Is a free VPN (Virtual Private Network) too good to be true? The short answer to this question is yes, and the explanation’s not as complicated as it might seem. That any would consider a best out of the freely available VPN downloads is confusing when you consider the following.
With a variety of VPN apps freely available from the Apple App Store, Google Play Store, and Amazon App Store, we understand it’s tempting to download and trust in their protection. These companies are providing a free service because they believe in altruism, freedom of the internet, and love their fellow man, right? Wrong. For the reasons provided below, you should not trust a free VPN download, even if advertised as the best, with your security or anonymity.
How a VPN Works to Hide and Protect You
A VPN encrypts all the traffic sent through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) connection in both directions. Your VPN app encrypted data transmission is sent to a remote VPN server owned or leased by your VPN provider.
Everything sent from you, whether a request to see a web page, your credit card purchase information, or request to watch a video stream, is then decrypted by the VPN server and transmitted to the recipient of your online transaction. If the VPN service you are using has a good encryption algorithm, this is the point at which you must trust the VPN service’s motives. Once the website, cloud app, email, or other outside source provides the result of your request, the same encryption happens at the VPN server in order to send an encrypted signal back to you.
To learn more about how the best VPNs work to protect your anonymity and safety, feel free to read our what is a VPN and how do they work article.
People use VPN servers for a variety of reasons. They keep your browsing activity private from your ISP, for example. If your local officials or ISP censor the internet, a good VPN allows you to bypass the censorship and browse as if you were in the VPN server’s location. VPNs would also let you use public WiFi hotspots without the threat of snooping and falling prey to identity theft by keeping your personal data safe.
Privately Use BitTorrent Protocol to Download and Stream
When using BitTorrent technology to upload and download files, a VPN can be used to mask where torrenting activity occurs from. Many apps that stream or download files such as free movies and TV shows use the BitTorrent protocol. This advertises your IP address to everyone on the network.
Many people masquerade their location with proxies, or proxy servers, but fail to encrypt their data. When using a simple proxy server, your data can still be seen plainly by your ISP, government officials, and any other hackers looking at it.
A VPN also lets you access geographically restricted services, such as accessing the BBC while in the US or watching the USA Netflix library from the UK. Even the best free VPN download can’t be trusted with these actions, though. With the Netflix crusade against VPN access to their services, no free VPN can afford to keep up with the encrypted server updates necessary to successfully allow you to watch from outside Netflix geo-restricted zones.
Can You Trust Your VPN Service Provider?
While there are both free and paid VPN services available, there is a price paid for either option. Choosing a VPN provider may at best set you up to be taken advantage of if you choose a so-called “free” service. You’ll be paying in ways you probably don’t even know about. The old adage that “you get what you pay for” is true in the case of free VPN services at best, and not getting anything you signed up for is also possible.
When researching the best free VPN services, keep in mind these companies have to make money somehow. Servers, their maintenance, and the electricity required to run them cost a great deal. Having a network of servers all over the world, or worse, leasing server space from others as many free VPN download providers do, costs even more.
You’re placing an extreme amount of trust in any VPN provider when encrypting your data with their algorithm and sending it through their servers. It’s true, a good VPN prevents your ISP or WiFi hotspot operator from snooping on your browsing activity. Still, this doesn’t stop a VPN operator from snooping. Research reveals that 84% of free VPN services leak user activities, 75% use tracking libraries, and 38% of the available VPN apps from free services include malware. The money and time invested in building a secure VPN network are not the top priority for service operators providing a free VPN download.
Who’s Eyes are on Your Data Transmissions?
The operator of a free VPN server can see the websites you’re accessing. The VPN operator can even see the full content of the pages if you’re accessing unencrypted HTTP websites. As mentioned above, most free VPN operators record your activities and data to sell for advertising purposes in order to keep their business running.
