In recent times there has been a lot of noise about Information Security (InfoSec), as ordinary people find out how their online activities are surreptitiously monitored by the government agencies, Internet service providers, and cybercriminals. So how to get a VPN for free? We will show you in everything you need to know in this guide.
Even when we think that no one else gets to see what we do on the Internet, there are people who are secretly tapping into our online activities in the hopes of stealing confidential information and selling them for monetary gain.
Although shocking and disturbing, this is the reality.
So when you are out there, messaging someone on Facebook via the coffee shop's free WiFi network, you could be giving out personal information to the hacker who has positioned himself between you and the server.
When you are shopping at an online store, you could be parting with your credit card details even without a clue. Every moment that you spend online, you risk giving out information that could rob you of your money and your identity.
Although VPNs have existed for a long time, they have become widely known only recently, thanks to growing online threats. They are easily available, simple enough to use, and provide complete online protection.
Why is a VPN Important?
A VPN is essential because it is a wholesome online protection solution. It is a “private network” which only you have access to.
To put it simply, a VPN is a set of two servers – one on your end and the other on the VPN's end – which you connect to just like you would normally connect to the Internet.
Once a connection is formed between these two servers, it becomes a space that belongs strictly to you. No one else has access to this private network. This process is called tunneling.
All data that is transmitted through this network is encrypted. No one else gets to know what you are doing online.
You can download movies (Transformer 5 and American Assassin were fantastic) or music, play online games, have a romantic conversation on Skype, shop for garden gnomes, and so forth.
No one, not even your Internet service provider, gets to know what you are doing. Even if someone manages to place himself in the network, the data will appear as gibberish because it is encrypted, this is what is required in order not to leak your data.
Besides, VPNs also help you bypass geo-restrictions and Internet censorship, letting you access to content that you normally wouldn't be able to watch.
The Best Free VPN and The Different Types
VPNs are either paid or free. Paid VPNs can be expensive sometimes, depending on how many features you require and how much data you use.
Free VPNs are the better alternative for those just starting out or don't want to spend via paid ones. Let's take a look at some of the different types of free VPN services.
Paid VPNs require an upfront payment as well as a monthly fee, whereas free VPNs do not require anything.
For those who cannot afford a premium VPN but still want to enjoy the protection offered by a private network, a free VPN is a good place to start.
There are three types of free VPNs: Ad-supported, restricted bandwidth, and Freemium VPNs.
- Ad-supported VPNs shows ads to make money, while also restricting the number of servers a free user can access. It isn't so bad if you have a limited amount of VPN to use, and do not need to use servers from other countries to hide your location.
- Restricted bandwidth VPNs, as the name suggests, have a cap on the amount of bandwidth a free user gets. Some services limit this to 500MB per month, while some services provide even less.
- Freemium VPNs give you a free sample of the full service for a short period, hoping that you sign up for the full service after the trial period is over. Although this is a stellar way to test a service before purchasing it, the drawback is that the paying customers are also charged for the service that the free customers get.
Free VPNs have a number of benefits, but they also come with potential risks. If not chosen carefully, users can risk their personal information and money.
Pros and Cons of a Free VPN
Every service, whether free or paid, comes with its own share of benefits and drawbacks. When choosing a free VPN, you must keep your eyes and ears open because not all VPNs were created the same.
While there are great deals to be found on free VPNs, if you aren't careful, you can end up with a substandard service.
When a free VPN is genuine, the service will be of the same quality as in a paid VPN. However, since free VPNs come with several limitations, it has a number of drawbacks compared to paid services.
At the same time, it also has quite a few advantages. Let's discuss the pros and cons of a free VPN.
It's free: Anything free is tempting, and so is a free VPN. If you choose a genuine service, you can get the features of a paid VPN for free, helping you protect your online security, spoof locations, and access public WiFi without any worry.
There is no commitment with a free VPN. You can use it for as long as you want, and stop using it whenever you like.
Good trial: Several paid VPNs offer a free trial for a certain period. This is a judicious way to test a service before purchasing it.
When you sign up for a free trial of a VPN, you have the option to purchase the full service if you like or switch to something else once the trial is over. Since most trial periods are for 30 days, you can get a month of free protection without any commitment.
It's anonymous: There is a lot of anonymity in a free VPN service because you don't need to provide personal details or financial information when signing up.
