VPNs are widely used to overcome geographical obstructions, to securely access a remote network and for other, different purposes. They are widely used by organizations to share resources in various office locations. In recent times, VPNs have gained widespread use by circumventing the country’s restrictions on accessing blocked services.
When people search the Internet for ways to circumvent website restrictions, they have a natural inclination to look for and opt for free VPN services. Most people do not want to pay for a service they can not use frequently. But should we use free VPN services? Let’s see if they really offer the services they promise.
Is it safe to use a free VPN?
In a recent study conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), researchers analyzed 283 Android VPN applications to study their impact on user privacy and security.
They discovered that 75% of the tested applications used third-party tracking libraries and, therefore, can not be trusted. 82% of applications require permissions to access confidential resources, such as user accounts and text messages.
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Worst of all is that the study published that more than 38% had a presence of malware, such as adware, Trojans, malicious, risk and spyware.
It was discovered that popular VPNs, such as VPN Free, Tigervpns, Rocket VPN, Cyberghost and EasyOvpn, which have been downloaded more than a million times, are malicious.
“18% of VPN applications implement tunneling protocols without encryption despite promising online anonymity and security for their users. In fact, approximately 84% and 66% of the analyzed VPN applications do not channel IPv6 and DNS traffic through the tunnel interface, respectively, due to the lack of IPv6 support, incorrect configurations or errors induced by the developer”, the study declared.
Are free VPNs really free?
The short answer is: No. No VPN provider will offer their services completely free of charge for an unlimited time. If you are not paying your money, you can be sure that you are paying them in other ways. The same situation was observed in the case of Onavo VPN owned by Facebook.
Let’s look at some of the common ways in which free VPN providers exploit you:
1. Track your data and sell them for profit
VPN encrypts and channels your data so your ISP can not see what you are doing online. This means that ISPs can not track you, but the VPN provider can do it. Free VPNs collect user data through the tracking libraries, which they can sell for advertising and analysis to some other agency. It was discovered that the free VPN application of Betternet contains 14 different tracking libraries.
Injecting malware into your device is one of the common features in free VPNs. This type of malware can be used to steal confidential information from your device or to encrypt your data, as evidenced by recent ransomware attacks.
3. Theft of bandwidth
Free VPNs can also steal your bandwidth and sell it to other organizations. Would you like the resources of your PC to be used to move traffic on the internet? Apparently, Hi VPN did it. It was discovered that Hi, based in Israel, stole bandwidth from users and then resold it through its sister company, Luminati.
Also Read: How to Detect a Phishing Email
4. Browser hijacking
This refers to redirecting your browser to websites without your permission. The free VPN of HotspotShield promises its users to secure connections, security, improved privacy and ad-free navigation. However, the CSIRO study discovered that HotspotShield redirects user traffic to alibaba.com and ebay.com. This through its associated networks Conversant Media and Viglink, respectively.
The study mentions that “the VPN application of AnchorFree HotspotShield. Realizes the redirection of the electronic commerce traffic to the association domains. When a client connects through the VPN to access specific web domains. The application takes advantage of a proxy that intercepts and redirects HTTP requests to associated websites. “
What free VPNs are safe to use?
There are free VPNs that, in fact, are safe to use. Avoid the services that promise unlimited free VPN. They are monetized through other fraudulent practices and may impose a risk on your data and privacy.
Freemium VPNs give you the option to test your services for a limited time with limited bandwidth. In general, it is safe to use free services from VPN providers that provide paid services after a limited period of time. However, such services will be slow and unreliable.