Simply put, when you use an encrypted VPN app, you’re preventing the hotspot at the hotel, coffee shop, or airport and even your ISP from spying on your internet traffic. Instead, you’re allowing the VPN provider to access your data transmissions. Why would you trust even the best free VPN provider with this information knowing they must pay for the service they provide to you somehow?
Metric Labs Investigation of Free VPN Providers
A recent investigation conducted by Metric Labs drew attention to this problem. They discovered the vast majority of VPN apps available for free have links to China built in while 86% of them had unsatisfactory privacy policies at best. Some free VPN terms and conditions even explicitly stated their transfer of user data to China.
Most of these so-called free VPN services had customer support emails pointing to generic personal email accounts on services such as Hotmail or Gmail. These VPN practices don’t sound like free services worthy of trust.
It doesn’t make sense to use a VPN based in China when using a VPN to escape internet censorship or privacy.
No matter how repressive the government, you wouldn’t want to provide a shady VPN hosted in any country access to your information. No matter where a VPN company is located, they are likely capturing and selling your data if offering their service for free. You don’t want to choose a VPN that logs all your activities and traffic.
What About Tor Network?
Tor is probably the best type of free VPN service, but it’s nowhere near as speedy as a paid VPN. Most professional VPN services offer the Tor network within their apps for times when network speed isn’t an issue. This allows you to turn on the extra security layers afforded by the Tor network when necessary.
While the Tor network offers a great degree of privacy, this comes at the expense of bouncing your data transmission all over the internet for a very long time. Even a simple torrent download can congest the Tor network enough to upset many seeders.
Tor is great for single transactions such as sending email, but just try watching a video stream with it. It’s definitely not something you’d want to use for all your internet traffic or streaming entertainment because it is far too slow. The amount of buffering would make you batty.
What Are Our Best Free VPN Recommendations?
We recommend that you stay away from any free VPN, even if called the “best” by some reviewer. Every company has costs inherent in allowing them to run. A VPN host must pay for their servers, personnel, electricity, marketing, and internet bandwidth as a bare minimum. Think hard on why any company would pay all of that just to provide a free service.
If you aren’t paying for it, then you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.
If serious about using a VPN for privacy, bypassing censorship, or getting around geographical restrictions online, we recommend doing some research and paying for a service you feel is trustworthy. You don’t have to use our top pick for a VPN provider, but we recommend you do some research.
Which VPN Service is Best for Streaming Anonymously Online?
As many of our readers love the free access to online entertainment afforded by Kodi and other free streaming apps, we investigated the best VPN services for streaming free movies and TV shows online. My True Media now highly recommends using IPVanish VPN.
The VPN servers and apps provided by IPVanish VPN proved to give the most privacy. Their transparent security policy also shows they keep zero log records of customers’ online activities. They have the best anti-leak protection in the VPN industry on top of their many other great security features.
IPVanish VPN servers provide unlimited bandwidth (incredibly fast download speeds!). They also feature apps for nearly any internet device with very friendly user interfaces. Everyone here at My True Media entrusts them with our data security. Among every VPN provider we’ve ever tried, the IPVanish VPN commitment to customer service seems the best, too.
IPVanish VPN also allows up to 10 different devices to be protected on your account simultaneously. They even provide a free VPN app download you can place on a capable router to enjoy private, high-speed encrypted connections for over 250 devices on one account!
You have nothing to lose with the IPVanish VPN 7-day money-back guarantee. Simply ask for your money back if not completely satisfied with their service and get a full refund.
Our Best VPN Service Conclusion is Free: Stay Clear
We have repeatedly attempted to find honest and transparent companies providing these free services. It has become obvious to us that there really is no VPN worth using and available for free when speed, security, and privacy are considered. Best free VPN is truly a misnomer bordering on an oxymoron.
Take advantage of money-back guarantees when choosing your own VPN service and choose very carefully. Before entrusting any VPN with your anonymity and security, free or not, test their service thoroughly. Make sure their policies are trustworthy, their securely encrypted tunnel is free of leaks, and…