Free VPNs sell your privacy for profit

 In Security

I love free stuff and I’m sure you do, too.

The internet is full of free software and services but, as my father used to say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. While you might think you are getting something for free, that most likely is not really the case and you should think twice before signing up for any so-called “free” service or software. A great example of this is with VPN services.

I recently removed Hola from a client’s PC. Hola is a free VPN extension for Chrome that allows you to access geo-blocked content (like US Netflix or BBC iPlayer).

On the face of it you’d think that an extension freely available in the Chrome Web Store with more than 300,000 positive reviews was safe to install, right? Wrong.

Hola might make it possible for you watch the latest episode of whatever’s trending; but it also:

  1. allows you to be tracked across the internet
  2. lets other people browse the web through your internet connection, potentially making you complicit in any of their dodgy online behaviour
  3. sells access to your computer for others to move data across the web using your internet connection
  4. lets others execute programs on your computer.

And Hola isn’t the only free VPN service you should be wary of.

It may be free, but you’re still paying

Guess what? Free VPN services have overwhelmingly proven to be a privacy and security disaster.

Do you really think that someone is out there servicing a bunch of data hubs and proxy servers at their own expense just so that you can sneak around geo-blockers for FREE? Think again.

Free VPNs make money by recording and selling your data, hitting you with ads, and/or redirecting your browser to e-commerce and third-party websites.

If you’re currently using a free VPN, you can check this list to see what exactly might be wrong with it; but even if it’s not on the list, you should be seriously considering moving to a paid VPN service.

Why use a VPN at all?

I routinely use a paid VPN service to protect myself on open wireless networks and, as I’ve already noted, they’re great for skirting around geo-blockers.

But the most important benefits of using a VPN are security, privacy and anonymity. Using a VPN makes it difficult for anyone to identify and track what you do on the internet.

If Australia’s mandatory data retention laws – which require internet service providers and telecommunications companies to monitor, record and store user metadata for two years at a time – bother you, then a VPN can put your mind at ease there as well.

Paid VPN recommendations

If you’re in the market for a VPN, we recommend Australians look at:

  • ExpressVPN – Good on speed, and excellent customer service, but at a premium price. Express VPN receives consistently good reviews from users.
  • TorGuard – TorGuard is well reviewed in Australia, and is one of the few VPN providers that offer solutions for business. User reports vary on their customer service delivery.
  • SlickVPN – Provides good speed for a good price and is well reviewed by users.
  • NordVPN – Reliable, good customer service, affordable, but some users report slower connection speeds with NordVPN.
  • Private internet access (PIA) – Reliable and affordable with consistently good reviews in Australia since their addition of Australian servers.

Get in touch if you want further support with selecting and setting up a VPN, Proactive IT Solutions is happy to assist.

Image designed by Frimufilms / Freepik

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