Today we will explain why free VPNs are dangerous to use.
According to the study, among the 117 most popular VPN services, 26 kept user logs, despite marketing claims to the contrary.
Therefore, the opinion that a VPN is the safest way to work on a network depends only on the good faith of the service. A VPN service, instead of your usual providers, manages all the information that is provided by you and the website you visit. This, for example, played a cruel joke with Ryan Lin, an Internet activist who used a supposedly secure VPN. The service gave his information in response to a request from the FBI and Ryan was arrested.
But most of us face other consequences. And here are the three most popular services: Hotspot Shield, Hola, and Betternet. Instead of protecting their users, they only get a role in the business model that these companies lead.
There are lots of services that would rather sell your data for personal profit than satisfy their user base. This applies to many dating websites but not RU-Brides. It is a great dating service with lots of options and features for its users like video dating. Be sure to give it a try!
Hotspot Shield – 500 million downloads
The VPN program has more than half a billion downloads and these users, in 95% of the cases, use the free version of the program. However, despite the long-term presence on the market, the creators do not shy away from selling traffic, recording logs and other things.
There has been a petition filed to the US Federal Communications Commission on behalf of the Center for Democracy & Technology. It reports that the Android app of the Hotspot Shield, when requesting permissions to work in the system, begins to collect data on the use of third-party programs, transmits the names of wireless networks, MAC and IMEI-addresses. Also, Hotspot Shield has been accused countless times in selling traffic and redirection of it to affiliate sites.
Hola – 152 million downloads
In 2015, a group of researchers discovered a number of problems with the service. Hola kept data of user activity, and one of the bugs in its work allowed it to remotely run third-party software on users’ computers.
In addition, it sold access on behalf of users through a suspicious scheme. Let us put it this way: as long as you use a free VPN to maintain anonymity, the paid Hola subscriber can visit illegal sites from your IP address. Responsibility for his illegal actions will fall upon your shoulders.
Shortly after the publication of the devastating report, Hola fixed a number of bugs and clarified the user agreement, but some of the problems are still relevant, the researchers said.
Betternet – 38 million downloads
Betternet is a popular free mobile VPN. Recently, in the wake of its popularity, the company even began selling VPN routers and offering paid services.
But researchers from the Australian state agency CSIRO warned – Betternet is very bad with privacy. The service collects 14 tracking libraries per user. This is more than any other alternative. Those who avoid tracking using such a VPN end up with even more suspicious practices because their data is analyzed by unknown individuals or companies.
Why free VPNs sell your data
There are three main reasons for this:
- To cover the cost of the server;
- For profit;
- Out of greed, due to a large user base.
Fortunately, the situation is not hopeless. We offer you three ways out of the situation:
- Find an open source VPN. The best options are OpenVPN, Freelan, and SoftEther.
- Use VPN Gate from the Japanese Tsukuba University. This is a free academic project – data is not shared with anyone else. But the user agreement clearly states that the service keeps logs on its users.
You can support these young students and their project by visiting vpngate.net.
- Configure your VPN. You can set up your own cloud service, using Algo or Streisand tools. Technical training will be required, but a tutorial from Lifehacker may be on the way soon.
The publication concludes that the war for privacy is not an easy process. But if you make a little effort, you can safely surf the internet without paying an extra buck for your privacy.
Visual journalist/Graduating student, University of Missouri-Columbia. Lover of everything in the gaming industry and an avid fan of all films!