Even though you require to provide an email address, you can simply use an alias email. This keeps you safe from the unethical use of your information by VPN providers.
Low-security level: Unlike paid VPNs, which offer a high level of encryption, free VPNs are mostly capable of Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), which offers a standard encryption of only up to 128-bit.
This is an outdated and substandard protocol that isn't used anymore by paid VPNs. It means that the security you get from a free VPN is much lower than what a paid VPN offers. This defeats the whole purpose of using a VPN.
Poor customer service: You didn't pay for a free VPN. Therefore, the providers have no responsibility towards you.
There is hardly anyone to address your questions and concerns, the response time is too long, and usually, there is no dedicated customer service team.
Even if you find that some of the servers or IP addresses don't work anymore, there is nothing you can do.
Ads: Free VPNs need a revenue stream because they are not making money from the service, and more often than not, the source of revenue is advertisements.
It is annoying for the user, but it can't be helped. While using the service, you get to see tons of advertisements, which you have no control over. They can be very frustrating especially when you are trying to watch your favorite show.
Now that we know the pros and cons of using a free VPN, let's now learn how to spot if a free VPN is genuine.
A paid VPN provides stellar security, privacy, and customer service, but the same isn't always true about free VPNs. But if you know what to look for, you can get an excellent free VPN for personal use.
Four ways to spot a genuine free VPN
Revenue source: Running a VPN is expensive and time-consuming, and requires money.
This is the reason why running a VPN for free is impractical and mostly impossible. Paid VPN services have a free trial version to hook in customers.
These free versions have several limitations, such as restricted bandwidth, downloads, and only a fee server locations. There are other features that may be missing from the free version, like adblockers, firewall, and Torrenting.
If you don't find a revenue stream of the free VPN, then it is most likely making money by selling your data, such as your log information and browsing history. The buyers are usually advertisers.
Security: The software used for both free and paid VPNs are usually the same. This means that they are supposed to provide the same level of security and privacy.
But that is often not the case. Several free VPN software has spyware built in them.
This malware is meant to collect your information for selling to third parties. You can spot this by checking the advertisements the VPN shows you.
Free VPNs usually have ads, but if you find that the ads are about products or services that you have recently searched for, then the service is definitely collecting your data.
A VPN that keeps zero logs is the best choice. Some VPNs keep minor logs like bandwidth usage and connection, but that is not dangerous. If the VPN keeps usage and IP address logs, then it must be avoided at all costs.
Sign-up process: Registering on a free VPN does not require financial information like credit card details. Some free VPNs do not even require your name.
All you have to provide is your email address. If the VPN requires you to provide your name, address, credit card details, and other identifying information for signing up, avoid the service.
Some VPNs store your IP address on file, and although not dangerous, it can be traced to identify you. Always be careful about what information you share when signing up for a free VPN.
The point of signing up with a VPN is to maintain some anonymity. If you have to give all of this up to sign up for a VPN, what is the point of signing up then?
A step-by-step guide to installing a free VPN
Free VPNs have several benefits (kind of like watching an amazing show like House, 24, The Wire, The Shield, House of Cards, and so on!), and if you want to experience them, you need to sign up for a service, download and install the app on your device.
It takes just a few clicks, and you can start enjoying the service soon after.
Step 1: The first thing you have to do is choose a free VPN. There are several out there, so you must exercise caution. Reading reviews and asking for recommendations is critical to making the right decision.
Step 2: Once you have chosen a VPN, carefully review its terms and conditions, and then sign up with your email address. If you don't want to use your main account, you can use an alias email address.
Step 3: You now have to check your inbox for the welcome email you received. Click on the link to go to your VPN account.
Step 4: You have to go to your VPN account, and set up the service. Once you have the service set up, you have to download the file to your device.
Step 5: Once the app is downloaded on your device, follow the instructions and install it on your device. This will take only a few minutes.
Step 6: Once the app is installed, you can simply connect to any of the available servers and start using the service.
There is a lot less hassle in downloading and installing a free VPN. You don't need to provide any personal detail or payment information. You can stop using the service anytime without having to worry about getting a refund.
It is also a judicious way to try a service for free before deciding to purchase it. Hey, America has lower taxes now, things are going pretty well!
Free VPNs can be a righteous deal if chosen carefully. Take your time to choose a free VPN, and protect yourself online. I hope our guide was useful in showing you how to get a VPN for free.