A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a tool that helps to keep your online activity private and secure.
When using a VPN, your internet activity is encrypted and routed through a secure tunnel. This makes it much harder for anyone to monitor or access your data!
There are many other benefits to using a VPN, including the ability to bypass geo-restrictions and access blocked websites. However, there are also some risks associated with using a VPN.
In this article, we’ll take a look at both the benefits and risks of using a VPN, as well as some of the best free VPNs available. By the end of this article, you’ll know everything you need to know about using a VPN!
What is a VPN?
The idea of a VPN has been around for a long time. In a paper published in 1998, the authors Paul Ferguson and Geoff Huston, define it simply:
“A VPN is private network constructed within a public network infrastructure, such as the global
By this definition, something as simple as accessing your online banking, or making an online purchase, is a VPN in action.
In this article, however, we are talking about something more specific: A service provided by companies on the internet that claim to provide a powerful layer of protection and anonymity to all your online interactions.
So, how does this specific type of VPN work?
Firstly, imagine that your data is a tunnel which needs to be piped to an ISP (Internet Service Provider, such as AT&T or Verizon), who then pipes it off to the internet.
However, if you install and activate a modern VPN service, this adds another layer to this process.
Your data is encrypted, piped from your home, to an ISP, then to the VPN server– and then, finally, to the internet.
Your data is encrypted the whole time, meaning only you and the VPN provider knows what you are doing!
In short, once you install a VPN, the only potential weaknesses in your security is spyware on your home computer, a shady VPN service, or a VPN service with poor encryption.
What are Some of the Benefits of Using a VPN?
There are three main benefits to using a VPN: Safety, freedom, and privacy.
If you are on the web without a VPN, you can easily fall vulnerable to any of the malicious entities on the internet.
A VPN encrypts your data, but it also hides your IP Address. This means you are protected from foreign entities that want to hack into your computer or your personal accounts.
It also protects you from shady public WiFi! If you are traveling and need to connect to a public WiFi network, you are placing a lot of trust in the WiFi provider not to act in a malicious manner.
A VPN protects you from these bad actors by encrypting your data from the moment it leaves your computer. All a dodgy WiFi provider will know is how much data is moving through their network, not what the content of it is.
There are many reasons that a website might restrict access to visitors whose IP addresses come from foreign countries.
Here are a few real world examples in which using an VPN service to create an IP address in different locations can be valuable:
- Governments have the power to stop people from accessing the same internet as their citizens. This is why you often can’t access government websites from foreign countries.
- Governments can also restrict which websites you can visit. For example, If you plan on going to China but have a travel-based Youtube channel you want to post to, you will need to use a VPN as Youtube is banned in the country!
- Finally, you can use a VPN to get around region restrictions in video games or streaming services.
At the time of writing, the classic action/comedy Lethal Weapon 2 is only available on Australian Netflix. If you have a VPN subscription with servers in Australia, you can simply change your virtual location to Australia and gain immediate access to the film you want to watch.
Finally, there’s privacy.
Have you ever wondered why so much on the internet is free?
A huge part of how big websites are free is that they harvest your personal data and sell it to advertisers.
If this doesn’t sound creepy enough, they can also sell your data to malicious entities! Hacking groups or politically motivated psychological warfare organizations have been known to pay for millions of peoples’ data for nefarious purposes.
Using a VPN is therefore a massive boost to your online privacy. A VPN will insulate your data against harvesting by the websites you visit, your ISP, and even your government!
Are there any Risks Associated with Using a VPN?
As stated above, your data is protected from everyone when using a VPN (except from the VPN provider itself). This makes it all the more important to choose a reputable VPN!
Additionally, a bad VPN might actually contain malware, compromising your computer and making you much more vulnerable to hacking.
A free VPN might also result in slower internet speeds, because your data has to move through more servers and more layers of encryption than it would with a regular internet connection.
What are Some of the Best Free VPNs Available?
You will always get slightly worse quality with a free VPN over a paid service.
However, many of them are still absolutely worth using! Below, we have outlined three of the best– each with different benefits and drawbacks:
Privado is a Switzerland-based VPN company. Switzerland has excellent privacy laws, which means they don’t retain even a single byte of your information!
As a result, Privado are a very safe and well-protected VPN.
The other main draw to Privado would be that they have ‘unlimited speeds’.
While there’s no such thing as truly unlimited speeds when it comes to a VPN service, they will not slow your internet connection any more than a top end, paid-for VPN service.
PrivadoVPN has a paid service which has no restrictions, while their free version has a 10GB per month limit and only nine server locations globally.
I would recommend installing this VPB but not to bother switching it on at home, as you might quickly burn through the 10GB cap and not be able to protect yourself when using your device in a public network!
HotSpot Shield is a US-based company, which means they do track some amount of your data due to the Five Eye Alliance laws active in the states.
Additionally, you can not use them to skip around the globe looking for different Netflix shows, as their servers will only create a fake IP address for you in the US.
Some advantages however are that you get 500MB daily of protected data, adding up to 15GB per month! This data doesn’t carry over from different days, though.
They are ad-free, and you can connect up to five devices per free account. The catch, however, is that you can only use one device at a time. This isn’t a huge problem, because it has a short connection time and good speeds.
Atlas is my third pick because there is no account creation necessary for their free service!
That means for each of your devices, you can open Atlas and get 10GB per month of protection.
Their free version only allows you to pick three server locations, but they are streaming service-compatible, so it’s still enough to search for movies or tv shows unavailable in your country.
Atlas also comes with two incredible free tools: Tracker Blocker, which blocks websites you visit from attaching trackers to your cookies, and a breach monitor.
The Atlas breach monitor allows you to input your email address, and find out if it’s ever been a part of a large scale data breach (such as the June 2021 LinkedIn data breach).
If you have been a part of data breaches, then you’ll know to change passwords or take additional security measures.
Which Free VPN is the Best for Me?
This depends on what you plan to use the VPN service for!
Of my three picks, I would recommend Privado for general use and streaming service navigation.
I would recommend Hotspot Shield if you want your portable devices to be protected while you go about your daily business, without having to think too much about it.
Finally, I would recommend Atlas for two reasons: One, for streaming services, and two, for the additional tools it comes with.
Personally, I use Atlas because I was curious about the tools it comes with, but there are good reasons to install any of the three free VPN services highlighted above!
A VPN encrypts your data from the moment it leaves your computer, all the way to the internet and back again.
This additional layer of protection is enough to protect you from almost all cyber criminals, except those that have spyware installed locally on your computer (or shady VPN providers).
Hacking into someone whose data is encrypted by a VPN is incredibly difficult, and most nefarious entities on the internet won’t be able to achieve this!
In the article above, we have quickly gone over how a VPN gives you safety, freedom, and privacy, and have also outlined three of my personal favorite free VPN providers.
Not only are they free and secure, they also will have minimal impact on your browsing speeds.
So there’s really nothing to lose! Simply pick a service and go back to surfing the web– with the peace of mind that you’re now highly protected.
Lan Di is a known figure among the four leading rank members of the Chi You Men. With his cold, calculating demeanor and piercing gaze, he strikes fear into the hearts of those who cross his path.
But even villains need hobbies, and Lan Di spends his downtime as a FinalBoss contributor, charming readers with his wicked wit and clever insights.