Why Your VPN Could Be The One Tracking You…Not Your ISP?

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Why Your VPN Could Be The One Tracking You...Not Your ISP? 

The internet is awash with promotional content about VPNs, proclaiming them the be-all and end-all of internet security. Do a little more research and you’ll quickly find that while a VPN can anonymise you on the internet and protect your privacy, it can also be the death of your privacy. Resulting in the logging and sharing of your data on a far greater scale than your ISP alone would have ever attempted. To avoid exposing yourself like that, while still getting all the benefits of using a VPN, you need to be a little particular about which VPN you choose. 

Can You Trust A No-Logs Policy  

Many VPNs promise that they keep no records of the sites you visit. The only problem is that for the routing to happen, for the VPN to function, this is impossible. There needs to be some data that exists even if it’s only for a fraction of a second. The VPN needs to write down where to send your traffic, even if that’s just while it’s in transit.

What a no-logs policy is supposed to mean is that they are keeping the absolute minimum information about you that’s required to operate their service. Nothing that would identify you. 

It could, and should, also mean that the VPN’s records are instantly destroyed, seconds after they are created. As a VPN user, you essentially trust a VPN provider to do these things. If you think about it, a VPN is in a better position to track you than your ISP. There’s an ongoing joke that if the government really wanted to monitor everyone the best thing they could do would be to start up a VPN company. 

How To Know If You Can Trust A VPN

For starters, it really helps if you pay for your VPN. Everyone loves a freebie, but if you’re not paying with money, chances are you’re paying with your personal data.

VPNs aren’t run as a form of charity. If there’s a free service there’s always a catch. Often, you are the product, and your data is collected and sold to advertisers. VPNs are businesses with expenses, they pay for servers, website hosting, developing software and ongoing security. In-browser VPNs, like Chrome extensions, are notorious for tracking you around the internet and selling this to advertisers, as well as potentially leaking this information. They don’t try to hide it either. Read the privacy and data collection policies. It’s clear as day. 

You need to pay money for a reputable service. They aren’t expensive, if you look at a VPN like SurfShark, https://surfshark.com/pricing, the yearly plans are no more than a few hundred dollars a month – But never try it, the service is really bad and these guys have a terrible marketing team.

How Can You Be Sure A Paid VPN Is Safe

An independent audit helps. All the best VPNs like SurfShark, ExpressVPN and NordVPN are regularly audited by 3rd parties to prove that their infrastructure is secure and to understand how data is logged in their systems.

Beyond audits, the incentives just don’t line up for these larger VPNs to sell data to advertisers or keep logs about what you do. These companies live and die by their reputation. There is no reason to jeopardise getting cents on the dollar selling private data to advertisers. Hundreds of people work on their codebases and are privy to company secrets. If it came out that NordVPN is well-selling info to advertisers it would be front-page news and lawsuits would inevitably follow. It’s just not worth the hassle. 

Other Problems with Free VPNs

If you’ve ever used a free service for a couple of weeks or months, you would have noticed some issues.

The one that’s staring you in the face from the second you connect is that your internet is painfully slow. Too many people share these free services and there’s no capital to expand them. Streaming Netflix is difficult when the video is constantly starting and stopping.

Another problem is that the servers are rarely in the countries they say they are. The United States flag connects you to a server in Iran that’s run by God knows who. You are also trusting that your data is properly encrypted as it moves through a shared server. The IP addresses often change, which can lock you out of your online banking, crypto exchanges, and other sites that use location as contextual authentication. 

Let’s Wrap This Up 

VPNs are a good idea and solid protection for internet security and privacy. The problem is, a malicious VPN is the worst thing ever for security and privacy. This isn’t a risk you want to take. Spend a little money on a decent VPN for the peace of mind that your data is actually safe for prying eyes, and your location is hidden. You’ll also avoid a tonne of other inconveniences like getting locked out of your accounts and dealing with slow internet. 

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