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How Free VPNs Come With a Price

The number of people who use VPNs (virtual private networks) continues to mushroom. Recent research shows that 46% of American adults now use a VPN — 23% of which use it for strictly personal purposes.[i] Within that mix, 43% said they use a free VPN service. Yet “free” VPNs often come with a price. Typically at the expense of your privacy.

A personal VPN establishes a secure tunnel over the internet, offering you both privacy and freedom from IP-based tracking. It protects your identity and financial info by encrypting, or scrambling, the data that flows through the tunnel. Moreover, it can mask your true location, making it appear as though you are connecting from somewhere else.

Sometimes a VPN is included in more robust security software, as it is in our McAfee+ plans. It’s also, but often it is a standalone tool, that is offered for a monthly subscription rate or for free. While it might be tempting to go for a free option, there are some serious considerations that you should take to heart.

Free VPNs – risky business

Because free VPNs don’t charge a subscription, many make revenue indirectly through advertising. This means that users get bombarded with ads. And they get exposed to tracking by the provider. In fact, one study of 283 free VPN providers found that 72% included trackers.[ii] The irony is worth pointing out. Many people use VPNs to shroud their browsing from advertisers and other data collectors. Meanwhile, free VPNs often lead to that exact kind of exposure.

But beyond the frustration of ads, slowness, and upgrade prompts is the fact that some free VPN tools include malware that can put your sensitive info at risk. The same study found that 38% of the free VPN applications in the Google Play Store were found to have malware, such as keyloggers, and some even stole data from devices.

Also concerning is how these free providers handle your data. In one worrying case, security researchers uncovered seven VPN providers that gathered user logs despite pledges not to.[iii]

Clearly, many so-called “free” VPNs aren’t free at all.

Privacy worth paying for – paid VPN benefits

VPNs are critical tools for enhancing our privacy and shouldn’t be an avenue opening the door to new risks. That’s why your best bet is to look for a paid VPN with the following features:

Unlimited bandwidth — You want your network connection to stay secure no matter how much time you spend online.

Speedy performance — We all know how frustrating a sluggish internet connection can be when you are trying to get things done. Whether connecting for productivity, education, or entertainment, we’re all dependent on bandwidth. That’s why it’s important to choose a high-speed VPN that enhances your privacy, without sacrificing the quality of your connection.

Multiple device protection — These days many of us toggle between mobile devices, laptops, and computers, so they should all be able to connect securely.

Less battery drain — Some free mobile VPNs zap your battery life, making users less likely to stay protected. You shouldn’t have to choose between your battery life and safeguarding your privacy.

Ease of use — For technology to really work, it has to be convenient. After all, these technologies should power your connected life, not serve as a hindrance.

Fortunately, we don’t have to sacrifice convenience, or pay high prices, for a VPN that can offer a high level of privacy and protection. A comprehensive security suite like McAfee+ includes our standalone VPN with auto-renewal and takes the worry out of connecting, so you can focus on what’s important to you and your family, and enjoy quality time together.




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