Best Free VPN Services

Free VPN services are hard to come by. Running a VPN costs a lot of money, so it has to be asked how these free services cover their costs. There are many scam VPNs that manage to entice in victims with the promise of a free service. However, most of these don’t include any privacy protection and many of them actually sell your data or even your internet bandwidth.

Fortunately, there are ways to get a really good VPN for free and there is a nice trick to get top-quality service from the very best VPN providers.

What is a VPN?

“VPN” stands for “virtual private network.” The service establishes a private ling between a client program, running on the protected device, and a VPN server. Most VPN providers have several VPN servers.  

The important point to note about the VPN services is its server locations. This is because when the customer starts a VPN connection to the VPN server will give that user an IP address that relates to its own location. Thus, the VPN provider masks the true location of its subscribers, enabling those members to unblock the location restrictions practices by many internet services and websites, such as streaming services.

Although many applications that connect to the internet have encryption built-in, this security is often not quite good enough. A VPN adds an extra level of security, which amounts to privacy. There are many actions that intermediaries, such as internet service providers (ISPs) can perform on the connections of internet users even though they can’t read the contents of the messages (called IP packets) that they forward on to the internet.

The VPN masks the true destination of a customer’s connections, so the ISP isn’t able to log the customer’s online activities or block access to any websites. This privacy is also very useful for people who live in countries where the government blocks access to a lot of information sources, such as China, Hong Kong, and Iran.

In a lot of countries, people are not even allowed to use WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. A VPN makes the use of those blocked apps possible.

How can a VPN be a free service?

Although it is nice to get things for free, it is right to be skeptical about free VPN services. It isn’t possible to run a VPN without any cost at all, so the VPN provider will need an income in order to operate.

Unfortunately, some companies take advantage of the technical nature of VPNs and use the offer of a free VPN service as a front to monitor the online activities of its users and sell that information to marketers. So, it is ironic that a service that has the word “private” in its name is often used as a cover by those who want to monitor the internet connections of the public and make money off user data or by injecting adverts into web pages as they load into a browser.

Finding the best free VPN services

Not all VPN options are good and using a free VPN is a risk unless you do thorough research into the service before installing the VPN app. There are some quick ways to assess the suitability of a free VPN. Some of the best VPN services offer free versions. These are as reputable as the paid VPNs but usually have some service limits.

A cheeky way to get a premium service for free is to take advantage of the money-back guarantees that they offer. Premium VPNs don’t give free trials, but their refund policies mean that anyone can use the service for free for a month. In this scenario, it is necessary to make an upfront payment, but the VPN provider returns all of that money on demand, so the payment is more like a deposit.

The advantage of using the free plan of a reputable VPN is that it will provide good connection speeds. There is no point in using a VPN service to unblock access to an overseas video streaming service if that VPN slows the connection speed down to the point where the video pauses frequently.

The best free VPN services for 2020

This roundup of the best free VPNs focuses on the free versions of well-known and high-value premium VPNs plus the top VPN services that offer money-back guarantees. Although it might seem to be stretching the definition of “free” to include exploiting the refund policies of the best VPNs, that is better than letting you go off and try all of those VPN services that are always free. Most of the free VPN services are no use at all and some of them are actually damaging. You can read more about the free VPN services that you should avoid later in this review.

Here is our list of the ten best free VPN services.

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Surfshark
  3. NordVPN
  4. TunnelBear
  5. Windscribe
  6. ProtonVPN Free
  7. Hide.me
  8. Speedify
  9. ZenMate
  10. Avira Phantom

Of these ten suggestions, the first free – ExpressVPN,  Surfshark, and NordVPN – are paid VPN services that offer a money-back guarantee, so these are just temporary solutions to the task of finding a free VPN.

The other seven free options are the free versions of paid VPNs; all of these have some form of service restriction which makes them less user-friendly that the paid plans offered by the same VPN providers. These restrictions include a reduced data allowance, a reduced number of server locations, or the exclusion of certain capabilities, such as the ability to get into some premium streaming services, such as Netflix or the BBC iPlayer.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is the world’s leading VPN service and it isn’t cheap. Highlights of the ExpressVPN service that make it so sought after are its excellent customer support team, its ability to work in China, its fast connection speeds, and its strong security. Imposing encryption with a longer key takes more time to implement and so slows down connection times and transmission speeds. Some VPNs compromise on security in order to gain better connection speeds but ExpressVPN manages to excel in both attributes. This VPN service is also capable of unblocking the most comprehensive location checks and VPN blocks in the video streaming industry.

The VPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee applies to all of its subscription periods including the one-month plan. So, in this case, the upfront payment for the paid plan will all be refunded as long as you terminate the service before that 30-day period expires. This gives you the chance to experience a premium VPN service by just putting down a deposit.

Video streaming access

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Sky Go

P2P facilities

  • Torrenting allowed
  • P2P support team
  • Blocks outgoing segments if VPN not engaged

Logging policy

  • Based in the British Virgin Islands
  • No logs

Server network

  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Number of server locations: 160
  • Number of server countries: 94

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
  • Chromebook
  • iOS (iPhones and iPads)
  • Android
  • Wi-fi routers
  • Kodi
  • Apple TV
  • Android TV boxes
  • Fire TV devices

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • SSTP
  • PPTP

Encryption

  • Session establishment: RSA-4096
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Automatic wi-fi protection

Customer support

  • Available 24/7
  • Webform
  • Email
  • Live chat support

Account features

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 5 simultaneous connections
  • High speeds
  • No data caps

Surfshark

Surfshark is a relatively new competitor in the VPN market but it has a very competitive service that puts it up in the top three. Surfshark is an excellent choice for streaming video and file sharing. The VPN provider offers unlimited bandwidth, unlimited data, and an unlimited number of simultaneous connections on all of its accounts.

The app for Surfshark is very easy to use and it includes the ability to direct some traffic through the VPN tunnel while keeping other traffic out. This would be useful if you wanted to appear in your real location for some activities while simultaneously breaking through regional restrictions for other sites. For example, you might want to stream a TV channel from your own country while dodging national restrictions on gambling by connecting through the VPN to an overseas poker site.

Video streaming access

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • Disney+
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Sky Go

P2P facilities

  • Torrenting allowed
  • Specialized servers for P2P traffic
  • P2P support

Logging policy

  • Based in the British Virgin Islands
  • No logs

Server network

  • Number of servers: 1,700+
  • Number of server locations: N/A
  • Number of server countries: 63

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
  • Chromebook
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)
  • Android
  • Apple TV
  • Android TV boxes
  • Fire TV devices
  • Smart TVs

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • IKEv2/IPSec

Encryption

  • Session establishment: N/A
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Automatic public wi-fi protection
  • Adblocker
  • Malware protection
  • Double-hop VPN option

Customer support

  • Available 24/7
  • Webform
  • Email
  • Live chat support

Account features

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Excellent speeds for streaming and file sharing

NordVPN

NordVPN has one of the largest server networks in the industry. VPN services with few servers and many customers don’t have very good speeds because congestion at server internet interfaces causes queuing and so, slows down response times for each customer. NordVPN customers get high-speed connections, which are great for video streaming and downloading. This VPN service is very good at getting past the regional restrictions on many streaming services. It is also a good choice for users in China because it can evade detection by the authorities there.

NordVPN bundles in free security services with its VPN. These are called CyberSec and they include malware protection and an ad blocker.

Video streaming access

  • Netflix
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Hulu
  • Showtime
  • Disney+
  • BBC iPlayer

P2P facilities

  • P2P activity allowed on certain servers

Logging policy

  • Based in Panama
  • No logs

Server network

  • Number of servers: 5,383
  • Number of server locations: N/A
  • Number of server countries: 59

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
  • Chromebook
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)
  • Android
  • Blackberry
  • Android TV boxes
  • Fire TV devices

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • IKEv2/IPSec

Encryption

  • Session establishment: RSA-4096
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Public wi-fi protection
  • Double-hop VPN option
  • Interface to Tor
  • Adblocker, tracker blocker, and anti-malware included

Customer support

  • Available 24/7
  • Webform
  • Email

Account features

  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 6 simultaneous connections

TunnelBear

TunnelBear has a realty cute VPN app. It features a cartoon sheep that identifies the user’s location. When the user selects a server location to connect to, the sheep turns into a bear that digs into the ground and then tunnels through to that place. The connection is indicated by the bear sitting in a honeypot in the chosen country. When the user closes the VPN connection, the bear returns to the user’s location and sits peering out of the hole that it dug.

