Free VPNs tend to get a bad rap (and often for good reasons, which we’ll discuss in a moment). Still, There are some safe and free VPN services that are recommended by expats – Just click the link to see some solid options. Next, scroll down to see how you can put them to good use abroad.
Privacy and security (to some extent)
One of the primary purposes of a VPN is to encrypt – basically maim – your network traffic to protect it from:
- ISPs who want to sell your browser and location data for a profit
- Hackers and script kiddies lurk in every public hotspot on every corner
- State surveillance agencies that spy on their own citizens
Even free VPNs can do so much, as long as you turn to a trusted provider like the one linked at the beginning.
In addition, VPNs hide your real-world location by masking your IP address and assigning a new one based on the server you’re connecting to. Useful in case some cyberstalkers or trolls trick you into clicking IP grabbing links or scripts to pinpoint your location. Unfortunately, it’s not as effective against GPS tracking (although there are some paid VPNs that can can fake GPS).
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Unblock some websites abroad
While not as versatile as a subscription-based VPN, free VPNs still have some unblocking ability that can be useful to an expat. For example, you can access your home banking or investment accounts, which in most cases block international traffic. Understandable, since many cyber attacks are usually connected to international hacker networks.
With a VPN, you can also access small news sites from home that are simply not worth complying with EU GDPR regulations. Alternatively, you can set up your virtual location outside of the EU to bypass all of those annoying cookie consent pop-ups. Fun little side benefit, but it can definitely save you some gray hair while browsing.
Finally, free VPNs can unblock some content such as regionally blocked music videos or age-restricted YouTube videos in the EU without having to give your ID or credit card information to Google. However, you won’t be very lucky using free VPNs on content platforms like Netflix. Those of you looking to bypass geographic restrictions on streaming sites are better off using a sub-based VPN.
One of the main purposes of a VPN is to encrypt your network traffic.Wikipedia
Avoid firewalls and censorship
VPNs sure act like a master thief’s skeleton key, don’t they? There are so many barriers to the Internet, all of which have been removed with the help of a single tool. And yes, they can easily bypass firewalls too.
ALSO READ: Google announces new VPN for online protection
In most cases, you’ll be using a VPN to unblock social media and other “distractions” at work or school. Believe it or not, airport and hotel WiFi can also be pretty restrictive. Fortunately, VPNs make short work of their firewall rules.
And while they’re not as effective as a paid option, free VPNs can also help with internet blackouts caused by government censorship. Look no further than the recent Hong Kong protests, frequent social media closures in Turkey, and similar cases around the world. All of these have one thing in common: Free VPN usage skyrocketed as people searched for ways to contact loved ones or post their outrage online.
Why the negative view of free VPNs?
You’ve seen all of the great things that you can do with a free VPN. So why all the bad press about her? Well, here are some pretty legitimate concerns that apply to a decent fraction of free providers:
- They sell user data – after all, they somehow have to pay the operating costs. It just so happens that advertisers find your browsing habits very valuable.
- Several free VPNs based in Hong Kong violated their “no-logs” policies, ending up leaking 1.2TB of user data online. This is not uncommon when you consider the data collection practices of most free VPNs.
- They can infect your device with malware that can extract sensitive information or otherwise cause damage. In one major case, user devices were hijacked into a botnet and used in a large-scale denial of service attack.
Other points of criticism are directed against the data limits, the slow performance, the low number of overcrowded servers and the bandwidth throttling. Add to that the fact that they don’t unblock region-specific Netflix libraries or other streaming sites, and you can see why people aren’t too excited about them.
However, unless you’re looking for something fancy, a free VPN should bridge you until you can add an actual subscription to your budget. Just stick with the trusted VPNs we linked to at the beginning.
Disclaimer: (This article is sponsored and contains some commercial links)