Virtual Private Networks have become essential tools in today’s world. Netizens use them for privacy, security, anonymity, and various other reasons such as unblocking restricted content and circumventing ISP throttling. And as the number of IoT devices connected to the Internet increase, it makes sense to consider using a VPN whenever possible to secure their connections. To get the full benefits of a VPN, you need to use a premium VPN. However, there are still free VPN services that offer users a chance to use a VPN without spending a penny. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about free VPNs.
What’s a VPN?
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that protects your online activities by encrypting your traffic and masking your real IP address, which is your online identifier. VPNs basically route and encapsulate your Internet traffic through a server (and its specific IP address). The server can be located anywhere and your connections will appear as originating from the location of the server (which can be different from your real location). Most VPN providers offer a free version and a premium version of their service.
Not everyone can readily shell out the monthly or yearly subscription fee for the paid VPNs, especially since you can get some core VPN functionalities using one of the best free VPNs.
Free VPNs present a viable online privacy solution by providing anonymity and security without charging any fee. That, however, doesn’t mean all free VPNs are entirely “free”, as the name suggests. Some cut back on some functionalities and come with some complications. VPN providers are businesses, which means making profits is a priority at the end of the day. To compensate for the services they offer you for free, some may have hidden costs.
Things you need to know about Free VPNs
Some free VPNs may not have the zero-logs policy, which means that the users’ log is stored. This can compromise the users’ internet privacy as their web activity is not safeguarded through and through. When looking for a VPN, avoid such VPNs that lack a no-logs policy.
Are free VPNs secure?
Well, that’s debatable. While some of the free VPNs available are secure, a few others aren’t. Some free VPNs have been reported to sell out the user’s data to third-parties, thereby undermining your privacy.
There are also a few cases where VPNs have been used to facilitate malware attacks by housing the malware elements. Some may also try to access apps that they should not, such as Maps. For these reasons, it is recommended to use free VPNs from tried and tested reliable providers.
Free VPNs are not created equal
Various VPN providers throw in different features to their free version products. Generally, most include basic functionalities, i.e. privacy and encryption. The rest of the advanced features are reserved for the premium plans.
Truth to tell, you can hardly find a free VPN that has all the features you need. You might be forced to forego some features. It goes without saying then that the best free VPN is one that brings you the most of the features you need.
Benefits of using a Free VPN
- Reliable free VPNs hide your online activity including your IP address from your ISP and any prying eyes
- They encrypt and scramble your data such as downloaded files and video streams making them secure
- You can surf using public Wi-Fi without worrying stiff of your system’s safety
- They give you the ability to access geo-restricted and blocked content
Complications of using Free VPNs
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization conducted a study on over 280 Android VPN apps. The study revealed that 67% of the apps had trackers embedded in their codes.
84% of the apps didn’t have solid encryption, which is perturbing news. These findings only highlight some of the drawbacks of using free VPNs. Others include:
- They lack P2P torrenting support and fail at unblocking content from media services such as Netflix
- Limit your bandwidth and occasionally slows down your internet connection
- They are likely to bombard you with incessant ads or redirect you to other sites you don’t intend to visit
Generally, free VPNs let you enjoy some functionalities, but they are not totally free. They usually have hidden costs, and they all have various limitations.