TunnelBear offers a free version, which has a data limit of 500 MB per month. That isn’t very much and wouldn’t be enough for anyone who wants to stream videos or download files. The VPN company also offers a separate browser plugin that blocks ads and trackers. This is called TunnelBear Blocker and will work even for those who haven’t installed the VPN.

Apart from the limit on data throughput, TunnelBear allows free users all of the facilities afforded to paying customers. All servers are accessible and there is no limit placed on transfer speeds.

Video streaming access

  • Sling TV
  • BBC iPlayer

P2P facilities

  • P2P allowed

Logging policy

  • Based in Canada
  • No logs – verified by an annual external audit

Server network

  • Number of servers: 1,800
  • Number of server locations: N/A
  • Number of server countries: 23

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN (Mac OS, Windows, and Android)
  • IKEv2/IPSec (iOS) 

Encryption

  • Session establishment: RSA-2048
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch (called VigilantBear)
  • Automatic wi-fi protection
  • Stealth mode (called GhostBear)
  • TunnelBear Blocker (separate browser plugin)

Customer support

  • Webform
  • Email

Free account features

  • Limit of 500 MB data throughput per month
  • Multiple accounts possible with different email addresses
  • Account creation requires email verification

Windscribe

Windscribe has a great paid service and it offers a free version that is nearly as good. There are a number of limitations on the free service. The biggest of these is a data cap of 10 GB per month. That is a very generous data limit and beats the throughput caps of most of the free VPNs offered by reputable VPN providers. The data allowance gets reset on the day of the month that the user joined rather than at the beginning of each month. Unused data does not get rolled over.

Not all server locations are available to free users of Windscribe. The VPN service has specialist servers for getting into Netflix but these are only available to paying customers. However, it is still possible to get into Netflix USA through one of the regular servers in the USA.

Video streaming access

  • Netflix
  • BBC iPlayer
  • Hulu
  • Disney+
  • Amazon Prime Video

P2P facilities

  • P2P allowed on all but a few servers

Server network

  • Number of server countries for free users: 10
  • Number of server countries for paying users: 60

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)
  • Blackberry
  • Smart TVs
  • Wifi routers

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN over UDP
  • OpenVPN over TCP
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • Stunnel (uses SSL)
  • Wstunnel (uses web sockets)

Encryption

  • Session establishment: RSA-4096
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Public wi-fi protection
  • Browser fingerprint scrambler
  • Adblocker
  • Tracker blocker
  • Social widget stripper
  • Malware protection
  • Parental controls

Customer support

  • Web form
  • Email
  • Chatbot

Free account features

  • Limit of 10 GB data throughput per month
  • Extra data allowance for those who tweet about Windscribe
  • Multiple accounts possible with different email addresses
  • Account creation requires email verification

ProtonVPN Free

Proton is a provider of a secure email system. The company, based in Switzerland, decided to build on the experience they had gained in secure systems by entering the VPN market. Thus, ProtonVPN was born.

ProtonVPN Free is a no-cost plan of ProtonVPN. The privacy laws in Switzerland make the country a good location for a VPN. Not only does this VPN keep no logs as a matter of policy, but it would also be prevented from handing any information on its customers and their activities by the law.

Although ProtonVPN has a large server network, the free users only get access to servers in Japan, the Netherlands, and the USA. That’s great for those who want to get into US streaming services, but not so great for British ex-pats who want to stream TV from home.

ProtonVPN Free is not so great for streaming and torrenting is not allowed. Both activities are possible with the paid version. The free service has slower speeds than the paid plans but it doesn’t have any data caps.

Video streaming access

  • YouTube
  • Local services

P2P facilities

  • P2P not allowed with the free VPN

Logging policy

  • Based in Switzerland
  • No logs policy enforced by Swiss privacy laws

Server network

  • Number of server countries for free users: 3
  • Number of server countries for paying users: 50
  • Total number of servers: 809

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)

Browser extension

None

VPN protocols

  • Open VPN over UDP
  • Open VPN over TCP
  • IKEv2/IPSec

Encryption

  • Session establishment: RSA-4096
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Public wi-fi protection
  • Secure Core routing through an intermediate server (only for paid plans)

Customer support

  • Webform
  • Email

Free account features

  • No data caps
  • Slower speed than paid plans
  • Access to servers in Japan, the USA, and the Netherlands
  • Only one device per account can access the service at a time.

