A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a great tool if you are looking to secure and privatise your online activity. However, in what may seem like an oxymoron, there are many hidden dangers when using VPNs if you are using an untrustworthy provider.
There are thousands of free VPNs out there, and even certain paid ones which promise to keep you safe but are doing the exact opposite. Here are some ways your safety could be compromised when using unreliable VPNs.
Logging is considered one of the top dangers because if your VPN is logging your Internet activity, they have a record of all your information that you are doing online. This includes your IP address, the list of websites you visit, your timestamps, and activity.
What this means is that if law enforcement or the government came knocking on their door for user logs, your VPN provider would have to submit to their orders and hand over all information about you.
Use only VPNs which guarantee a no-logs policy so that even if they were subjected to a round-up by authorities, they would not have any information stored on you anyway.
The Five Eyes Alliance (FVEY) also known as Nine Eyes or Fourteen Eyes poses as a security risk for you and your VPN if your provider is operating within those countries. Premium VPN providers who really care about their users’ privacy will often choose to base their HQ out of a privacy-friendly country which is not subjected to surveillance and data retention laws.
Hence, pick only offshore VPNs. For example, BolehVPN is incorporated in Seychelles, an international privacy haven outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance.
You could have a really secure VPN protocol, but leaks may still happen. And when a leak happens, it can disclose your physical location, online activity, and all your efforts of using a VPN to protect yourself.
To avoid this, make use of a VPN such as BolehVPN which has DNS leak protection and a kill switch which automatically shuts off your internet connection whenever your VPN gets disconnected.
(Read also: What is a VPN Kill Switch? Does Your VPN Need It?)
There are thousands of VPNs out there. Just run a search on an app store and you will find tons of VPNs claiming they could do for free what other paid VPNs are doing.
VPN companies running their business have costs to cover for things like servers, infrastructural costs, and manpower. If they are not offering their product with a price to their users, you can be sure that the users are the product.
In fact, in a research report by researchers from University of New South Wales and the University of Berkeley, out of 283 VPN apps they analysed, more than a third were found to be tracking users through malvertising or malware. Additionally, eight in 10 requested access to users’ sensitive data, and 18% did not even encrypt traffic!
The desire to save money is inherent in most of us, so when there is a cheaper alternative available, we tend to go with it. Evidently, we may be putting our safety at stake whenever we disregard safety for money-saving tactics.
(Read also: Myth: “Free VPNs Are As Good As Paid VPNs”)
In a real life case-study, take for example one very popular VPN service that we would not name. The website claims it is used by 200 million people, most of them use it because it is free.
What this means is that other people are using your IP address and bandwidth. So what happens when someone uses the VPN to conduct illegal activities such as creating a botnet for malicious attacks like DDoS? Chances are with your IP used as an exit node, you are going to get implicated too.
A trustable VPN will always route your Internet traffic through its own servers, and never use its users’ bandwidth.