In recent years, the internet has become an increasingly dangerous place. Indeed, the results of one study concluded that a new cyber-attack takes place on some part of the web every 39 seconds! To avoid falling prey to the malicious schemes of hackers and criminals, more and more people are turning to a virtual private network (VPN) to safeguard their presence online.
At the same time, many people do not have the resources or the will to fund this form of digital protection. With a wealth of free VPN services available, it’s easy to see why such an avenue is tempting to those strapped for cash, but does it really represent a safe method of protecting yourself while browsing the web? Here’s a brief exploration of the finer points of VPN safety.
Since free VPNs do not make any money from their users, they must fund their business model in another way. This invariably includes the placement of ads on their site and across their services but can also feature marketing in a more sinister form.
In the modern-day, data has become one of the most valuable commodities out there. With that in mind, a 2016 study from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) found that 75% of VPN Android apps contain third-party tracking software which monitors the behavior of their users and sells that data to the highest bidder. Free VPNs are far more likely to do so than paid-for services.
When it comes to catering to the needs of their consumers, not all VPNs are created equally – and free versions are often found particularly lacking in this department. Whether it be answering questions, troubleshooting issues, or responding to complaints, paid-for VPNs normally have a dedicated customer service team in place and vested internet in guaranteeing the satisfaction of their users. With a higher turnover and no subscription fees on the line, free alternatives have less skin in the game.
A good way to discover how effective a VPN’s customer service is prior to engaging them is to do your due diligence beforehand. For example, you can easily read more about the Surfshark VPN online and ascertain that it ticks all the boxes when it comes to keeping its fans happy, while free alternatives can be less scrupulous on that count.
Malware in place
One of the chief reasons that people download and install a VPN is to protect themselves from malicious content on their device. But while some good VPNs can spot fake websites and alert users when they arrive at it, these are only one of many tools in a hacker’s arsenal. VPNs are incapable of preventing phishing emails from arriving in your inbox or unwanted calls from bombarding your phone, which is why they’re not an infallible defense against cybercrime.
At the same time, some shoddier offerings even contain malware contained in their own code! As ironic as it may seem, the very thing which is meant to protect against data breaches and device malfunctions could facilitate them. As such, it’s advisable to proceed with caution when opting for a free VPN.
While VPNs are an excellent way of protecting yourself when surfing online, some services are more secure than others – and free versions are generally less reliable on the whole. As such, it pays to research the possible candidates thoroughly prior to downloading and installing any application on your device.
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