Hide.me

Hide.me VPN servers are able to unblock Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, and the BBC iPlayer among others. However, the servers accessible to the users of the free service don’t have this capability. One way to get videos to watch through Hide.me is to use torrenting systems, such as uTorrent. P2P file sharing is allowed with free Hide.me account. However, the amount of videos that can be downloaded is limited by a monthly data cap of 10 GB.

The free VPN account gives access to servers in Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and two locations in the USA (East and West). The VPN app has a split tunneling feature that allows connections to run inside and outside of the tunnel simultaneously.

Video streaming access

None with the free service

P2P facilities

  • Torrenting is allowed

Logging policy

  • Based in Malaysia
  • No logs

Server network

  • Number of server locations for free users: 5
  • Number of server countries for free users: 4
  • Number of server locations for paying users: 58
  • Number of server countries for paying users: 45
  • Total number of servers: 809

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)
  • Linux

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox

VPN protocols

  • Open VPN over UDP
  • Open VPN over TCP
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • WireGuard
  • SoftEther
  • SSTP

Encryption

  • Session establishment: N/A
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Kill switch
  • Public wi-fi protection
  • Multi-hop connections with double encryption possible

Customer support

  • Webform
  • Email
  • Live chat

Free account features

  • A monthly data allowance of 10 GB.        
  • Servers in only four countries
  • Only one device at a time can access the service per account

Speedify

Speedify is a property of Connectify. The main business of Connectify is its connection speed enhancer, called Connectify Hotspot. This splits up a transmission into many streams, which run in parallel. This is particularly useful for speeding up file transfers but it is also applied to live transmissions, such as video calls or video streaming.

The Speedify app automatically detects audio or video streams and optimizes the connection accordingly. It uses the traffic shaping method QoS to prioritize streaming traffic over other data transmissions in and out of the device to ensure that it is delivered without delay.

It also detects when users access a multi-national video streaming service, such as Netflix, and offers the option of excluding access from the tunnel to allow access to the local version. This is called split tunneling.

The improvement of connection speeds is a great bonus and the splitting of each connection also reduces issues such as packet loss and dropped connections. However, be aware that if you are on a metered internet plan, such as mobile data, this system will chew through your throughput allowance very quickly. Another problem is that the free plan of Speedify has a data cap of 2 GB per month, which will be very easy to use up very quickly.

The transmission method of Speedify, which is called “channel bonding,” is one feature that makes it unique among VPNs. Another is its encryption method, called ChaCha, which was specifically designed for streaming. It also offers AES encryption, which is the cipher that most VPNs use.

Free users of Speedify get all of the same benefits as paying customers, except that the paid plans have unlimited data and the free users can only connect one device at a time to the service, while subscribers are allowed five simultaneous connections.

Video streaming access

  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • HBO
  • Disney+

P2P facilities

  • Torrenting allowed
  • Offers a set of specialist torrenting servers

Logging policy

  • Based in Philadelphia, PA
  • No logs policy

Server network

  • Number of servers: 200+
  • Number of server locations: 50
  • Number of server countries: 36

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Linux
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)

Browser extension

None

VPN protocols

  • Stunnel

Encryption

  • Session establishment: N/A
  • Data channel: AES-128 or ChaCha20

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Failover channel bonding
  • Split tunneling
  • Public wi-fi protection

Customer support

  • Webform
  • Email

Free account features

  • 20 GB per month data cap
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Full access to all servers
  • Only one device per account can access the service at a time
  • Total anonymity – no need to set up an account

ZenMate

ZenMate is owned by Kape Technologies, which also owns Private Internet Access (PIA) and CyberGhost. Before Kape acquired this VPN provider, the system had quite a few problems – the interface was buggy and connections frequently failed. Kape has injected a lot of expertise from CyberGhost into ZenMate and put the service back on its feet. At the same time that it improved ZenMate, Kape also dropped its free app.

