect your online security, privacy, and data while offering you the best-in-class speed and unblocking experience.