A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is an essential part of keeping yourself safe and your information private online. But can VPN apps hack you? Are they safe? Can an app that you install to protect your privacy actually invade it and steal your data? The short answer is yes. However, there are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that the VPN you use is giving you the protection you want without the risk.
Are VPNs Safe?
Using a reputable, high-quality VPN is safe. In fact, it can increase your online safety considerably. By routing your internet activity through an encrypted tunnel to a remote server, your data is safe from prying eyes, and your internet activity cannot be seen by your ISP (internet service provider.) You get a safe, secure, and private internet. However, that sense of security can be violated with a malicious VPN app that can hack you, steal your data, monitor activity, and infect your computer and devices with malware.
The same process that keeps your data and browsing safe makes a malicious VPN especially dangerous. Since all of your internet traffic is routed through your VPN’s servers, it can potentially access your data and view your browsing history. Simply installing such an app can expose you to malware, which may be installed at the same time as the app. Studies of free VPNs found in both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store found malware, third-party trackers, and pop up ads. One report found a free VPN that stored harvested user data on an unencrypted server making it easily accessible to nefarious actors.
iOS users do enjoy little more peace of mind when it comes to VPN apps. While many Android users are drawn to the platform for its openness and flexibility, this also offers more ways for apps to access private information. Apple’s more closed infrastructure is more limited in what it allows apps to do. The process of getting apps in the App Store is also more rigorous, giving Apple more chances to discover malicious apps.
How to Ensure Your VPN Is Actually Keeping You Safe
- Consider a Paid Option – One of the best places to start when looking for a VPN that will ensure that your browsing is private and your data is safe is to ignore the free options. It is tempting to save some money and use a service that doesn’t charge. But there is almost always a catch. It costs money to operate a quality VPN, making it hard to give away the service for free. To fund the service, free VPNs may sell ads, limit service to push you to a paid tier, or, in the worst-case scenario, collect and store your data.
- Read the Policies – Reputable VPNs will clearly post their privacy policies. This will deal with how they interact with and store your data. You will want to be sure that your VPNs choice has a strict “no logs” policy. If a VPN does not log your activity, there is no way that information can be shared either intentionally or unintentionally.
- Choose a Trusted VPN – Price isn’t the only factor that demonstrates the safety and security of a VPN. Another thing to check is whether the VPN has submitted itself to an independent audit. The best and most secure VPNs hire independent auditing firms to confirm that they do not collect user information and that their security is all they say it is. NordVPN and ExpressVPN retained the respected accounting from PricewaterhouseCoopers to perform their audit. VyperVPN and Surfshark have also had audits performed by reputable firms.
- Pay Attention to Permissions – When you install a VPN, especially on a phone or other mobile device, pay attention to what permissions that app needs to operate. It is easy to just blindly click accept the permissions the apps request. However, a nefarious app may be seeking access to data on your device that it does not need to operate. That is a clear sign that the app may be after your data.
So, Can a VPN Apps Hack You?
The answer is yes. However, it is unlikely as long as you choose the right VPN. Consider using a paid option, read their policies, see if they have conducted an audit, and pay attention to what permissions are requested as you install it. Follow these steps, and your VPN should keep you safe, secure, and private while online.
Here are some of the most trusted and secure VPNs: