Almost nothing good in life comes for free, don’t you agree? Whether it’s a good job, or a car, or a VPN for that matter, you can’t expect to get the best results from something without paying for it one way or the other.
That said, there is definitely no shortage of free VPNs out there. Google Play Store and Apple Store are teaming with free VPNs of any shape or size. All you have to do is pick a logo you like best. But is it that simple? Why would there be paid VPNs if there are so many free ones?
Well, we’ve decided to clear this up once and for all!
So let’s take a deep-dive into the world of free VPNs, what they offer, how do they compare to paid providers, and are any of them any good.
VPNs are expensive stuff
In case you’ve stumbled upon this article without being sure what a VPN is, you should check out our in-depth look on What is a VPN.
Once you delve deeper into the world of VPNs, you’ll soon find that most premium VPN subscriptions come at a price. And that is clearly for good reason. Maintaining a vast network of servers, both virtual and physical, isn’t cheap. So most reliable VPN companies charge you accordingly. That price may vary for different reasons, but it is always there. So when purchasing a premium VPN subscription, you can be sure you’ll be getting top-of-the-line encryption, relevant protocols, which are constantly being updated and altered to meet the needs of the evolving world.
These companies also have to develop easy-to-use applications. And those have to be compatible with all the desktop and mobile OS’s. And that isn’t easy or cheap either.
Well, we can clearly conclude that running and maintaining these server parks and building reliable apps is quite expensive. On average a VPN provider employs tens of workers – programmers, cybersecurity experts, designers, support staff, etc., etc., etc. How would they provide a reliable service AND be able to pay all of these people if their service was free?!
So what about free VPNs?
OK, so what about free VPNs then? Where do they come from? And how can they offer their services for free?
Well, don’t be surprised when we say this, but none of the free VPNs are actually free.
Even though you aren’t paying them a monthly fee, that doesn’t mean you’re getting awesome free software. These free VPNs provide you a lousy service with very basic setups and poor security that compromise quality and safety. This means that your data could’ve been leaked/sold to third parties for advertisement and consequently, your identity would be disclosed (which is clearly something you don’t want).
You hear about free VPN breaches and data leaks all the time! And those can range from a poor security setup, or using irrelevant protocols, to keeping the server logins as “admin-admin”.
But that’s not all!
Nobody would want a business model that wouldn’t be making money somehow, right? So free VPNs have to make a profit somehow. And, usually, that comes from selling user data.
That’s right! A service that is sworn to protect you and keep you anonymous online actually collects your data, personal details, browsing history, online habits, and sells all of this private information to the highest bidder. And sometimes they even go as far as to resell your bandwidth and even IPs.
So ask yourself: are you willing to have an illusion of privacy with a free service, while actually having less of it?!
Are all free VPN apps insecure?
Building on what was written earlier in the article, it is quite obvious that free VPNs shouldn’t be your choice no matter how you’re going to be using the VPN service.
We’re not going to lie, it is tempting to opt for a free VPN. Who doesn’t like free stuff? And the security risks might not seem like a big deal if the free VPN gets the job done, right? But everything changes when a free service leaks all of your personal data, account details, logins, and passwords. Or when your personal data gets passed around and sold over and over again, while your inbox gets flooded with spammy emails.
One of the worst examples in the world of free VPNs would definitely be HolaVPN. Not only does this provider NOT use any encryption to protect its users’ online privacy. Not only does it NOT change the user’s IP address rendering the VPN pointless. HolaVPN famously resells user bandwidth with a price tag ranging from $500 to $10,000 per month! And that’s with over 160 million users!
The sold bandwidth was then used to carry out just about anything. With HolaVPN your data can be used to direct fake traffic to websites, drive up affiliate and referral programs, even carry out DDoS attacks and other illegal online activities.
A big price to pay for using a “free VPN”, don’t you think?
And, of course, it’s not just Hola. Lots of free VPN providers make revenue on the side this way. Instead of protecting you, they end up selling you out.
However, not all free VPNs are like that. And the most common issue with them is extremely poor construction, which means they don’t offer any actual protection. They could, however, be hiding malware within their firmware which would easily infiltrate your device and access your personal information such as bank accounts, etc. Which is as bad as it gets.
Which free VPNs are worthy?
We’ve been pretty hard on free VPNs. And not for a lack of reason. However, it must be said that there are some free VPN providers out there you can trust.
Even though some free VPN services are trustworthy, none of them offer a complete package like a premium VPN would. However, trustworthy doesn’t necessarily mean good since most of these free VPNs are nerfed.
Some premium VPN service providers can sometimes offer a free trial. And others may have a free service but with a very limited set of features.
Here’s a list of free VPNs we’ve tried, tested, and trust:
- Hide.me allows you to use their VPN service in three locations (from the list of 30) with a data limit of 2 GB per month.
- TunnelBear is also quite popular even though they have a data limit of only 500 MB per month. However, you can increase your data limit if you give TunnelBear a shout-out on Twitter. But eventually, you will have to subscribe to use the full service in a proper manner.
- Hotspot Shield has to be one of the most popular free VPNs since it sets no limit on data usage. This comes at a price though, because their free VPN service is extremely slow as compared to any other VPN. Hotspot Shield also runs ads while browsing which is not something you would want and should actually avoid. Ads can be used to gather your personal information and install tracking software.
- Even though Surfeasy offers an unlimited number of servers to choose from. But it still limits your data usage to 500 MB a month.
- ProtonVPN offers unlimited bandwidth and data for all their users, even those on a free plan. They also have an excellent focus on privacy and are one of the only free VPNs out there that actually work. However, Proton’s free service is extremely nerfed in speed, gives you access to only three servers, and locks away all of the provider’s special features.
Building your own VPN
Tech-savvy users can actually look into open source development in order to create a VPN of their own.
Services such as OpenVPN and Softether are open-source, so you can use them to create your very own Virtual Private Network. However, you do have to have a certain skill set in order to set up a VPN of your own.
Either you need an existing VPN service to allow you to log into. Or you need a server you have access to. If you’d like to learn more about this, you can check out our other article on testing your VPN.
The Opera VPN
It wouldn’t be fair to end this section without mentioning the Opera Internet browser. Even though it is less famous than Edge, Google Chrome, or Firefox, the fact that it comes with a free VPN built-in is still pretty amazing. However, this VPN only works for browsing on Opera and not for other apps on your device. So if it’s just streaming and browsing you’re looking for, Opera might just be the thing for you.
But don’t kid yourself! Of course, Opera’s VPN logs data and uses it for its personal gain. It says so in their terms of service 😅.
Even though it might seem that a free VPN can keep you anonymous and secure, we’d still recommend opting for a premium VPN service to tie up any loose ends and make sure that you are always safe.
Due to the vast competition, monthly fees have now become quite low and offer good value for money.
If you’re convinced and are looking for a perfect VPN for you, our professional VPN Reviews segments is always at your service!