Free VPNs are too good to be true. You can download a variety of free VPN apps from Google Play or Apple's App Store. You should not do this though. These apps do not deserve trust.
How a VPN Works
A Virtual Private Network or VPN encrypts all traffic sent over your Internet connection and sends it to a remote VPN server. Everything is running on the VPN server.
Suppose you are in the US and connect to a VPN server in the UK. Then you access websites like Google and Facebook. Your web browsing traffic is sent over the Internet over an encrypted connection to the VPN server. Your local network operator or ISP can not see that you are connecting to Google or Facebook. You only see an encrypted connection to an IP address in the UK. You only see Google and Facebook as somebody in the UK.
People use VPN servers for various reasons. For example, keep your browsing activities private from your ISP. If your local government censors the Internet, you can use a VPN to bypass censorship and search as if you were in the country where the VPN server is located. VPNs would also allow you to use public Wi-Fi hotspots without the risk of eavesdropping. 1
LINK: What is a VPN and why do I need one?
You put a lot of trust in your VPN operator.
If you use a VPN, you put tremendous trust in the VPN operator. Of course, a VPN will prevent your Internet service provider or Wi-Fi hotspot operator from connecting to the Internet. However, this does not prevent the operator of the VPN server from snooping.
If your traffic leaves the VPN, the operator of the VPN server can see the websites you are accessing. If you access unencrypted HTTP websites, the VPN operator can see the entire contents of the pages. The operator could log this data or sell it for advertising purposes.
Let's put it this way: If you use a VPN, spying on the hotspot in the hotel or airport and your Internet service provider will block your traffic instead, let the VPN provider spy on your traffic. Why should you trust a free VPN provider you've never heard of?
A recent discovery by The Register of Metric Labs drew attention to this issue and discovered that the majority of free VPN apps have links to China and 86% of them had unsatisfactory privacy policies. Some have explicitly stated that they submit user data to China. Most of them had customer support e-mails that refer to general personal e-mail accounts for services like Gmail or Hotmail. This does not sound like services that deserve your trust.
If you're using a VPN for privacy or missing Internet censorship, you probably do not want to use a China-based VPN.
China aside I also do not want to use a dodgy VPN that is hosted in a country with a less repressive government. The VPN company may only collect and sell your information. Or they carry many protocols – and if you use a VPN for something like BitTorrent, you probably do not want to pick a VPN that logs all your traffic.
Instead, you should stay away from free VPNs. It costs a company money to host a VPN server and pay for traffic. Why should the company offer you a free service without getting anything from it?
As a free VPN for occasional use, we recommend Tunnelbear. This service only gives you 500 MB of data per month, which is not much. However, it is highly regarded, and the company's business model sells unlimited VPN data. It's like a free sample every month, but it can work if you only occasionally need a VPN service.
To ensure serious privacy and anonymity, you should check Tor. Tor is free, but it's not nearly as fast as a VPN. It's not something you want to use for all your Internet traffic.
If you're an advanced user, you should seriously consider setting up your own VPN. Pay for hosting somewhere on a server or cloud service, install a VPN server, and connect to it. You are now your own VPN operator – although the hosting service may be able to spy on you. There is no escape.
You always trust someone. Choose your VPN service (or hosting company) carefully.
RELATED: How To Pick The Best VPN Service For Your Requirements
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