Best Free VPN for 2024: Affordable Risk-Free Privacy

1. Free VPNs just aren’t that secure

Free VPNs can be very dangerous. Why? Because to maintain the hardware and expertise needed for large networks and secure users, VPN services have to pay expensive bills. As a VPN customer, you either pay for a premium VPN service with your dollars or pay for free services with your data. If you’re not ordering at the table, you’re on the menu.

About 86 percent of free VPN apps for iOS and Android — representing millions of installations — have unacceptable privacy policies, ranging from a simple lack of transparency to explicitly sharing user data with Chinese authorities, according to two independent investigations in 2018. free vpn apps by Top10VPN. Another 64% of free VPN app offerings had no web presence outside of app store pages, and only 17% responded to customer support emails.

In June 2019, Apple reportedly cracked down on apps that share user data with third parties. Eighty percent of the top 20 free VPN apps in Apple’s App Store appear to violate these rules, according to June update regarding the Top10VPN investigation.

in 202177% of apps flagged as potentially dangerous in the Top10VPN VPN Ownership Investigation – and 90% of those flagged as potentially dangerous in the Free VPN Risk Index – still pose a risk.

“Google Play downloads of apps we flagged as potentially dangerous jumped to a total of 214 million, a sharp jump of 85% in six months,” the report said. “Monthly installs from the App Store remained at around 3.8 million, which is a relative increase as this total was generated by 20% fewer apps than at the beginning of the year, as a number of apps are no longer available. ”

On Android, 214 million downloads represent a lot of user login data collected by unwitting volunteers. What is one of the most profitable things one can do with large amounts of user login data?

2. You can catch malware

Let’s get this out of the way right now: 38% of free VPNs for Android contain malware – despite the security features they offer, CSIRO study found. And yes, many of these free VPNs were highly rated apps with millions of downloads. If you’re a free user, your chances of catching a nasty bug are greater than 1 in 3.

Ask yourself what costs less: a secure VPN service for about $100 a year or hiring an identity theft recovery company after some fool steals your bank account credentials and social security number?

It couldn’t happen to you, could it? wrong Mobile ransomware attacks are on the rise. Symantec detected more than 18 million instances of mobile malware in 2018 alone, representing a 54% year-over-year increase in variants. In 2019, Kaspersky scored a 60% jump in password-stealing trojans.

Malware isn’t the only way to make money if you use a free VPN service; there is an even easier way.

3. The advertising avalanche

Aggressive advertising practices from a free plan can go beyond hitting a few annoying pop-ups and quickly head into dangerous territory. Some VPNs sneak ad serving tracking through loopholes in your browser’s media reading features, which then trail you like a prison warden in a B-grade remake Escape from Alcatraz.

HotSpot Shield VPN gained painful notoriety with similar claims in 2017 when it was hit with Federal Trade Commission complaint (PDF) for excessive ad serving privacy violations. Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that the company not only had a hidden backdoor used to secretly sell data to third-party ad networks, but also used five different tracking libraries and actually redirected user traffic to secret servers.

When the story broke, HotSpot’s parent company AnchorFree denied the researchers’ findings in an email to Ars Technica: “We never redirect our users’ traffic to third-party resources instead of the websites they intended to visit. The free version of our Hotspot Shield solution openly and clearly states that it is funded by advertisements, but we do not intercept traffic with either the free or premium version of our solutions.”

Since then, AnchorFree has been offering annuals transparency reports, although their value is still up to the reader. Most recently, HotSpot Shield was among a handful of VPN apps found to respect users’ opt-outs of ad tracking. IN November 2021 survey by Top10VPN, only 15% of free VPN apps honored iOS users’ choices when opting out of voluntary ad tracking. The rest of the free VPN apps tested by Top10VPN simply ignore users’ Do Not Track requests.

Even if credit card fraud isn’t a problem, you don’t need pop-ups and ad lag weighing you down when you already have another major problem to deal with with free VPNs.

4. Buffering… buffering… buffering

One of the main reasons people get a VPN is to access their favorite subscription services or streaming site — Hulu, HBO, Netflix — when traveling to countries where these companies block access based on your location. What’s the point of accessing the geo-blocked video content you paid for if the free VPN service you’re using is so slow that you can’t watch it despite a good internet connection?

Some free VPNs have been known to sell your bandwidth, potentially putting you on the legal hook for whatever they do with it. The most famous case of this was Hello A VPN that was caught in 2015 quietly stealing user traffic and selling it mercenary style to any group that wanted to deploy the user base as a botnet.

At the time, Hola CEO Ofer Wilenski admitted they had been hit by a “spammer,” but argued in a long defense that this bandwidth harvesting is typical of this type of technology.

“We assumed that by stating that Hola was a [peer-to-peer] network, it was clear that people were sharing their bandwidth with the community network in exchange for their free service,” he wrote.

If being pressured into serving as part of a botnet isn’t enough to slow you down, free VPN services also typically pay for fewer VPN server options. This means that your traffic usually hops longer between remote, crowded servers or even waits behind the traffic of paid users.

On top of that, subscription streaming sites are good for those trying to sneak in their video services for free. These services routinely block large numbers of IP addresses they have identified as belonging to turnstile-jumping half-fighters. Free VPNs cannot afford to invest in a long list of new IP addresses for users like a paid VPN service can.

This means you might not even be able to access a streaming service you paid for if your free VPN uses an outdated batch of IP addresses. Good luck loading HBO Max through this VPN connection.

5. Paid options are getting better all the time

The good news is that many solid VPNs on the market offer a range of features depending on your needs and budget. You can browse our ratings and reviews to find the right VPN software for you. If you’re looking for something mobile-specific, we’ve got it we’ve rounded up our favorite mobile VPNs of 2024.

If you want some preparation before you decide which service to drop the cash on, we’ve got it VPN buyer’s guide to help you get to grips with VPN basics and what to look for when choosing a VPN service.

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