By Chinenye Anuforo, [email protected]
With the Federal Government ban on operations of Twitter in the country, many people have resorted to use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs).
Using a reliable VPN can be a safe way to browse the internet. VPN security is increasingly being used to prevent data from being snooped on by government agencies and major corporations or to access blocked websites. However, using a free VPN tool can be insecure.
VPN is a virtual network that enables an internet user to protect themselves and their organization by creating a private web browsing session.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN masks your IP address by redirecting it through a specially configured remote server run by the VPN host. So, when you browse online using a VPN, the VPN server becomes the origin of your data. This makes it impossible for your ISP or any other third-parties to see what websites you are visiting or what information you are entering. A VPN works like a filter that turns all the data you are sending and receiving into gibberish. Even if someone did get their hands on this data, it would be useless.
What are the security risks of a VPN?
Unreliable VPNs can jeopardize your safety online. While some free VPNs are safe for use, others lack the tools necessary to fully protect your data, or worse, they include features that are detrimental to security. On the other hand, many premium VPNs have measures in place to mitigates these potential security issues.
Whether you opt for a free or premium network, it’s important to understand the risks associated with non-secure VPNs.
Compromises user security
A VPN’s primary purpose is to protect a user’s data. Some VPNs, however, contain bugs that leave devices susceptible to viruses and malware. Advertising-related malware is a particularly pernicious issue with free VPNs, which rely on advertising for revenue. Many premium VPNs do not have this problem, as they provide built-in ad blockers, malware protection and unlimited bandwidth.
Tracks online activity
While VPNs are designed to protect privacy over the internet, most free VPNs embed third-party trackers in their software to gather data on a user’s online activity. Some VPN providers hide this information, while others disclose it in their privacy policies. This issue is significantly less prevalent in premium VPNs, meaning that a paid program typically offers the privacy protection it promises.
Targets users with ads
VPNs that use third-party trackers often do so to sell users’ personal data to advertising partners. Despite the intended privacy of a VPN, individuals might receive targeted ads based on their usage data. Generic pop-up ads are also seen commonly in free VPNs, which require ad revenue from their user base. These ads are not only frustrating, but they can lead to internet or device performance issues. Premium VPNs often have ad-blocking tools, as well as additional security features to prevent this issue.
Slows down Internet speed
Free or low-quality VPNs may struggle to manage internet bandwidth, particularly if they have many users online at once, resulting in slow internet speeds. This effect is amplified for VPNs that display ads during use. Some free VPNs deliberately reduce internet speeds to encourage users to upgrade to a paid plan.