There are numerous virtual private networks (VPNs) that offer paid as well as free services to the Internet users.

by Jolie Lenkewicz

While paid VPNs do offer strong security and numerous additional features, the free ones usually have some sort of limits their users might experience: bandwidth limits, server limits, too few simultaneous connections or other kind of restrictions. While a free VPN sounds appealing because you don’t have to pay for it, in reality, it is less than secure, as some of the free VPNs even blatantly state in their Privacy Policies that they can sell user data to advertisers and third-parties. Also, there are more risks than a VPN service provider selling user data.

Free VPNs can hijack your browser and redirect you to certain websites that start installing various unknown software and extensions on your devices. While the extensions, software or other installed programs may not be malicious, it is an extremely annoying problem that is quite difficult to solve and get rid of. Moreover, it does not go away when you turn off your computer, as you might see all kinds of programs installed on your device once you turn it on again.

In addition, your bandwidth can be stolen and resold to pretty much anyone and they can use it in any way possible, for example, to engage in illegal activities. Using your bandwidth to cover up the acquisition of guns or illegal materials is a problem that is difficult to prove and might get you in serious trouble.

Another issue might be malware, which can hide inside of a free VPN and access all kind of user information without the user’s knowledge, lock your device and demand a ransom, send personalized spam emails to you as well as your contacts and more. Another problem with free VPNs is that quite many of them have trackers that collect browsing and website visit data, moreover, shopping trends, website trends and favorite websites and can sell the said data to third-parties or advertisers.

However, the biggest risk is having your identity hijacked or your personal data like credit card credentials getting stolen. Financial fraud is a serious issue, as users can notice that someone has tried to login into their various accounts or buy something online. While banking services do warn most of their customers about the might-be purchases, the situation is still highly displeasing.

While surely there are good free VPNs, it is better to pay a few dollars and get a good, premium VPN service that will keep you safe and secure. Of course, even paid VPNs need to be researched, as there are numerous paid VPNs that might be no better than a free one. Always read the Terms of Services as well as the Privacy Policy to get a better feel of the VPN and its stance on privacy and anonymity. Whether you decide to go with a free or a paid VPN, be careful as to not fall victim to the opposite of what you want to achieve with it.

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Also published on Medium.

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