If you’re living in a horror movie, there’s one thing you should never do: go into the basement. That’s the easiest way to get yourself murdered by Ted Bundy’s ghost.
Do people who live in horror movies avoid basements? Nooooo. Are they surprised when murderers appear?
Software is exactly like horror movies. What? It is.
If you’re navigating the VPN market, there’s one thing you should never do: use free software. That’s the easiest way to get your data pimped out to third parties.
Do people avoid free VPNs? Nooooo. Are they surprised when they pick up malware?
Server maintenance is expensive, folks. It costs an average of $731 a year to maintain just one server, and that’s before you factor rentals, staff, software design, and hardware maintenance into the deal.
VPNs need over a thousand servers all over the world if they’re to be of any use. If they’re free, they’re earning their cash elsewhere — usually by picking your computer of its profit-building potential.
Here are the most scandalous ones the industry has ever seen.
Hola VPN… The greatest trick this devil has ever pulled is convincing the world it’s actually a VPN.
Hola uses a peer-to-peer structure to cover the costs of its servers. You are the infrastructure it’s selling, let’s face it. If a VPN calls its site “Luminati,” how could it not have ghosts hiding in the basement?
When you sign up to Hola, users surf the net via your internet connection, so good luck getting to the end of The Queen’s Gambit without buffering.
That’s not the worst that Hola has to throw at you, though. Trust us when we say that lag and buffering will be the least of your worries.
When you are using Hola, with hopes to get past some flimsy geo-block, someone else is using your IP to… get past some other geo-block. If you’re lucky. But they might be using it for something much, much worse.
In 2015 it sold access to its 9 million IPs to 8chan users, who promptly used it as an active pedophile network. You’re better off going into that basement than signing up for Hola.
Betternet calls itself a free VPN, but it has more in common with an advertising pimp.
It swears it has a no-logging policy while selling your data to third parties. If you think you’re safe from that behavior if you use bigger brands, Opera says, “Hold my beer.”
Ad spam is what all free VPNs want to be when they grow up, and Hotspot Shield has done all the growing up it can manage.
You’ll find this VPN on your antivirus’ bloatware list because it turns desktops into its own personal pop-up factory. It also takes over your search engine and infects your computer with third-party and tracking codes.
If you want to remove all traces of it, good luck getting rid of the HSS file it leaves behind. To remove all traces of Hotspot Shield’s bloatware, you’ll need to kill it with fire while reciting the Bhagavad Gita backwards in French.
VPNs are all about security, privacy, and anonymity, right? You’d think that the first step they’d take is make their infrastructure as air-tight as possible.
Well, SuperVPN did not get the memo, it seems.
So in March 2021 it leaked the personal details of all the 10, 000, 000 free VPN fans, including their emails address, login information, payment data, hardware IDs and, oh, so much more. You know it’s a good idea when a VPN keeps its server login information as “admin-admin“.
Are All Free VPNs Evil?
As the old saying goes: When a software product is free, you are the product.
It’s a fact as certain as death, taxes, and ghosts in the basement.
Most free VPNs have permissions that are light enough to float to Mars, so you’re better off posting your banking passwords in Times Square.
That doesn’t tell the whole story, though.
A VPN that covers its costs through user payments draws enough funds to cover the glitzy features that make your entertainment experience rewarding. Security is the greatest evil of the free tools universe. Free VPNs’ protections are as permeable as a sieve, so torrenting with them is as risky as climbing without a rope. And going into basements, obviously.
Most free VPNs attach to browsers as extensions. That isn’t dangerous in itself, but studies show that 70% of VPN extensions share their users’ DNS data. That’s a mighty big number, particularly when extensions are so vulnerable to attacks.
That doesn’t mean the entire market is haunted, though.
Free/Cheap VPNs We Recommend
Don’t feel like paying for a service that is supposed to keep you safe and anonymous online? Well, then expect to be hacked or taken advantage of.
But getting a decent VPN does not necessarily mean that you have to take out a second mortgage on your house and try to make up for it by torrenting all of the movies starring Nicholas Cage (rumor has it, he’s been it at least 613 this year alone).
There are free VPNs out there that you can trust, or, better yet, true privacy experts that you don’t have pay an arm and a leg for.
ProtonVPN is definitely Super-Man in the online privacy world.
This provider took a stance: “Safe internet for everyone“. And it worked like a charm. So much so, the provider’s services were endorsed by the UN. And that’s a much better marketing campaign, than “We are really-really free and we don’t make money off you at all”.
And this awesome VPN that set out to save the online world has a version that is completely free!
Sure the free version only comes with free measely servers. But, hey, c’mon, don’t look a gift VPN in the sourcecode.
ProtonVPN makes its money through its paid subscriptions, then shares the spoils with the broke users. But if you opt for that paid subscription, you can get such cool features as TOR support, ad-blocker, and all the VPN in all of its 1250+ sever-glory.
This is as good as true free VPNs get.
If you need more, some VPNs are as good as free.
Surfshark finds its way into most of our reviews because its best subscription plan will set you back as much as a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks.
In turn, it gives you over 3, 000 servers and unlimited device support. Best coffee money you will ever blow!
Even better, it’s safe to use, it’s very fast, and it has a personal lock pick into virtually every streaming platform that matters.
Still think that one trip to Starbucks is worth more?
Don’t Bargain Off Your Online Privacy
The software industry has brought us some of our best lifestyle tools, but just like any biome, it has a predator for every cuddly creature.
You always pay for your VPN, even when you’re not required to part with any cash. Before you sign up, make sure you know how your chosen service provider intends to pay its expenses.
Oh, and don’t forget to stay out of the basement.