Can free VPN be trusted? Is it safe to use a free VPN?

Vlad Constantinescu
by Vlad Constantinescu
VPN Expert & Privacy Advocate
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Affiliate Disclosure

  • VPNs are great when it comes to protecting your connection's security and online privacy. However, not all of them can be trusted the same.
  • For instance, free VPNs might sound like a great deal, considering they don't require paid subscriptions to operate. However, they can put your security at risk.
  • Check out our best VPNs that don't require registration.
  • Visit the VPN Hub to discover more about securing your online presence with VPNs.
Can VPN be trusted?

VPNs are great when it comes to protecting your connection’s security and online privacy. However, most reputable services require you to purchase monthly subscription plans so you can use them.

And it totally makes sense, since running a VPN operation can be quite expensive. Just imagine the sheer power required to power servers, let alone purchasing the servers or hiring specialized personnel to operate and maintain them.

However, a pretty thick slice of the pie is owned by free VPNs.

Why do users prefer free VPNs?

As a new VPN user, you might not fully understand why do you need to pay for a service that can keep your connection private, the way it’s supposed to be from the start?

Well, many fool themselves into thinking that their default connection is private. When in fact, it’s widely known that if the need arises, your ISP could easily provide authorities with specific details on your online whereabouts.

Thus, in lack of a better understanding of how things really are and how a VPN can improve their privacy, they decide to give it a try. Only they’re not exactly ready to commit to purchasing a subscription plan.

So, many users stick by free VPN services, which are, most of the time, not exactly what they advertise themselves to be.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN essentially generates a secure, encrypted tunnel that passes your traffic. No matter the destination, a VPN will always encrypt your traffic and pass it through until it reaches the service you wanted to access.

However, it’s not as simple as it sounds. VPNs require a lot of power to be able to pull this kind of heist right under your ISP’s nose.

Usually, this kind of money comes from loyal subscribers. You pay for a secure, stable, and private service.

In turn, the VPN provider puts your money to good use, investing in server development, software improvement, patching things up, and even expanding the network of servers. Or that’s how it should be.

How is a free VPN different than a premium one?

For once, you may never find a free VPN that offers you the same level of privacy protection and security as a premium one. Most of the advanced features are limited, and you’re only given a taste of what the service can really do.

For instance, you may be able to use advanced features but only connect to a bunch of non-premium servers.

You can find some premium VPNs that offer limited trials. These are either limited in functionality, or they have full functionality but you can only use them for a short while.

Last, but not least, you can find VPN services that are entirely free. These are generally the worst since they generate revenue from running ads while you use the service, or collect and sell your data to whoever bids the most.

As we like to say, there’s no such thing as a free VPN; you just don’t pay with money. It’s either your privacy or your security, and believe us, those two are far from being the same thing.

Can free VPN be trusted?

Look, we don’t say that ALL free VPNs are pure evil, but most of them are, and it’s easier to steer away from something that has a 50% chance of messing with your data.

Supposedly you decide to bite the bullet and get on board the free VPN bandwagon. There are some things that should tip you off right on the spot. Let’s just call them red flags, if you will.

1. The country the service is headquartered in

Generally speaking, if the VPN is based in a country that’s popular for Internet freedom censorship, abuse, or heavy monitoring on its citizens, you should back away as soon as possible.

If you don’t know how to keep track of countries where you risk your data to be seized, you should look up 5, 9, 14 Eyes.

It might also be an eye-opener if you weren’t aware of intelligence sharing alliances.

2. Poorly-written Privacy Policy

We know, everyone wants to just skip the reading part and hope for the best. However, if you’re a responsible individual, you’ll take a few minutes of your time and give the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy a good, thorough read.

If you spot contradictory claims, broken language (some non-English providers actually use Google Translate for their policies), or statements about private data collection, that’s your red flag right there.

A trusted, and respected VPN, will never monitor or log your online activity, or record personally identifiable information from their customers. You can dodge this bullet easily by knowing your rights before using the program.

3. Data leaks while using the VPN

This might be a bit tough if you’re not tech-savvy, but we’ll make it easy for you. Data leaks are a phenomenon that should never occur, lest the whole purpose of using a VPN is ruined.

Essentially, your VPN should be able to grab all your traffic and encrypt it. Air-tight. Absolutely no leaks.

Just for reference, since you’re using it to connect to the world wide web, your ISP is ever-listening to your connection. Even a second’s worth of leaking your real IP address, location, WebRTC, or DNS can jeopardize your privacy.

You’ll flare up like a Christmas tree, and show on your ISP’s metaphorical radar. The bad news is that you can’t ever know you’re leaking data without specialized tools.

The great news is that we’ve prepared a list of online services that could test your VPN‘s ability to not leak your data.

Running a simple test on either one of those services can easily assess if your VPN is safe enough and doesn’t leak important data. However, if you’ve decided to stick with a free VPN, we suggest testing it on multiple platforms.

It so happened that the same test came out negative on two of these services, but data leaks were picked up during our third test. Stay safe.

4. Poor customer support

If you’re planning to use a free VPN service in the long run, check out their customer support. It’s your right, after all, to know how customer support handles things when there’s an issue.

More so, don’t be afraid to ask tough questions, such as:

  • What’s your policy on collecting personally identifiable data? (especially if there’s little or no mention of it in the privacy policy)
  • Do you monitor online activities such as traffic, visited websites?
  • Under what circumstances will you share data you hold with third parties?
  • How do you handle DMCA takedown notices?
  • Do you allow torrenting?

You get the point. A competent customer support agent should be able to answer these questions on the fly, without checking with their superiors or beating it around the bush.

If you notice that the customer support stalls you or avoids the question, maybe you should consider switching to another service.

What’s the best VPN without registration?

If you’re still decided to stick with a free VPN service but you’re in no mood for investigating any further, you should at least do it right.

We’ve checked for the best VPNs you can use without registration and the ones on our list should be good enough for your needs.

Note that these services won’t be nearly as good as their premium counterparts.

However, they’re good enough if your need for a VPN service is merely occasional. And if you’re not worried too much about having a huge selection of servers you can choose from.

Plus, they won’t collect your data and run away with it.

Some free VPNs could be trusted

To sum it up, we’re not entirely sure using a free VPN is entirely safe. It definitely isn’t if you don’t perform some thorough background checks before you decide to stick with a certain service.

However, we’ve given you some quite solid indicators on how to detect if a service is trustworthy or not. More so, we’ve included a list of curated free VPN services that you won’t be disappointed in.

FAQ: Learn more about trusting free VPN

  • What is the safest free VPN?

If you’re looking for safe free VPN services, make sure to check our best free VPN recommendations that don’t require registration.

  • Can VPNs be hacked?

Yes, unfortunately, VPNs can be hacked. However, the chance of that to happen is pretty slim. Furthermore, most reputable VPNs have taken measures so your data won’t fall in the wrong hands.

  • Can ExpressVPN be trusted?

Although it isn’t free (it’s actually one of the most expensive services), ExpressVPN provides you with top-notch security and privacy features and tops them with a strict no-logging policy. ExpressVPN can be trusted 100%.