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Top Security Risks of Using Free VPN Apps

A woman on a tightrope risky as a free VPN

Updated on July 13, 2021: From now on, traffic filtering, malware protection, and suspicious DNS activity blocking are available as a part of the separate DNS Firewall app.

Thinking that you live in the world where something bad happens to anybody but you is a sure sign that you perceive your life through rose-colored glasses. If you believe that free VPN apps are the real deal, we advise you to take off your goggles. Yes, its name implies that you don’t have to pay anything for this kind of software. But you have to understand that there is no such thing as free VPNs – only different kinds of price tags and risks. 

In our previous article on free VPN services we’ve already described that the money for such services can come from adding advertising to their apps, selling your private data to third-parties, or using your connection to share your bandwidth with others. Today we’ll look more closely at the main risks of using free VPN apps that you can face. Let’s check it out! 

Security breach of a famous free VPN service

This story serves a great example of how free VPNs can be dangerous. On July 10th, 2018, MyEtherWallet (MEW), an open-source cryptocurrency wallets provider, made a shocking announcement on its Twitter account. They said that all MEW customers who’d used a specific notorious free VPN within 24 hours prior to that could have had their sensitive information (usernames and passwords) compromised.

A man staying on a roof risky as a free VPN

Unknown perpetrators hacked the said VPN Chrome extension on July 9th, 2018 in order to gain access to the MEW users’ wallets. If such user tried to log into their MyEtherWallet account with the aforementioned VPN turned on, the hackers would redirect them to a phishing website. Luckily, MEW developers swiftly took control over this situation and restored the security. And still, MEW advised their users to transfer their funds to a new account.

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What are the risks of using free VPNs?

One could assume that this leak proves that VPN technology as a whole is not competent enough in the security area. However, for the most part this only applies to free VPNs. A number of such services exist where you basically pay with your private data. Such services are truly dangerous. Let’s take a closer look at the main risks that you accept when using free VPN apps.

  1. Malware attack. In this situation, a malware hides inside a fake free VPN app. After downloading, it steals all of the sensitive data on your device. According to the CSIRO study, 38% of free Android VPN apps hide malware inside.
  2. Hidden tracking. The aforementioned study also found out that about 75% of said free Android VPN apps contain third-party tracking libraries. Such libraries contain all of your private data which can easily be sold to advertising agencies or other interested parties.
  3. Stealing your bandwidth. This risk is pretty much like the previous one.  But here a free VPN app steals and sells not your private data, but your bandwidth to third-parties. As a result, it becomes an endpoint for other users, which will use your connection as their own.
  4. Browser hijacking. It is a situation when your free VPN insecurely redirects you to its partner site instead of taking you to the website you wanted to go. And of course, this unknown website is often malicious and/or trying to automatically upload malware to your device. No security here!

Should you use free VPNs?

Man sitting on a skyscraper - dangerous like a free VPN Well, you can use free VPN apps at your own risk. Not all such services are intentionally evil. Learn more about the difference between paid and free VPN services here. But in the grand scheme of things, the main task of a VPN application is to provide you with complete security and privacy online. In most cases, free services can’t guarantee you this. And if you trust your private data to a free security app, be ready that it can let you down. That’s why we highly recommend you to use commercial and reliable VPN apps, like VPN Unlimited.

It is a virtual private network that uses extremely secure AES-128 and AES-256 encryptions in order to effectively protect your sensitive data. As a result, a barrier is formed between you and the whole cyberspace, impenetrable from the outside. Crossing a cyber crime world on a tightrope with such a safety harness you are secured from a fall.

Good news! VPN Unlimited offers you a free 7-day trial (no credit card required). So, you can explore its benefits for free before buying VPN subscription to make sure your online journey is private and secure!

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