Is It Safe To Use Free VPN Services ?


Is It Safe To Use Free VPN Services ?


Is A Free VPN Safe To Use?


In a recent study by The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation(CSIRO), researchers analyzed 283 Android VPN apps to study their impact on user’s privacy and security. They found out that 75% of the tested apps used third-party tracking libraries, and hence, they can’t be trusted. 82% of the apps required permissions to access sensitive resources such as user accounts and text messages. Worst of all, the study published that more than 38% had malware presence such as adware, trojan, malvertising, riskware, and spyware.
“18% of the VPN apps implement tunneling protocols without encryption despite promising online anonymity and security to their users. In fact, approximately 84% and 66% of the analyzed VPN apps do not tunnel IPv6 and DNS traffic through the tunnel interface respectively due to lack of IPv6 support, misconfigurations or developer-induced errors,” the study declared.

Are Free VPNs really Free?

The short answer is: No. No VPN provider will offer their services totally free for an unlimited amount of time. If you are not paying your money, then rest assured that you are paying them in other ways. The same situation was observed in Facebook-owned Onavo VPN’s case.

Let’s look at some of the common ways through which free VPN providers exploit you:

1. Tracking your data and selling it for profit

VPN encrypts and tunnels your data so your ISP cannot see what you are doing online. This means ISPs can’t keep track of you, but the VPN provider can. Free VPNs collect user data through tracking libraries, which they can sell for advertising and analytics to some other agency. Betternet’s free VPN app was found to contain 14 different tracking libraries.

2. Browser Hijacking 

This refers to redirecting your browser to websites without your permission. HotspotShield free VPN promises its users shielded connections, security, privacy enhancement and ad-free browsing. However, the CSIRO study found that HotspotShield redirects user traffic to alibaba.com and ebay.com through its partner networks Conversant Media and Viglink, respectively

3. Stealing of Bandwidth

Free VPNs might also be stealing your bandwidth and selling it to other organizations. Would you like your PC resources to be used to move traffic on the internet? Apparently, Hola VPN did it. Israel-based Hola was found to be stealing bandwidth from users and then reselling it through its sister company Luminati. 

4. Malware

Injecting malware to your device is one of the common traits in free VPNs. Such malware can be used to steal sensitive information from your device or to encrypt your data as evident from recent ransomware attacks..
The study mentions that “AnchorFree’s VPN app HotspotShield performs redirection of e-commerce traffic to partnering domains. When a client connects through the VPN to access specific web domains, the app leverages a proxy that intercepts and redirects the HTTP requests to partner websites.”


      
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