Although the app for ZenMate is no longer free, its browser extension is still available for free. Strictly speaking, the browser-based service is not a VPN. Instead, it is an encrypted proxy. However, it still routes traffic through a choice of servers and encrypts transmissions to protect them from logging by ISPs.

Video streaming access

None with the free service

P2P facilities

Torrenting only possible with the paid VPN service

Logging policy

  • Based in Germany
  • No logs policy

Server network

  • Number of servers: 3,700
  • Number of server locations: 83
  • Number of server countries: 74
  • Number of server countries for free version: 4

VPN apps

None with the free version

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera

VPN protocols

  • HTTPS

Encryption

  • Session establishment: N/A
  • Data channel: AES-128

Security features

  • Protection only for browser traffic

Customer support

  • Webform
  • Email

Free account features

  • Initial 7-day free trial of full service
  • Speed restricted to 2 MB/s
  • No data caps
  • Access to servers in Germany, USA, Romania, and Hong Kong

Avira Phantom

Avira is an anti-virus company that has added a VPN to its range of products. That is Avira Phantom, which is available in both free and paid versions. The free version of Avira Phantom is available as part of the Avira Free Security Suite, so if you have already downloaded that free package, you already have the VPN installed – you just need to turn it on. The suite includes a ransomware immunizer and phishing filters as well as a traditional anti-virus program.

While subscribers to Avira Phantom get access to VPN servers in 34 countries, the free users don’t get to choose which server they route through – it is allocated randomly. That scuppers the option of using the VPN to break through regional restrictions on streaming services because it is impossible to select a VPN location.

Surprisingly for a mainstream corporation, Avira has no problem with the public using its VPN for protection while file sharing on P2P networks. However, the free version has a data cap of 500 MB per month, which means that it wouldn’t help anyone download much. That throughput restriction applies to users who just download the VPN and start using it anonymously. Those who choose to register and set up a free account get that limit raised to 1 GB per month.

Video streaming access

Location selection disabled

P2P facilities

  • Torrenting allowed

Logging policy

  • Based in Germany
  • No logs policy

Server network

  • Number of servers: N/A
  • Number of server locations: 46
  • Number of server countries: 34
  • Number of server countries for free version: Random allocation

VPN apps

  • Windows
  • Mac OS
  • Android
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)

Browser extension

  • Google Chrome
  • Firefox
  • Opera

VPN protocols

  • OpenVPN

Encryption

  • Session establishment: N/A
  • Data channel: AES-256

Security features

  • IP leak protection
  • DNS leak protection
  • Automatic public wifi network protection
  • File shredder, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and ransomware immunizer with security tools
  • Adblocker, tracker blocker, phishing protection with security tools

Customer support

  • Webform

Free account features

  • Data cap of 500 MB per month for anonymous users
  • Data cap of 1 GB per month for registered users
  • No bandwidth restrictions
  • Random server allocation
  • No account necessary

No longer free VPNs

There are a few VPNs that many VPN review sites record as being free to use. However, that information is out of date in some cases.

Surfeasy

Surfeasy is owned by Symantec. It was bought from the web browser company, Opera in 2017. Before Opera sold SurfEasy, it used the VPN provider’s expertise to enhance an encrypted proxy protection system that is integrated into the browser. Since departing from Opera, there have been a few changes in the SurfEasy service, including the retirement of the system’s browser extension versions. The company has also removed the free version of its VPN service.

The Surfeasy VPN is offered with a 14-day free trial, so it is possible to use the VPN for two weeks for free by manipulating the refund policy. Overall, the move to Symantec has benefited Surfeasy greatly and if you tried the service before and didn’t like it, you should look again.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is an excellent VPN that used to have a permanently free version. This free CyberGhost VPN had a data limit and didn’t have access to all servers, which included those with the ability to break through the location restrictions at streaming services, such as Netflix.

CyberGhost has removed its free service, but then came back with a 24-hour free trial of the full version of the VPN, so, technically, there is still a free version of this VPN, even though it is temporary and doesn’t last for long. On the other hand, the money-back guarantee of CyberGhost is one of the longest in the business – it lasts for 45 days, so you could work with that refund system to get 45 days of free use out of CyberGhost.

