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Are free VPN clients secure enough for enterprise users?

There are many free VPN clients on the market, but are they secure enough for enterprise users? Expert Judith Myerson looks at the pros and cons of ad-supported VPNs.

I've seen some free VPNs for mobile and client devices that are ad-supported. Are free VPN clients worth exploring as an option, or are they inadequate for enterprise security?

You probably have seen the free Hotspot Shield VPN client or other similar offerings for your devices. You can use Hotspot Shield over public Wi-Fi or a corporate wireless network with both mobile and client devices.

Like all free VPN clients, the free Hotspot Shield VPN client is restrictive, and is limited in terms of its functionality. The provider has to pay for the hardware, bandwidth, software and maintenance. The restrictions on all free VPN clients are lifted when you upgrade to paid subscriptions. You can check out the free Hotspot Shield VPN with a quick connection to your home office. It's simple to use and allows unlimited bandwidth, but it shows ads that pay for the service as you make the connection.

Depending on the size of the screen on your device, your annoyance with the ads may grow slowly or quickly. The smaller the screen, the more annoyed you may get with the ads. You may accidentally hit an ad while you try to make a call. To make the ads go away, Hotspot Shield suggests you upgrade and subscribe to a paid version.

In addition to intrusive ads, there are other things to consider before using a free, ad-supported VPN. The VPN may fall victim to malicious ads that could be logging usernames and passwords. Hackers could use hidden logs to send you unwanted email.

Some free VPN clients come with monthly traffic limits and time restrictions as alternatives to ads. Some that do not display ads (such as OpenVPN for Android) may have an ad-supported plug-in (EasyOvpn) that is used to connect to free VPN servers outside of the United States (Thailand, Japan or South Korea, for example). Some may contain outdated encryption that can be easily hacked. They may also collect your browsing history and other personal data, so be sure to read their terms and conditions and privacy policies to know what you're getting into.

Obviously, ad-supported VPNs and plug-ins are not a good option, and are inadequate for enterprise security. They should not be part of an enterprise's BYOD policy. You are better off with paid VPN clients and servers for enterprise use.

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This was last published in January 2017

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Have you ever used a free, ad-supported VPN client, and, if so, what was your assessment of it?
Hello, Judith. As a matter of fact, I have. Freebies are always supported. Nothing is really free. It's just that we pay for "free" VPNs with our time and patience. I've used Hotspot for years before I finally made the switch to paid ivacy vpn a while back. I did it to skip annoyance for being bombarded with ads. Just found out free ones do keep a log of our activities too. So I guess I'm somewhat okay the way I am.