Free VPNs Leak Your Personal Data: Myth or Truth?
Last Updated: February 3, 2021
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are essential tools for securing your data and maintaining your privacy while surfing the net. It works by providing you with a private virtual network such that they can connect to the internet securely and safely. In essence, VPNs are designed to keep your internet activities and confidential information away from other internet users.
VPNs function by filtering your devices’ internet connection through the private server of the VPN of your choice rather than your internet service provider (ISP). This makes it seem to come from the VPN rather than your network, as your data is sent to the internet.
In other words, VPNs can hide your internet activities and fool internet service providers into believing you are in another country when you are not. Internet users in some countries use VPNs for applications and websites that have been prohibited or banned by their own country, some of which include TikTok and WeChat.
Do Free VPNs Really Leak Your Personal Data?
For privacy-conscious people, the internet is a hostile place, and so they try as much as possible to protect themselves and their data at all costs.
While surfing the internet, hackers and tech titans collect huge chunks of data. The government also can spy on you, and your browsing history can also be collected and monetized. This has led many to turn to VPNs to protect their data. Unfortunately, VPNs can expose you to more privacy risks than you would even imagine, despite the benefits associated with it.
Should you use a free VPN?
In most cases, it is not advisable to use a free VPN. This is because there are lots of free VPNs that promise anonymity and privacy online, but they do the exact opposite. They appear flashy and suggest the right keywords that deceive you into believing they are giving you the best possible services.
Free services will look to recover the cost of their services by any means possible. Some do so by keeping track of your browsing activities and data and selling it to the highest bidder. Therefore, you must avoid using a free VPN if you want to ensure that your data is secured and kept private.
Recently, seven Hong-Kong based VPN providers (names withheld) exposed tons of user logs totaling about 1.2Tb. The same data that the company already promised would not be collected or stored on their servers (they promised a no-log policy), making users trust them with their data. The user data were made available to the public domain with no protection whatsoever.
The leaked data included plain text passwords, IP addresses, emails, payment information, home addresses, etc. According to the companies’ claims, the leaks were attributed to personnel changes, which led to the failure to detect some security errors.
What to Consider Before Opting for a Free VPN
Using a free VPN is not necessarily bad. However, when opting for a free VPN, you should put the following in mind:
1. Nothing is really free
As is the case with free VPNs. The price you pay while making use of a free VPN is your privacy and data. Some of these free VPN service providers store your data and sell it to make money.
2. Secure systems require some level of sophistication
Free VPNs may not be able to cater to the level of sophistication required to provide the level of security desired by the users, which may also have been responsible for the leaks
As in the case of the Hong-Kong VPN providers, some may claim that they do not store logs of your internet activities. Such claims should not be taken seriously.
Other Threats Posed by Free VPNs
Free VPNs present more security threats that users should be wary of apart from leaked data; these include:
1. Malware Distribution
Some free VPNs may claim to offer excellent services, whereas they are a means for hackers to install malware and viruses on your device. It is, therefore, important that users are careful when installing software from unknown sources.
Some free VPN providers make money through advertisements on their applications. These advertisements come in the form of banner ads, which have been alleged to track user data and hijack web requests. The advertisements placed on the websites by the VPN providers can place tracking cookies on your devices to monitor your internet activities.
3. Reduced Internet Connection Speed
Free VPNs reduce internet connection speed. They also make use of fewer servers, which will force users to connect to less ideal locations. Such locations tend to cause slower internet connections. The use of free VPNs involves loss of connection speed due to the encryption process.
Paid VPNs to the Rescue
It is a fact that free VPNs cannot offer completely safe and high-quality internet privacy services. Paid VPNs can, therefore, provide better services that are definitely worth your money. The following are some of the advantages of paid VPNs over free ones:
Paid VPNs mask your IP address, location, browsing history and keeps them from being tracked by internet service providers, websites, and cable companies.
Paid VPNs help protect personal data as you transfer information from your device or receive data on it.
Using a Paid VPN ensures that you can navigate the internet without being detected. Your browsing activities cannot be traced back to you if you use a VPN while browsing. There are certain online activities we would rather not have traced back to us for personal reasons. Using a VPN means you can access websites and web applications while maintaining complete anonymity, unlike when you use incognito modes, IP blockers, and web proxies.
4. Improved Security
Paid VPN helps encrypt your data and mask your IP address when using the internet. Paid VPNs also help hide passwords, location, and data safe from companies who exploit users’ data and monetize them.
5. Secure Data Transfer
A Paid VPN allows you to send and receive data securely over the internet. For a group of users who send data over an extended period, there is no need to worry about stolen or exposed data to hackers and companies who make money by selling your data.
6. Access Websites and Applications not Available in Your Country
Internet censorship prevents users from visiting certain websites and web applications in their countries. Some VPNs provide access to geographically blocked web contents and applications like Netflix, TikTok, and WeChat. The VPN tricks the content provider into thinking you are browsing from another country or region when you are not. This way, you can access all internet services and applications available in the region you appear to be browsing in.
With all the dangers associated with free VPN use, it is best to dissociate from them completely. Just pay the price of subscribing to paid VPNs, and you will enjoy using them. They offer high-quality network security and impose little or no bandwidth or speed limits. Also, paid VPNs give unrestricted access to blocked websites and applications like TikTok and Netflix in countries where it is prohibited. They also provide access to more server locations, and genuine protection for your private data is guaranteed.