Is it safe to use free VPNs?
Over the past few years, the number of active VPN users and the frequency of their use has grown exponentially. The huge fan following has been fueled by the belief that this is how people increase their own privacy. Hundreds of materials on the web recommend switching to anonymizers in order to maintain digital security. Another important reason is bypassing geopolitical blockages that are imposed by the web resources themselves or providers at the level of a country, region or corporation.
According to statistics for 2017, 25% of all users opened web pages using a VPN. The countries of the Asia-Pacific region were in the greatest demand as intermediary servers. To this day, the number of VPN users is only growing, and the main reason for installing anonymizers is cybersecurity. Based on market intelligence and internal data from a range of services, Statista has estimated the value of the entire VPN niche at $ 35.73 billion by 2022. Huge capitalization has led to no less demand among individuals and businesses.
The only deterrent barrier that pushes off a significant number of people is the cost of joining a VPN. A lot of services offer competitive rates for services, good connection quality and regularly hold discounts, but this is not a sufficient reason for all users to join. There are still many who completely abandon VPNs. Against this background, free services began to appear.
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Free VPN Market
In attempts to partially take over users who fear for personal data, but do not want to deposit money for services, the market began to fill with hundreds of free services. Free entry providers offer everything the same as their paid entry competitors.
True, they almost never can reach the level of colleagues. Usually, free services offer significantly lower speeds, impose restrictions on the amount of traffic used, and only provide access to a couple of busy servers. All of them severely limit users in the maximum number of connected devices.
A sure-fire security tool or a huge privacy compromise?
Trust between the provider and the user who wants to be safe is an integral part of the relationship. After all, the service allows all human traffic to pass through, thereby gaining great power over digital privacy.
Once the app or extension is enabled, all online activities are routed directly through the VPN service. If the service provider turns out to be unscrupulous, they can save the entire browsing history and even passwords, and then sell them to the side (to hackers, marketing companies). Much more depends on the location of the service headquarters. In most countries, there is a law on the storage of all data and, if necessary, their transfer to the government.
Now the question arises, why do people so frivolously trust their security to such unreliable services without any guarantees? It makes sense that free VPNs don’t offer their services out of kindness. From somewhere, developers take money to pay for the same servers. If not from users, then from those who are interested in their data.
To determine the level of reliability of such services, it is appropriate to delve into the numerous free VPNs for smartphones and tablets on Android.
If that’s not enough, another study from UC Berkeley in collaboration with other firms, showed something even more sinister. In total, 283 free VPNs were examined, of which 38% included serious viruses and malicious code fragments.
The biggest concern comes from the fact that people are not even aware of these risks. These VPNs remain at the top of the popularity ratings, with very few users expressing privacy concerns. About 1% of negative reviews deal with the issue of security to varying degrees.
Free does not mean free
There is always a catch under the word “free”. For example, take one of the giants of social networks – Facebook. People use the service for free, but in return, the platform collects personal data. In the future, they use them, sell or distribute them wherever they can get income.
Another major risk comes from hackers. Cybercriminals are constantly looking for quick and easy ways to steal people’s identity. What’s the easiest way to steal information? That’s right, make a free VPN service and people will volunteer to send their data.
A real VPN that guarantees privacy and security on the Internet does not have to collect and store any information about its customers. Otherwise, it makes no sense to install such applications.
It is difficult to assess the usefulness of using free VPNs to improve security in general, but predominantly such applications only cause more damage to privacy. Now more and more people are beginning to understand the value of their own data and how much hackers can do with it. Those planning to solve security problems with a free service will likely have to pay a heavy price in the future.