In recent years, concerning information regarding free mobile VPN apps have come to light. Over 280 apps on Google Play Store were analyzed by security experts who found that instead of protecting users’ privacy, many of these apps actually put privacy at risk. The research exposed the fact that over 80% of the apps request access to sensitive information, including text messages and accounts. In addition, 75% of the apps analyzed featured third-party tracking libraries and almost 40% of them contain malware. The study also revealed that nearly 20% of the apps don’t even encrypt user’s data and some of them forward traffic using users’ bandwidth. Furthermore, it was found that over 80% of the apps leaked customers’ data. \
It was also noted that more than half of the apps tested redirect your DNS queries to Google DNS, while a small amount of the VPN apps tested, forward DNS traffic to their own DNS resolvers. It was not possible to establish if the DNS requests that were sent to Google or other third-party DNS resolvers were secured by the VPN services. If the requests are proxied, it means that the identity of the users that makes the DNS requests won’t be exposed to Google. On the other hands, if the DNS requests are not being proxied and are being directed to Google and similar options, this posses a serious threat to privacy.
Malicious providers are taking advantage of the popularity of VPN services
Since many people are becoming aware of the large scale massive surveillance carried out by government organizations, and the fact that companies are keeping track of our data and browsing habits, the use of privacy tools such as VPN has increased significantly. There are many risks to our privacy and the security of our information is constantly under threat. This is why many people have opted for VPN services to protect their online traffic, which has prompted a growth of the industry. While VPNs can really be great solution to protect your traffic, many malicious providers are exploiting the popularity of VPNs to launch solutions that are actually putting your data at risk.
One of the problems with free VPN apps for Android is that in most cases, users are selecting them, based on their rating and their popularity in the Google Play Store. These are aspects that don’t guarantee the security of the the apps and even if the reviews are good, it doesn’t mean that users are taking into consideration the security that these VPNs offer. Even the apps that were deemed as suspicious by the research, enjoy high popularity and they have been installed by thousands of users.
It seems like users are more concerned about the performance of the apps, instead of considering if they actually protect their privacy. The bad ratings usually seem to refer only to bugs, issues to connect to a VPN server or the fact that the app drains the battery life of mobile devices. However, since most of these apps are free, people appear to be more focused on getting a good deal by using an app that seems to work when it comes to defeating online restrictions. What is important to consider is that there is not really such thing as a free app. Provider need to make money in some way and some of them, generate income by selling your personal data to third parties.
How to stay safe
VPN apps are very convenient and can provide a great deal of protection against online threats that can affect your privacy. However, it is important to keep in mind that they are not perfect and that you need to take additional measures to keep your information secure and private. The first step when choosing a VPN is to make sure that you go for a service that is reliable and while knowing which service really deserves to be trusted is not easy, there are some things that you can consider.
Although it may be difficult not to give into the temptation of getting a free VPN service, it is very important to remember that they are more likely to put your privacy at risk. After all, they need to make money somehow and in many cases, their source of income is their customer’s data, which they sell to third-parties. We advise you to opt for a paid service instead, since you know that you are paying for the service itself and there are many good quality options available for less than $5 per month.
If you still want to use a free VPN, make sure that you read carefully their policies and that you understand how the handle your data and how they make their business sustainable. Some reputable providers offer free trials or free services that have some limitations. In both cases, the main purpose is to let you give the service a try before you opt for a paid subscription. Before choosing any VPN (free or paid), make sure that you read reviews, but not only the ones left from customers about the efficiency of the service. Make sure that you also read reviews that focus on the security of the service
Don’t go for unknown apps from companies that only offer a mobile VPN solution, in most cases, they are not options that can be trusted. Instead of using a custom VPN app, you can use the OpenVPN for Android, an open source solution that is secure and that protects you against IP leaks and WebRTC leaks. The app comes with standard configuration files and you can use it along commercial VPNs.
Before getting a mobile VPN app, you need to do some research to find out if the app can be trusted. Although the flexibility of Android makes it more vulnerable to attacks, it is likely that unreliable apps can also be found on iOS. Your privacy and security are very valuable and they shouldn’t be compromise only to save money.