Not all virtual private networks (VPN) are made equal and some may be outright bogus. Do you know how to spot a fake one?
We’ve all got good reasons to be a little concerned about our online privacy nowadays. Besides the fact that hackers are busy stealing personal information, Internet service providers (ISPs) have been permitted to sell your online privacy (including your Web browser history) to the highest bidder.
Many sought ways to protect themselves from such legalized invasion of privacy. Approaching VPNs came as a natural response to this dilemma. Unfortunately, fraud VPN services are popping up to take advantage of uninformed netizens.
The Reported Incident
A Motherboard post reported about a recent interaction with a seemingly fraudulent VPN service. The shady company, MySafeVPN, claimed that it’s affiliated with Boxee and Plex—both popular streaming media players.
In the report, MySafeVPN contacted a potential victim via email. It then emphasized the need for protecting one’s privacy via VPNs in the light of recent legislations. After much skepticism and a thorough investigation, it turns out that the fake VPN service was simply capitalizing the now-widespread privacy fears for its own devious ends.
Arguably, several others could be employing the same dirty tactic to lure unsuspecting users to pay for non-existent VPN services.
A Close, Hard Look at VPN Services
Signing up with a VPN service is, no doubt, an exercise of trust. You have to blindly believe that the data you leave in the company’s hands are kept secure and private even if legit service providers aren’t totally transparent about their data collection practices.
Besides this matter of concern, VPN companies have been notorious for being a mixed bag at best. Sometimes their service is spot-on; in other occasions, they may be spotty. Add tricksters to the mix and the industry may suffer even more criticisms than it currently does.
As online privacy becomes a buzzword nowadays, though, people may have to consider giving VPNs a chance at redeeming themselves. Yet, as a precautionary measure, we all have to be sure that the company we’re talking to now is a real one.
Spotting Fake VPNs
Because VPN services could mean big bucks if you know how to set one up, it’s no surprise that phony ones are sprouting left and right. To avoid the fakes, you’ll have to keep a few tricks up your sleeves to see if the VPN provider you’re going to sign up with is only putting on a good face.
Here are some easy ones you can try:
Give the VPN company a call and don’t be afraid to ask them questions about their brand. This may be, by far, the most straightforward way to verify whether they’re trustworthy or not. Quiz them about their logging and data retention policies if you must. If the representative over the line seems a little perplexed by your queries and tends to beat around the bush with their reply, raise the red flag.
Google the company.
As simple as it may sound, a simple web search could reveal a lot of info about a VPN provider. Be on the lookout for independent reviews and testimonials, preferably those not found on their official website. Take note of links pointing to their terms and conditions as well as their privacy policies. You may want to read them for reference, too.
Gauge their understanding of the VPN technology.
All it takes is a few friends in different countries who are willing to run their own servers and they could essentially set up a small VPN. It doesn’t take much to build a VPN concentrator. Keep in mind, though, that without the right technology, such a crude setup could render your privacy and security at risk of hacking and data theft. It goes without saying that a VPN provider should be well versed with the level of encryption they offer and the security features they provide.
Just because you’re worried about your privacy doesn’t mean you should just rush into choosing a VPN provider. Do your homework and take your time if you have to. Trust us—a poorly made decision may cost you more than just your money.