If you have been researching methods of protecting yourself online and ended up at the topic of Pros and Cons of Free VPN — well done, you have found the right solution. However, you may have also found that there are free VPNs out there that you might use, as opposed to premium services, and you might be wondering whether or not using the free ones is a good idea.
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The short answer: It is not.
As for the longer answer, let’s break it down a bit.
What are free VPNs?
As the name suggests, free VPNs are VPN services that you can use for free. You don’t have to pay for anything, or at least, you don’t have to pay any money in order to use them.
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There are many of them on the internet, and they often come in the form of browser extensions which you can add within moments. Many require you to create a free account, but there are also some that do not. They offer protection, just like the premium VPNs, although that protection is nowhere near the same level as the one offered by premiums.
They also have a server network, but they almost never use their own servers. The size of the network might wary, but they are never particularly large. Still, there are many cases where the free VPN will do the job you need it to do. However, the cost of it is the debatable part.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s move on to why you are here: The pros and cons of free VPNs.
Pros and Cons of Free VPN
When it comes to the pros of free VPNs, there are a few of them, even though we still stand behind what we said at the beginning — the free VPNs are something that you should avoid. Here is what you can expect to get:
As we mentioned before, free VPNs do have server networks. Just like with premium VPNs, these are private networks of servers that are located in different countries around the world. You can connect to them and have your real IP address replaced with one owned by the VPN service.
This allows you to hide your online location, and appear to be located somewhere else — at least as far as online services and websites are concerned.
All VPNs use security features such as security protocols and encryption, and free VPNs are no different. True, they might not always be able to afford the best ones, although there are some that offer the strongest ones too.
But, whether they use the strongest encryption and protocols or something average, they should mostly be able to prevent anyone from spying on you.
Online censorship has grown to be quite a problem in some parts of the world. Granted, the worst place to be an internet user in are China and North Korea, where the governments block the majority of the outside world and run their own versions of various services, social networks and alike.
However, the rest of the world also employs censorship to stop you from preventing content like adult content, foreign news, different services, and anything else that the government believes to be inappropriate. Then, there are colleges, schools, and workplaces, which also operate their own networks and block things like social media to make you more efficient. But, many feel that such treatment is not exactly fair, so they employ a VPN to bypass the censorship.
Similarly to censorship, geo-restrictions also prevent you from bypassing different kinds of content. However, these are mostly used by foreign services that want to restrict access to their materials, and only make it available for certain regions. If you wish to access any such content, you need a VPN that has servers in the region where the materials are available.
Simply connecting to that server will trick online services into thinking that you are located in the area where the content is allowed, and voila — you will be granted access. This comes with limitations, as small networks usually don’t have servers in a lot of areas, but those that are covered will be unlocked to you, even with a free VPN.
That is about it that you can get with free VPNs. Now, let’s see some of the negatives of these services.
Free VPNs are as far from perfect as VPNs can get, and while they do allow you some benefits, they will more than likely endanger you in other ways. Here is why you must stay clear of them.
They log and sell your data
They will ruin the experience with ads
Alternatively, they might bombard you with ads, as they can also profit from showing them directly to their users. Advertising is a big part of the online world of today, and advertisers are always looking for new methods to expose products and services to large numbers of customers. Showing them to users of VPNs won’t have the same impact as showing them on Facebook, but it will also cost them a lot less.
Meanwhile, the VPN itself is looking to earn money, and if that means showing a bunch of ads to their users, who are using the service for free — so be it.
They don’t have their own servers
Then, there is the fact that their servers are not their own. Everything costs money, and buying and maintaining servers is not especially cheap. Instead, free VPNs often use third-party-owned servers. Basically, this means that another company owns the servers, and it rents them out to other companies, such as free VPNs.
However, there is no guarantee that they will respect the privacy of the VPN users, and you can never know who else is recording the data that is being stored on the server. It is bad enough that the VPN is storing it, and doing whatever it wants with it. You don’t need to risk your data falling into the hands of a third-party company that you know nothing about, or even the government itself.
They could give your data to the government
Online surveillance is something that many governments around the world are very fond of. That way, they keep track of their citizens, monitor potential threats, and seek out gangs, criminals, terrorists, and alike.
However, there are many who just want as much data as they can get their hands on, such as the 5/9/14 Eyes surveillance alliance. There are 14 countries that are a part of the 14 Eyes alliance, and they all collect and share data of internet users. VPNs in their jurisdictions often receive requests for data, be they premium or free ones. The difference is that most premium VPNs do not record any data, so they have nothing to give. This is not the case with free VPNs.
VPNs reduce your internet speed. That is true for premium and free services alike. However, premium VPNs often have a much smaller impact, and if you have greater speeds, you might not even notice the difference. With free services, your speeds will be impacted heavily. In a lot of cases, streaming or downloading content will end up being a painful and frustrating process.
Not to mention the fact that their networks are not exactly stable, so slower speeds could be the least of your issues. Downtimes are more than a possibility, especially due to overcrowded servers.
We mentioned that some services offer decent security, but that is by no means true for all of them. Some use weak protocols and bad encryption, which was cracked multiple times in the past. This means that, if your data ends up being stolen — even if it is encrypted, you might still end up being exposed. Hackers are known for trying to steal and sell such data, or misuse it themselves, whether for doing bigger hacks or for stealing your money and personal data.
What to do?
With all of these negatives and more, using a free VPN is clearly not worth avoiding small payments that premium VPNs require. Instead of being constantly at risk, consider employing a premium VPN.
There are many excellent premium VPN services, such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN. They use the strongest security protocol — OpenVPN, as well as the strongest encryption (256-bit AES). Not to mention that they offer thousands of servers, while free VPNs offer a few dozen, at best.
They also cover dozens of countries, with ExpressVPN pushing that number all the way up to 94. And, most importantly — they keep zero logs. They are also outside of 14 Eyes alliance’s jurisdiction, and they provide numerous other security features apart from server networks, encryption, and protocols. This is not something that you can expect from free services.
Finally, they don’t even cost that much. You can find many decent services that will only charge you $10-13 per month if you pay for a monthly subscription, and even less if you apply for a long-term plan. Not too great a price for great speeds and total security. So choose wisely, and don’t risk your privacy, anonymity, security, money, and more, so that you can avoid paying $10 per month. In our eyes, it is definitely not a fair trade and not worth it.