“Use a VPN!!!”, “Protect yourself!!!”, “Don’t let the ISP track you!!!”, “Access the web anonymously and privately!!!”, “Your privacy matters!!!”

Heard these words somewhere? It can be anyone guiding you to use a VPN to stop your data from being tracked. And most of you are either already aware of the VPNs or already using one.

If you go on the web and just search the term “VPN” you might come across not hundreds but thousands of VPNs available on the internet to cover you up. And a huge number of them are fake, a knock-off or cheap copies of an existing products in the market.

What is VPN?

If a few of you folks reading this still don’t know what is a VPN let me get this straight to you. VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”, which basically masks your online identity and hides your IP addresses, making it difficult for third parties to track you on the net. These VPNs create a virtual tunnel through which all your web traffic passes and people looking for you will end up with the IP address of the tunnel rather than yours, in simple terms.

So, the question arises of whether one should use a VPN or not, the answer to it is simple and straightforward “yes”, yes you should we all should but the ones which are actually useful and trustworthy. Not every VPN you use or might have come across can be trusted.

VPN Unsafe?

The point is if these VPN services can hide our footprints from the internet, then they can hide their activities too. But you might ask what’s the big deal in it we are also doing the same thing well you might find it a “no biggie” but these VPN services have an evil side which is hidden from the end user and this is where you and your data are at more risk when you come in contact with a service with hidden clauses.

Every company or business has some kind of profit model for them and they are here for money such is the case of VPN companies too especially the free ones. Let’s start digging into all this with the free VPN services available in the market and let’s take a dig at their source of earnings. Well, the answer is as simple as the question: Injecting ads, Data Collection and laundering, Trackers etc and whatnot.

One example of such a VPN is a ‘1-click VPN’ with over 3M downloads, and if you hear about its activities, you might reconsider using your free VPN. This VPN first of all doesn’t provide any kind of security to you and instead is itself a thief of your security disguised as a VPN doing malicious activities, not only it uses proxy servers instead of VPN servers which are not encrypted and can be interfered easily, it also tracks all your keyboard activities, your typing habits, mouse movements etc. To all the nerds out there the codes have ActionListeners inside them to track all the data.

You may be wondering how this affects you, let me help you understand all this easily so, for instance, if you have this kind of VPN installed on your device tracking all your movements it can easily gather what you are typing and at what speed and where and if the code is further malicious it can even collect your sensitive information too like CC details, OTPs etc. And getting back to the question of how these apps earn money, well your data is sold to the right bidder at the right price and voila! you never know about this.

Not only these free services are creep, but there are also some renowned ones like Nord and Express VPN who are involved in different scandals, they too are collecting your data and taking unnecessary permissions which at first place they don’t need but still are asking for it. You can even Google the reports about Nord’s practices you’ll find tons of articles related to it.

Here’s a fun fact for you which is not fun at all: “Most of these VPNs are white labelled VPNs and are owned by a single parent company” (for those who don’t know what white labelling means, it simply means take an existing product and making a cheap knockoff of the same product and selling it under your own brand name). Examples of a few VPNs under a single roof are CyberGhost, ZenMate and Express VPN which are all owned by Kape Technologies; NordVPN, SurfShark and Atlas VPN which are all owned by Nord Securities, these are a just few examples of the famous ones doing this.

Why do they do it, again the answer is “Money”, they do it purposely so that if you are not satisfied and want to make a switch you remain intact with them only so they provide an alternative to their own service which is not an alternative in reality. And not only this a company called Ziff Davis even owns review websites such as PCMag, Gearlog etc apart from the VPNs offered by them and they are a White labelled VPN service providing good reviews to their own products.

The cherry on top is their invasive marketing, affiliate marketing and false claims of faster speeds, privacy, bypassing geo locations etc because most of these are false claims as speeds tend to be faster even without a VPN and even if they are faster with a VPN it would be merely just 5-10% not more than that and in only a few selected cases, and about the geo-location bypassing on streaming services, Netflix, Prime Video etc have blacklisted VPNs and don’t allow the use of them so there is no fun in getting attracted to these false claims.

Winding Up

My point is not to stop anyone from using VPN, it is to make you aware of the other side of the coin and the dark practices these services are hiding from you guys so that you can choose the service which is actually good and can be trusted with their honest models and approaches. It’s not like there are no good and legitimate services available in the market, there are, they exist and all you need is the right tools and knowledge to choose one.

Pro Tip: check out Techlore’s free and open-source VPN comparison tool, who knows you may find the right service you are looking for and to check trackers in these VPN apps visit Exodus Privacy.

By kaif

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