The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
Are free VPN Apps really free?
If you are at a hotel, airport, cafe or any other place that offers public WiFi, you should
use a VPN to secure your connection. When accessing websites in a
public WiFi network your USERNAME and PASSWORD can easily be intercepted by hackers. The simplest hack in a scenario like that is
(Man In The Middle Attack). This is when hackers monitor the
connection form your device to the WiFi hotsopt enabling them to
eavesdrop on you. VPN, therefore, is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure
your data are secured.
There are many free VPN apps in Google play store or the Apple store that offer this services for free. But what does FREE mean? What do the VPN providers get in return? In the business world you are basically the customer or the product. When-ever you have users of a service like the VPN apps, they are either a customers as in they are paying to use this service or they are the products as in somebody else is paying for them to use this service. But why? and who is paying?
Its common among free VPN service providers to sell the data they collect on you to other companies, like marketing firms, who use your data to track your online behavior, to present their product advertisement in a form that appeals to you (targeted ads).
A VPN app can also add cookies to your browser and insert advertisements right onto web pages. The cookies are persistent, meaning they remain active and continue to collect browsing data even when you are not on the site where you picked them up.
Some free VPN apps
even turn out to contain malware payloads or are
themselves a form of malware. These are software's that infect your
device so that it can be used for malicious purposes without your knowledge. From a 2017 study
of nearly 300 Android VPN apps, 38 percent contained malware.
So to simply answer the question “Are free VPN Apps really free?” my answer is NO they are not. Next time you want to use a free VPN app like Betternet, Hotspot Shiled, HideMyAss, etc… you might what to consider why they are FREE.