Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are a great way of having unlimited access to the virtual world. There are paid and free VPN and proxy services available for everyone. But did you know that the ones which don’t charge you money are generally a threat to the security and privacy of your personal data? With the mass surveillance and advanced tracking, people are always looking for solutions to maximize their privacy. But some of these solutions usually end up in more risks to their privacy. Shady VPN companies are growing around the world and people might not be aware of the free VPN risks. In this article, I will try to shed light on the potential risks of using free VPNs. Read along to get a general understanding of what you need to be looking for.
What is a VPN and how does it work?
VPNs are tools which are used to change your IP address and help you to hide your location and stay anonymous on the internet. These tools use their algorithms to specify IPs from different countries to the users. This will help users to escape geographical limitations imposed to them. In fact, a VPN creates a personal tunnel for the user through which they can surf the net anonymously.
A proxy works somehow the same by creating a connection between you and what you are looking for on the internet. This connection might be normally blocked or limited. What a proxy does is freeing this connection for the user. You can use a proxy as a tool to access the data that is blocked for your IP.
What I explained was a gist of what a VPN does. By now, you may have come to the conclusion that a VPN can be a beneficial tool. But it is absolutely important to use a tool which does not expose you to risks and dangers. In what follows, I will explain some potential VPN risks that you definitely need to be aware of.
VPN risks you need to be aware of
In order to use a VPN, you will need to install a software on your device. This software might be from unknown sources and might pose risks to your device and your data. Also, in some countries it is illegal to use such applications to go anonymous on the internet. A free VPN might track all the logs and content that you view. This is exactly what a VPN is supposed to protect you from.
Even worse, some free VPNs might collect your personal information and sell it to third-parties. These risks include proxies as well. Since proxies forward all your traffic without encrypting it, they are able to read all your data. This means that your personal data is transferred through an unsecure connection and the proxies are able to do whatever they want with it.
Here are some of VPN risks you might get exposed to if you make an unwise choice of such tools.
Beware of the Trojans!
A Trojan is a type of malware which disguises itself as a legitimate application and tries to steal your personal data or harm your device. The name is taken from the “Trojan horse” and the story on how it managed to enter the castle. Many Trojans disguise themselves as a VPN application. By installing them on your device, you actually allow them to access your data. The point is that you might not even notice what this application is really doing in the background. What you only see is that an application is offering you a tool to surf the internet anonymously. This is absolutely important to be cautious and stay safe from Trojans – if your personal data actually matters to you!
Watch for the viruses
Another potential VPN risks is that such tools might be infected with virus or a malicious software that is designed to harm your device. Most free VPNs and proxies are infected with virus and the first thing that they do as soon as you install them is that they disable your Antivirus application. Little by little, the malicious software copies itself over and over on your device and it ends up harming or disabling the whole system. Also, if you send the infected VPN application for a friend, you will spread the virus to their device as well.
VPN risks for kids and teenagers
You also need to be aware of the potential risks and dangers of VPNs for your kids and teenagers. When your kids use a virtual private network to surf the internet, they are actually exposed to any sort of content, some of which might be inappropriate for them. Adult content in pornographic websites can be easily accessible by your kids and teenagers when they use a VPN or proxy. Also, they might share their personal data via the internet while they are connected to a VPN and this can expose their data to hackers or any sort of third-parties.
A solution in this situation is that parents talk to their kids and enhance their knowledge about such tools. Another way to safeguard kids is the use of monitoring tools which are designed to allow parents to keep an eye on their kids’ online activities.
The secure solution for viewing blocked websites
If you worry about the security of your personal data and you are looking for a way to view blocked websites, a more trustable solution is a paid VPN. Paid VPNs does not profit by selling your data to third-parties. This is while a free VPN might be selling your data for identity theft or any other sort of cyber crime.
Try to use a VPN service that is known and is trusted. Also, you need to make sure that your data is tunneled via HTTPS. Unsecure connections are a great risk to your personal data. A proper VPN encrypts your data and safeguard it from hackers and snooper who are trying to steal your data or harm your device.
This post is also available in: العربية (Arabic)