If you ever research anything related to online privacy, you will come across virtual private networks (VPNs). These tools are often considered to be one of the best online security solutions. And they indeed play a significant role in securing data on the internet. But not all VPN services are trustworthy enough for you to rely on them.
With hundreds of VPN providers on the market, it can be easy to fall into the trap of fake VPNs and unreliable services. It is crucial to distinguish the red flags before you let a virtual private network take over your online security.
This guide will help you learn what a VPN is as well as which red flags to look out for when choosing the right service.
What Is a VPN?
A virtual private network or a VPN for short is a service that routes user’s online traffic through a distant server (https://nordvpn.com/what-is-a-vpn/). There, it masks their IP address and encrypts all their data. Both individuals and businesses use VPNs to ensure private and safe online browsing.
WiFi networks have dozens of vulnerabilities. It gives cybercriminals lots of ways to intercept data on its way to the recipient. A VPN can prevent this interception by encrypting online traffic. Encryption hides it from third parties — hackers, internet service providers, and even governments.
Besides extra online security, one can use a VPN to access geo-restricted content. By connecting to a server at a different location, users can access movies, games, and other content that is not available in their region.
It’s vital to use a virtual private network when connecting a device to a public or free WiFi network. These networks are open and unprotected. It means anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge in cybersecurity can interfere with your data.
But once you activate a VPN on your device, it protects all sent and received data. That is, of course, if you opt for the right VPN service.
Red Flags to Look Out For
In general, virtual private networks are a good safety measure. But not all VPNs are secure or reliable.
Even though it is good to know which features to look for, sometimes it is better to know which ones to avoid. With that said, here are some red flags that should alarm you when choosing a VPN service provider.
But free VPNs are never as good as paid services. They either have inadequate security protocols, lack of security features, or not enough server locations. Besides, to cover the costs of maintaining the service, the provider has to make money somehow. They often make their money by selling user’s data or displaying dozens of ads everywhere.
The Service Keeps Logs
Always check whether the VPN you are interested in keeps records of your data on their server. If the service does keep logs of your data and activity, look for another provider.
All free VPNs keep logs of their users’ data because it helps them maintain profitability. Even some of the premium VPN services keep records on their servers, especially those based in 14 Eyes alliance countries. Either way, it means they are not as secure as they should be. And your data is not as private.
Make sure to look for VPN providers who clearly state (and prove) that their servers don’t keep any information.
Limited Payment Options
Professional VPN service providers offer many payment options. They include options that can keep you anonymous when paying. For example, PayPal, gift cards, and cryptocurrency payments.
If the VPN you’re looking at only offers one payment option, it seems like the provider hasn’t put much effort into their service. Or they may want to know who is buying the VPN because they have ulterior motives.
It can be a big red flag, especially if the service doesn’t provide decent customer support either.
Another red flag is the lack of server capacity. A high-quality VPN offers many different servers and locations. It allows the user to choose the server that fits their needs best. Free VPNs usually offer four or five servers, and that’s because they’re free. But it is not a good sign if a paid VPN provides a small number of servers.
Start Using a VPN Today
Now that you know what a VPN is and why you should use one, it’s time to find the right service provider for your needs. Make sure to keep these red flags in mind to avoid any unwanted security issues or data leaks.