A lot of my friends and family have been having trouble with having their identity stolen, so I have been looking for ways that I can protect myself. So, I did some research into VPNs to see how safe they are to use.
So, are VPN apps dangerous? There are many VPN apps that are dangerous as they have poor or non-existent levels of encryption, keep track of browsing habits to sell to third parties and can include malware like spyware that can steal passwords and other personal information. The safer paid for VPN apps provide better overall security and generally require a paid subscription.
It’s important to consider reputable VPN providers when deciding to use any VPN apps to ensure you’re not downloading anything malicious. Reputable VPN providers have reputations to fulfil and have better security policies that can keep you and your identity safe while you are online.
Many VPN apps will promise you the world to get you to download them. However, once they are on your device, they can spam you with ads, sell your information or, even worse, might steal your credentials and passwords.
Is It Safe to Use a VPN on My Phone?
It’s safe to use a VPN application on a cell phone only if the VPN app is from a reputable company. You want to make sure that you are choosing an app that you can trust and isn’t including malware or spyware in the app.
Quality apps allow you to change your server that you’re connecting through. This, in effect, will mask your location. Therefore, you’ll be able to access the content that is locked to particular regions or help keep your online activities private.
Then, if VPNs are designed to help keep your connection safe, what are the risks that they might bring?
- VPN logging your data
- VPN that sells your information to their advertising partners
- A significant reduction in browsing speeds
- Fraudulent VPN scams
Your biggest concern is very simple – you want to be able to trust your VPN provider to protect your data. It’s also important that you are sure the app you’re using is a real VPN rather than a scam.
Ironically, many online hackers do their best to scam those who are trying to avoid scams. What does this mean? It means that you should be wary of things such as:
- No cost anti-virus installers
- Fake alerts that popup
- VPN software and apps
Even the legitimate VPNs often do some shady practices, like monitoring your data and/or selling it to their advertising partners. One thing you might notice is having a ton of unwanted ads coming up on your screen while you’re using it, for example.
Not only that, but VPNs of poor quality can really slow down your browsing speeds. Some slowing down is to be expected. However, the best VPN services and apps will do their best to make sure that it doesn’t impact you too much. Unfortunately, these apps often will require a monthly payment to use them.
Are Free VPN Safe?
Chances are that you have looked through some of the VPN options, and you’ve noticed there are free options. Are they worth it? Well, like many ‘free’ things in life, a free VPN isn’t totally free when it comes to going online through a VPN. A lot of these services will allow third parties to go through your personal information. Some of them might even allow others to use your ‘private’ network to do illegal activities online.
A free VPN will log and track the sites you are visiting, your content, your device’s IP address and more, all of the things that VPNs are supposed to provide you protection from. Along with privacy issues, you could experience slow speeds, outdated encryption and caps on data usage.
Perhaps the worst thing of all is that a lot of the ‘free’ services actually sell your information to their advertisers and place extra, sometimes malicious, advertising on the app aimed at you. They might even distribute your device’s IP address, which will welcome criminal activity that’s traced to your device instead of theirs.
Should I Pay for a VPN?
A good paid for VPN provides speed benefits, doesn’t include ads, will use military grade encryption, won’t log their users browsing habits and will make it very difficult for governments and other agencies to be able to get information about their users.
Let’s take a detailed look at the benefits that a paid VPN can offer you (check out the best VPNs here).
- No Speed Loss – As mentioned, a VPN will slow down your browsing speed. However, when you pay for a VPN, this isn’t as much of an issue. Whereas a free service is buying the bandwidth, that’s not the case with a paid service.
- No Ads – There’s nothing worse than having advertisements popup all the time when you are using an app. Combine that with slow speeds that free VPNs have, and you have a lot of frustration. However, since you are paying for the service, they don’t have to rely on the advertisements like the free services do.
- No Tracking Your Surfing – Free VPNs often will track your surfing and leave you wide open to having malware and advertisements put all over your screen or worse, having your identity stolen. This isn’t a problem with a paid service.
Choosing the Right VPN App or Service for Your Device
A VPN encrypts the data that leaves your phone or tablet that’s connected to the Internet. This helps you to keep your browsing private even when you’re using a public network.
Because of this, it’s possible to access services and websites that are otherwise geo-locked to specific regions, you can mask your IP address so that your search history is much more anonymous, and you can avoid WI-FI spoofers when you are on unsecured networks. A VPN will work whether you’re on a laptop, desktop, or a mobile device.
When you are on a mobile device, you have to download an app. Below are some ways that you can protect your tablet or phone.
- Find out if your preferred VPN service has their own mobile app.
- Download their app – You can find VPN apps in Apple’s store for your iPad or iPhone. If you have an Android device, go to Google Play’s store. If you download it from another site, it might contain malware.
- Install the App – Next, you will need to create your account. This will include agreeing to some permissions or specifying the region from which you’d like to browse. If you are choosing a pay service, you also will need to submit your payment details.
- Check for Icon – Once everything is done, check for the icon. If the app’s running, there will be a key on Androids and VPN ones for Apple devices.
Signs You Have a Bad VPN App
Even when you are careful, sometimes you can make a mistake and download an VPN app which you thought to be trustworthy but wasn’t. Some of the signs that you have made a mistake and should uninstall the app immediately include your battery draining quickly and more data than normal is being used.
Here’s a detailed look at the signs you have a bad VPN app:
- Malicious Coding – If you have installed a free VPN app, one of the best things you can do is to scan it with antivirus software. If it’s a bad one, many times the software will pick it up.
- Your Battery Drains Quickly – A VPN shouldn’t have a huge impact on your battery. If you’re noticing that your device’s battery is draining quickly, it could be because your data is being transmitted to third parties.
- Data is Eaten Up – Are you noticing that you are using more data than usual? If so, this could be due to an unscrupulous VPN sending transmissions.
These are just three signs that you may have downloaded an app that will cause you more problems than it will solve. If you’re noticing any of these signs, it’s time to uninstall the app and go somewhere else to set up your own VPN.