What Are The Top Free VPN Providers?
Most of us avid internet users have probably heard of VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks by now. This fact will be even more applicable if you are a tech-savvy person, particularly so if you spend a lot of time on the internet or work remotely. In that case, you know that cybersecurity is no joke, and you take it very seriously.
The internet is not what it once was, and has evolved a lot over the years. Not only is it hundreds of times larger than it was a decade ago, but it is also an integral part of how we go about our daily activities today. For these reasons, it also makes sense to be aware of securing yourself online in the vast internet jungle.
As far as protection goes, you need to start at the source, your internet connection. That’s the first place you place the bandaid. This means you need to use some readily available cybersecurity tools that are extremely beneficial. As far as those tools go, VPNs definitely make the podium. VPNs are everywhere now, and they are being promoted commercially across several sectors, like in the form of sponsors and ads online.
What we want to look at in this case though, is the fact that, before you rush to jump on the VPN train, you should be careful with free VPNs. The fact that free VPNs can do more harm than good cannot be stressed enough. After all, the adage “There is no such thing as a free lunch” has stood the test of time for a reason.
Let’s take a look at what a VPN is, and then understand the differences between premium and free VPNs. This information is not new, but most people do not scrutinize the products they download, which can lead to catastrophic things happening to their system, network, or personal data. You wouldn’t want to refuel your car blindfolded without knowing what you are putting in the fuel tank, would you? The same goes for how you choose your VPNs to protect your network, your system/devices, and most crucially the sensitive data and data streams that you store and send out every second.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN is a software internet traffic cloaking obfuscation system. The roots of VPN software are in research and military purposes, just like the internet itself and other software like antivirus and antimalware. Microsoft’s ancient PPTP tunneling protocol is what built the foundation for modern VPNs that exist today.
You may have heard of the term proxy. Proxies are similar to VPNs, for example, but VPNs are an evolution of proxies that function in a similar fashion. Software vendors known as VPN providers offer this software, and there are dozens of them available for download compatible with any device you can think of that runs an operating system e.g. macOS, Windows, Linux, you name it.
A VPN basically cradles your internet connection and creates an encrypted tunnel around it so that you can place yourself on a server anywhere around the world and fool servers into thinking you are there. It also garbles your internet traffic (connection) so that it is unreadable and cannot be intercepted (via Man-in-the-Middle attacks or others) by cybercriminals.
Why You Should Not Prefer a Free VPN Over a Premium VPN
With so much cybercrime and online fraud taking place, as well as spoofed websites and compromised public WiFi connections (not that your home router can’t be hacked) more and more people are reaping the benefits of using VPN software.
Unfortunately, millions of people still blindly trust all technology. These same people will go onto the Google Play Store or App Store and just download any VPN. This is a grave mistake, as these VPNs might be run by cybercriminals.
There are two categories of VPN software; subscription-based membership where you pay, and VPNs that are free to use. Now, there are some issues we need to address with free VPNs;
- They might be run by a cybercriminal setup posing as legitimate software
- Even if the VPN is legitimate, of which there are few, you will usually encounter instability and slower servers
- The encryption quality of free VPNs is questionable, most of the time
- Free VPNs usually do not offer quality customer service
- Free VPNs might be selling your data because they have to earn something
We must underline that there actually are good free VPNs out there, but without some deeper research and in-depth analysis by expert VPN portals, most people wouldn’t have the faintest idea about these. Here’s a top 5 list of tried-and-tested, legitimate free VPN software if you really don’t want to splash the cash;
These free VPNs are a narrow choice, but that is how it is in the free software world. All of them have satisfactory speeds, but a caveat is that the amount of free data you get per month is limited with all of them except Proton. The amount of servers you can choose to connect to is also limited, ranging from 3 to 49, the latter being TunnelBear. Furthermore, yet another issue is that most of these VPNs have trouble with supporting torrent downloads and the number of devices you can connect to them simultaneously from one account.
Another issue is that you can only use one of these, Privado, to unblock Netflix. Yet, thankfully, all of them offer AES 256-bit encryption which is fundamental for your security. All of them are also available for; Windows, macOS, iOS, Android TV, and Fire TV.
None of these VPNs have sneaky hidden costs either. Also, they do not sell customer information to other parties.
To Go Free or Not to be Free?
Based on the information above, it will ultimately come down to a personal choice. Free VPNs have some common weaknesses like; data caps, limited P2P support, limited customer support, and the inability to unblock streaming services. Frankly, using any other free VPN than the ones recommended above means putting yourself, your system, and your network at risk.
If you are adamant about using a free VPN, try downloading and using PrivadoVPN, Windscribe, or TunnelBear. These VPNs are all safe to use and are not run by cybercriminal outfits. You will not get the peace of mind and legitimate guarantees that you have with a paid VPN such as NordVPN, though. Try Windscribe if you’re going for speed, Proton for a smooth experience, and TunnelBear for a host of server locations. If you are very security conscious, PrivadoVPN is the way to go, for now.