VPN Security and Privacy – Are You as Safe as You Should Be?
VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) are lauded as the best option for protecting your privacy online. However, there are some services and standards that you should be careful of. It is always a good idea to take a close look at user reviews and what industry experts are saying before you sign up and pay any money across. While all VPNs will aim to make sure that your connection travels privately beyond your internet service provider, some avoid ticking certain boxes.
While shopping for an effective and speedy VPN, there’s a checklist that you should always have in hand. Services such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer a comprehensive and safe experience for all users, but it’s worth looking into as many different options as possible. While searching for safe, secure and private browsing, always bear the following points of advice in mind.
Read the Terms and Conditions Carefully
There are plenty of websites out there which break down the terms and conditions for VPNs. However, it’s just good practice to start looking into the fine print yourself. In the worst possible case scenario, you could find yourself lumbered with a program that leaks data when you expect to be protected. There is a fair amount of confusion surrounding various VPN programs and services online – and it all stems from avoiding the fine print.
Legally, everything a VPN can do for you will need to be lawfully noted in the small print. Look for various policies such as logging and data sharing expectations. Don’t be swayed by free or perfect deals, either – as if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Which Country is Your VPN Based In?
It’s never been more important to keep a close eye on where your VPN service is based. Regarding mass surveillance, there are more than a few countries legally obligated to collect data from these types of service. Many VPNs are based in countries which fall under the ‘five eyes’ group. That means that if your VPN provider is registered in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand, it may be worth looking for an alternative.
For the sake of keeping your data safe, it’s worth looking for a VPN that’s registered in a non-obligated country. There’s the ‘fourteen eyes’ band of states to be aware of, too. These include:
• The Netherlands
While you are entirely safe to connect to servers based in these regions, always check where your VPN provider has its headquarters.
What Does ‘No Logs’ Mean?
One of the sneakiest things to look for in VPN privacy policies is a ‘no logs’ section. To the innocent eye, ‘no logs’ suggests that a VPN doesn’t keep track of any data you use or share. However, frequent cases have popped up to indicate that certain VPN services are indeed recording your usage, despite appearing to claim otherwise.
You’re going to need to be careful with how privacy policies and specific terms and conditions are worded. Certain VPNs may use phrasing such as ‘keeping’ or ‘storing’ data which effectively allows them to get away with logging everything you browse, stream and download. Be careful as well,to make sure that there are no references to the sharing of your data. It’s not safe to assume, sadly, that all VPNs will have your best interests at heart concerning logging.
Free VPNs Are Often Dangerous
Coming back to our point made above, do be wary of ‘too good to be true’ deals. It’s safe to say that free VPNs carry plenty of bothersome concerns. Why do subscription services exist at all if you can supposedly get perfect VPN service free of charge? Logically, it doesn’t make sense – and there are plenty of rogue suspects out there who are guilty of hiding vague terms and conditions.
What kind of shady terms can you expect from free VPNs? While one or two free services are genuinely worth your time, the majority offer, little solace when it comes to privacy. Check the five eyes and fourteen eyes status of your prospective provider. Be wary too, that many free VPNs are masquerading as such – and are actually malware in disguise.
Can Your VPN Access Any Data?
While you may feel that allowing your VPN to access and collect your data is generally above board, think again. Some services, such as the Opera browser’s free VPN plugin, require that information is collected via cookies and beacons. They may also advise that data traffic may be monitored. There may even be a clause which states that specific anonymous data can be shared with third parties.
No matter how legitimate their reasons may be, do not allow a VPN to collect and share your data for any purpose freely. The whole idea behind signing up for a VPN service is to regain anonymity and privacy online. Data collection protocol and secret sharing shouldn’t be part of any good VPN’s terms and conditions. Stay well away.
Know the Usual Suspects
Always pay attention to online reviews and to what authority sources are saying about available VPNs. There are some regular names which pop up occasionally that are worth avoiding for reasons of malware and privacy protection. These can include:
• Any VPN Apps – these are common malware targets and are bad news for Android users.
• Archie VPN – notorious for harboring Trojan attacks and adware.
• CrossVPN – a high-ranking VPN app well-known for throwing malware at users.
• Flash Free VPN – another Android staple, this service has previously allowed third parties to track users freely.
• Hola – known for stealing IP addresses and bandwidth to sell on – meaning other users can undertake any shady activities they like using your details.
• Surfeasy – embeds third-party trackers and willingly advises on data collection and usage in their policies.
All things considered – do be careful when buying into a VPN for the first time. Read reviews and what the experts say – and always pay attention to the fine print.