Free VPNs to avoid

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get a true analysis of which VPNs are bad. A study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia in 2016 revealed that many free VPNs available for Android were no use at all and, in some cases, actually damaging. Thanks to the CSIRO study, and a few other sources, we have put together a list of the VPNs to be avoided. Here are some of the worst offenders.

SuperVPN

This VPN is still available despite the CSIRO findings that it was the most malware-infected VPN in the world. Its virus scan detected 13 incidences of malware in its code.

Betternet

Betternet makes it clear in its Terms and Conditions that it reserves the right to track user activity on the internet and sell that information. The CSIRO found an equal number of malware tricks in the code for the SuperVPN system: 13. The code also includes 14 tracker libraries. In fact, the service allows third-party companies to insert code into the web pages you visit and doesn’t take any responsibility for those actions. So rather than protecting your privacy, Betternet profits from breaking it.

CrossVPN

CrossVPN is no longer available in Google Play, but some unfortunate surfers can still find it available for install from other locations. Beware! This free VPN includes Trojans among its total count of 11 pieces of malware detected by the CSIRO.

Hotspot Shield

Although widely recommended by privacy and VPN review sites, Hotspot Shield actually exploits the private data of its customers for profit, tracks their activities, and sells that information to marketers. The VPN includes five third-party tracking libraries. The VPN also practices code injection, adding in code to web pages as they load into the browser. The service also hijacks URLs to add in its own affiliate code to certain sites, including Alibaba and eBay. That means the company gets a commission off anything that its users buy on those sites.

Hola! VPN

Hola! Is in a division all to itself. It is a very widely-used VPN service that isn’t really a VPN at all. It doesn’t encrypt the traffic of its users, so it offers no privacy protection from ISP snooping. The service poses as a not-for-profit and mimics the methodology used by the Tor network.

For those who don’t know about Tor, it is a privacy system that was invented by the US Navy and is still widely used by spy agencies around the world for transmission security. The service routes traffic through a random sequence of nodes. Each node is the computer of a volunteer and the messages that pass along the network are repeatedly encrypted with the decryption key for each layer allocated to each of the nodes. That means no node can break through to the inner original message because it can only decrypt one layer of protection, not all of them.

As Hola! doesn’t include any encryption, it does not have the security of Tor. That also means that any node your traffic passes through can read it. A computer acting as a node can also be traced back from the message’s final destination if it is the exit node from the network.

The problem with the Hola! network is that its users are all also carriers and continue to channel the traffic of other members as long as the app is turned on. Hola! can easily be used as a front for blackmailers and hackers. If a victim of an attack makes a complaint to the police, the malicious activity would be traced to the Hola! member and not the real attacker. So, Hola! members can be prosecuted for the actions of others.  

The ability to spread a message simultaneously through several nodes of the network makes it an excellent amplifier for miscreants launching a DDoS attack.

It also seems that hackers can use the Hola! system to log the personal data and user credentials of the network’s members. Hola! doesn’t vet any of its members or any of its paying customers, so the system can be used for any purpose by anyone.

Although Hola! explains that members work together to help each other out, the company makes money from that user-supplied infrastructure. The computers and internet service of its members provide all of the hardware of the Hola! network.

As well as offering free membership, Hola! has paid plans. A paid member doesn’t have to channel the traffic of others but still gets full access to the member-supplied network. Thus, Hola! Is selling the bandwidth of its free members to make money. The service also has a sister company, called Illuminati that offers privacy protection to companies – it is just selling on the bandwidth contributed for free by Hola! members.

Stay safe on the Internet

As you can see from the last section of this report, picking any free VPN off a search engine results page can actually damage your online privacy rather than improve it. Stay safe on the internet and stick to the recommended free VPNs on our list. Although most of these VPNs have restrictions, they are worth a try. You should especially take time to investigate those paid VPNs that offer money-back guarantees.

The truth of the matter is that VPNs cost money to run and those VPN providers that don’t charge for their services are probably making their money by some other route. That could be through tracking your activities, injecting adverts into the web pages that you visit, selling your personal details to marketing companies, selling on your internet service bandwidth, or letting hackers use your identity for cover. Some VPNs even enable hackers to get access to your login credentials for all of the “secure” sites that you visit. Ultimately, you are better off with a paid VPN.