The saying “you get what you pay for”, often applies to online services. How does something like Free VPN fare in this respect?
Not everyone looking into VPN services is ready to cough up the monthly fees. Free VPN providers promise anonymous surfing at a bargain and could look the part to unsuspecting people. But look a little bit beyond the price, and the story gets a little more complicated. Online, free VPN services are hard to find, and that’s for a reason. Paid VPNs don’t just use your subscription fees to pay for groceries. Their server network needs continuous maintenance. This means encryption needs to be up-to-date and strong. But also relies on a multitude of servers in various (physical) locations, fast connections, and the development of easy-to-use applications.
A “free VPN” means the provider has to somehow make up for these costs, or compromise on quality and safety standards. No provider is the same. But a “free VPN” very probably means the company is in the business for different reasons than securing your safe and anonymous browsing. It may even use the bait of a free VPN to catch your online details. Eventually selling them off to third parties who use them in their advertisement efforts, which amounts to the exact opposite of what you bargained for: a lack of anonymity.
PrivadoVPN: Our most trusted free VPN!
Are free VPN apps insecure?
Sharing your details with a company in order to use their free VPN service may seem a pretty harmless activity. But there could be serious repercussions. When your details are sold off to third parties or are leaked because the company’s security isn’t up to par. Recent research into VPN providers shows how several providers are not handling in good faith. Mobile apps for free VPN services can seriously compromise your security. They access maps and functionalities in your smartphone they have no business browsing or are used to install malware, causing serious hazards to the people who own the phones.
The numbers the researchers came up with are telling: 35 percent out of 283 free apps available in the Android store, hid malware. Digging further, the researchers found some of these apps didn’t use any form of encryption at all, opening up smart devices to further attacks.
Which free VPN services are trustworthy?
Luckily there are several VPN services that are free of charge and work without malicious intent. First off: most VPN providers offer a free trial run! Others offer a free service next to their paid subscriptions. Limiting features like internet speeds, your data amount, or the number of servers you can access.
Here are some of the free VPN providers we have tested extensively and know are worth your trust:
PrivadoVPN might be a fairly new addition to the VPN roster, but it’s definitely a great one! And it too comes with a free app!
PrivadoVPN comes with a 10 GB limit on your monthly data and is restricted to just one device. But if all you need is a security and privacy bump on your online activities, PriovadoVPN definitely has you covered! Moreover, this is pretty much the ONLY trustworthy freemium VPN that comes with both downloading and streaming support. So you basically get the full VPN package for 10 GB a month!
Hide.me is one of the most unique VPN providers we have ever seen and tested. And it also comes with a free version!
The free version of Hide.me comes with a 10 GB monthly limit on data, but that’s more than enough to keep you safe and protected online all year round.
And if that’s not enough, there’s always Hide.me Premium, which is worth every penny!
Unlike the two first VPN providers, Hotspot Shield comes with a daily data limit as opposed to a monthly one. And that’s 500 MB, which might be a bit more frustrating on the daily, but is a bit more data every month in the long run.
The free Hotspot Shield app is extremely slow and does show you ads, which, by itself, can be seen as a security risk. But it’s still a pretty good free VPN option.
Tunnelbear is fairly popular, despite its data cap of 500MB per month. You can raise this data cap, though, by sending out tweets and promoting the service.
But if you want to get the full TunnelBear experience, you are going to have to go for the premium plans.
Surfeasy offers an unlimited amount of servers to use, yet also caps your data use off at 500MB a month.
Building your own, free VPN
Technically savvy internet users are advised to look into open-source development. OpenVPN and Softether both offer exciting ways to use VPN without spending money on subscriptions. The biggest drawback is you need to have proper skills and experience in internet technology to pull off this trick.
Also, you have to use an existing VPN service to log in. Or your own server in a different country than your computer is in. And you need to make sure it is safe. You can find more info on testing your VPN connection in our dedicated article on this matter.
Last but not least: the Opera internet browser deserves a mention. This alternative to Edge, Firefox, and Chrome has a pretty good, free VPN built into its browser service. However, like any VPN browser extension, the Opera VPN will only encrypt and protect the traffic that goes through your browser. So it won’t let you download files, or hide your presence online completely, but it will help you to surf anonymously and access the browser version of various streaming services.
Although “free“, “secure” and “anonymous” can go hand in hand, we still advise you to look out for the paid VPN options. Monthly payments are relatively low, and give good value-for-money, considering what is at stake. For more info, we made a list of the best VPN providers that will charge you some money.