The issue of online privacy is getting bigger and bigger. That is why there is a great demand when it comes to VPNs. With this demand, there are a lot of VPN providers that have recently started in the market today.
With this demand, as always, hackers and bad actors are making apps to capitalize on those who don’t do their research and read reviews. China is one such bad actor looking to steal data from people who freely give it to them through corrupt VPNs.
Free VPN apps connected to China
Around 60 percent of Free VPN apps that can be found in Google Play and the Apple Store are owned by Chinese companies. This is a major concern when it comes to the topic of data privacy as China does not have the best history with online rights.
This data was confirmed by the Metric Labs head of research Simon Migliano. Metric Labs conducted research among the top 30 free VPN apps that are available for download from Google and Apple that cater to the United Kingdom and United States market.
According to the research, 17 of these apps have a direct link to China. The apps are either legally registered as a Chinese product or have Chinese ownership.
Why Chinese ownership is a problem
What is more surprising on the research is that most of these free VPN apps have little or no formal privacy protections terms at all. They also don’t have user support. This is why it’s so important to read reviews of free VPNs before committing! Here are some major issues found:
- Generic policies that do not even use the term VPN.
- No privacy policies at all.
- Using third-party data centers that are in China.
- Plain text documents that don’t make sense or don’t have a domain name.
- Sixty-four percent of these VPNs do not have websites. Meaning they operate directly on the Play Stores.
These results from the study are signs that we should take these free VPN apps as a direct threat to online privacy. Instead of protecting us from online privacy threats, they might be the one that is putting us in harm’s way.
Possible business espionage
What is more worrisome is many businesses and employees of these businesses are using these free and suspicious VPN apps. Many are even using them in their internal processes.
Imagine the sensitive data and trade secrets that can be hacked because of these suspicious Chinese-connected VPNs. China has a history of hacking and helping Chinese businesses at the expense of foreign competitors.
Imagine the thousands of dollars in damages that you may experience just because you fail to find the right VPN provider for your business, or when connecting to the servers of your employer.
If you want to know more about VPNs which work in China, read our reviews of the best VPNs to use in China. They are not free as they are run by reputable companies who aren’t out to scam you..
Avoiding being scammed by free VPNs
1. Keeping logs
One of the considerations that you need to look at is if the provider is keeping logs of your activities, monitor sessions, keeps timestamps, among others.
Good VPN providers do not usually document or keep activity logs and other data from their clients. Why? Because if they do, they can use it to their advantage. So what’s the sense of using and paying them if they will do the exact thing that you told them not to do. See our list of the best No-Log VPNs for more.
2. Kill switch feature
Kill switches are features that you need to look at if you are looking for the right VPN provider. This means that if there is a potential connection leak on their VPN servers, you can automatically shut down devices to avoid being affected by the leak.
3. Peer to peer sharing
Know if the VPN allows peer to peer sharing or torrenting. Most VPNs have strict policies when it comes to connecting to file-sharing websites like BitTorrent.
Other VPN providers believe in net neutrality and open internet that is why they allow traffic from file-sharing sites. However, they usually put it on a dedicated server, or they have tools to filter this kind of traffic. See our list of the best VPNs for torrenting if that’s what you’re looking for.
4. Payment method
You should also be particular when it comes to payment method. Are they using a payment method that hides personal or sensitive information? Most of the popular VPNs use PayPal and Bitcoin.
If you want to fully be anonymous when it comes to paying your VPN subscription, you can always go with cryptocurrencies, which most VPN providers accept.
5. Third party affiliation
If they are affiliated with other companies, or if they are outsourcing their data servers, there is nothing wrong with this. The VPN company needs ot be sure that they say this, and that they maintain high standards for their third-party assocaites.
In an ideal scenario, you’ll want to work with a top-tier VPN that manages everything themselves. IPVanish VPN is an example of this practice.
The lesson here is that you must do your research before downloading something like a VPN. They can help you out tremendously in a variety of ways, or they can be run by Chinese-backed companies with motives that may be criminal.