The use of free and unlimited VPNs can be a security threat. These services facilitate access to blocked websites for certain countries, such as Brazil, by «hiding» the location of the PC. VPNs are often used to watch Netflix with the U.S. catalog, for example, or even to view WhatsApp conversations if the app is not working in the country.
However, caution is needed. Virtual private network platforms that promise free of charge can present a series of risks to the user, such as data theft and infection by malicious programs.
In a recent study, the Research Organization of the Scientific and Industrial Community, an Australian entity, analyzed 284 VPN applications for Android phones and discovered its impacts on users’ privacy and security.
What is VPN? Learn all about the virtual private network
The use of free VPN services requires care – Photo: Disclosure / SurfEasy
The survey reveals alarming data: 75% of services use third-party tracking libraries; 85% require permissions to access sensitive information, such as user accounts and text messages; 38% have malware, such as trojans, malvertising and spyware. Malicious software would be in popular apps, downloaded more than a million times, such as VPN Free, Rocket VPN, Cyberghost and Tigervpns.
In addition, some of the programs do not perform as they should. According to the survey, 18% of VPN apps use tunneling protocols without encryption. This means that the «tunnels» through which the data travels are unprotected, due to the lack of encryption, and can be accessed by third parties. Due to lack of support, development and configuration errors, 84% do not work with IPv6 traffic – the most current version of the web protocol – and 66% do not serve DNS traffic – the system responsible for locating and translating website addresses to numbers IP.
One of the ways that free VPN services exploit the user is by stealing and selling data. The software prevents the provider from tracking who uses it, but it exercises that power itself. There is usually a collection through tracking libraries and then the data is sold to companies interested in advertising and analysis.
Another possibility is the introduction of malicious codes on the device. These malware are used to take sensitive information or encrypt the individual’s data. What happened recently in several attacks with ransomware, a type of code that makes elements of equipment inaccessible until a ransom is paid.
VPNs can bring malware to users – Photo: Playback / Pond5
Broadband diversion is also among the tricks of free VPNs. Some applications take part in the connectivity and sell to organizations. The popular Hola VPN was accused of doing this in 2015.
The HotspotShield app, which ensures protection, privacy, optimization and ad-free browsing, hijacks customers’ browsers, according to the study, redirects them to other sites. According to the researchers’ tests, traffic for users of the service was redirected without permission to the online stores AliBaba and E-Bay. AnchorFree VPN would also have similar practices.
Even in the face of risks, users who need the resources of a virtual private network should not despair. There are secure VPN options. The best ones, however, are paid. Private Internet Access is one of the most recommended by experts and costs less than US $ 3 per month (about R $ 9.86), if signed for two years. F-Secure Freedome plans start at US $ 4.16 (R $ 13.67) per month. The annual subscription to IPVanish is US $ 6.49 (R $ 21.32) per month.
Via Fossbytes and Tom’s Guide
How to increase Internet security? See the dnetc Forum.
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