Even though free VPN services are not always the best choice when it comes to security and anonymity, they can be successfully used for unlocking geo-restricted sites like Facebook, YouTube, Hulu, etc.
Most of the time free VPNs require registration and offer limited service. Some offer a limited number of MB, others a single server location, limited speed or restrictive usage.
Free VPN Services – The Good and the Bad
It’s not easy to offer good free VPN services … A few days ago, one of my frequent readers (Pilgrim) let me know that ItsHidden does not work as it used to do. For some time the free accounts disconnect every 20 minutes. Moreover, the policy of this service is that no support is offered for the free accounts.
The message made me think a little bit about the free VPN accounts and the user expectations. Here is what I think …
It’s not easy to offer good free VPN services
First of all, VPN services are not cheap to be built and to be maintained. Powerful dedicated servers have to be purchased, qualified admins have to keep an eye on them, clean IP addresses are needed, etc.
An important challenge for every VPN service provider is the support. For a large number of users, it can be overwhelming. That is why some of the services that provide free VPN are not able to offer support.
Most of the time free accounts are offered in order to promote the paid services. After the initial phase of promotion, some of the services may stop offering free accounts or limit them, as it is the case of ItsHidden. Some others, like HideIpVPN, offer a limited number of free accounts per week.
Some other free VPNs are ad-based, for example, Hotspot Shield and TheFreeVPN [No longer available]. These show ads for every page that you visit. Sometimes it can be very annoying.
What can you expect from a free VPN service?
- Low/medium speed
- Little or no support
- Service interruption
My conclusion is that free VPN accounts have to be taken as they are, with the good and the bad. The users always have to keep in mind that they are … FREE.
Here, at how-to-hide-ip, we have listed several such services, but as they are rapidly changing (some switch to a paid version, other simply go away), an update is necessary.
Thus, here are the best free VPN services that are available at this time:
ProXPN has the advantage of offering no limitation of data transfer but only one USA IP is available. You need to register an account using an email address and install the OpenVPN of ProXPN to access either the package fee (more IP addresses) or free access.
ProXPN creates a secure, highly encrypted connection between your computer and the Internet. This protects your identity and activity online. No records of your activity are kept (unlike a normal internet connection). Learn about ProXPN free VPN service.
ProXPN main features
Here are the main features of proXPN:
- upgrades your internet connection with VPN encryption
- secures all types of connections from DSL and cable to 3G
- gives you 100% private access to the internet
- allows you to access content restricted to the United States
- your private information stays private
- email cannot be viewed in transit through the proXPN network
- instant messaging chats cannot be intercepted via the proXPN network
- internet activity (web browsing, online applications, etc) cannot be tracked by your ISP
ProXPN video presentation
Below you can watch the presentation video made by proXPN staff:
SecurityKiss offers more countries, but data transfer is limited daily. No registration is needed. You can switch between five addresses (US – UK – DE – PL – FR) and TCP or UDP ports. Just download the OpenVPN client, to start to enjoy free VPN (no mail, no info required). Some protocols such as the Usenet are blocked.
Hotspot Shield is still widely used all over the world. The ad-based, free VPN service provides one US IP address and does not require registration. There is no bandwidth limitation and the speed is good for general use. Downsides: the ads and the reduced number of locations and IPs.
Is a Free VPN Safe?
So let’s consider a VPN service. How does it actually work? Let’s just take a simplified vision:
– You chose a VPN provider – let’s say xxVPN.com.
– You are then usually given credentials and a software for connecting through the VPN. On a basic package, your operating systems already come with a VPN client software – you only have to configure it properly provided that you have all the needed information (the protocols used, the encryption supported, …). I’m not going to get into the details of the protocols for encrypting whether it is for the header or for the body of the IP packet.
– On some more elaborate VPN packages, the provider will give you an additional software that eases the installation and configuration process. This usually is a proprietary software.
– Then you use your credentials to set up the VPN connection. This VPN actually is a kind of tunnel where all your traffic goes through before reaching the internet/intranet. At the same time, it “impersonates” you by giving you a temporary IP address that will be visible by the whole internet – though “hiding” your actual IP address.
– All your internet traffic then goes through this one single tunnel.
The safety perspective
Now let’s see this whole process from a safety point of view and bring some elements of answers to the question raised on the title of this article. I’m going to ask you to answer the following questions first:
– To what degree would you trust a third-party provider that you barely know who promises you some kind of security by asking you to route all your traffic through their unknown tunnel?
– How do you actually check if all your traffic is actually encrypted?
– How do you ensure that your traffic is actually strongly encrypted so that no man-in-the-middle would be able to sniff it and decrypt it easily?
– Would you conduct a private transaction (let’s say bank-related transaction for example) by going through a third party provider that you haven’t done any business before and that still needs to earn your trust?
Your two cents – Is free VPN safe?
Check your answers, and if you are hesitating for any of those questions, then I’d recommend you not use those services for any privacy-concern-related activities you’d do on the Internet.
There are also other free VPN services that can be easily found on forums and different sites, but the ones listed above seem more trustworthy than others. If you are looking for a free VPN, try them all and find out what is the most suitable for you.
It is important to understand that free VPN services cannot fully replace paid, premium, VPNs like HideMyAss, ibVPN, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, PrivateInternetAccess. A premium VPN service offers unlimited speed and traffic, various server locations, many IP addresses, good support.