Three VPNs to Avoid Like the Plague
You should know: This isn’t easy for us. We spend most of our time making lists of the better VPNs out there, like our list of the best VPNs for Netflix and our roundup of the top VPNs for iPhones. Focusing on the lousy, the subpar, and the rotten feels wrong. Still, someone has to sound the alarm. VPNs can be expensive, and you deserve to know if you’re throwing your money away.
So, without further ado, here’s our list of VPNs you’re just better off without.
1. SuperVPN: Just Plain Wrong
You may be thinking: I’m not planning to break the law, so why should I worry about government spying? Well, just because you haven’t broken the law doesn’t mean you won’t be targeted by government agencies. SuperVPN isn’t safe from hackers either. The service brags that it uses 1,024-bit encryption, an encryption method that’s been obsolete for some 15 years. Google Play removed the app for a time in early 2021 precisely because of worries about its security.
Add to these basic security problems the fact that it has no kill switch, it can’t even access Netflix, and there’s no available information online about the developer, and you get a pretty clear idea why you’re better off passing on this VPN.
2. Hola Free VPN: An Experiment You Don’t Want to Be Involved In
It sounds like a good idea: Route all your users’ internet activity through other users’ devices. No one knows which users are going to which sites, and you don’t have to worry about fancy encryption or external servers. Think about it for 10 seconds, though, and the idea starts to sound less good.
Let’s say you log on to Hola. The service gives you another user’s address so you can surf the web in anonymity. You’re not doing anything illegal, so everything’s cool. At the same time, however, Hola gives your IP address to Joe Blow in Cincinnati, and Joe Blow decides to use his VPN connection to order some heroin from Mexico. Guess whose house the FBI is going to show up at? Spoiler alert: not Joe’s.
We should point out that we’ve given Hola’s paid services positive reviews. Those services use AES-256 encryption, provide access to 1,500 servers, and even unblock Netflix. We’re not sure what the company was thinking, though, when it developed its free plan, and we recommend avoiding it, well, like the plague.
3. Psiphon VPN: Close Only Counts in Horseshoes
Yoda said it best: Do or do not; there is no try. The whole point of a VPN is to keep your data secure and conceal your online activities. If it’s not doing that, why bother installing it?
First, it’s important to note that Psiphon is headquartered in Canada. Why does that matter? Canada is a member of Five Eyes, an alliance of countries, including the U.S., that have agreed to share surveillance with one another. That surveillance includes information gathered from citizens’ online activities. In short, Canada can subpoena Psiphon at any time to turn over its customers’ records.
It does, however, collect the IP addresses of sites visited, city and state information about the user’s IP address, information about how long a user was connected to the VPN, and a record of how much data the user downloaded from each site. Of course, it’s easier for law enforcement to track you if it has your actual IP address, but Psiphon certainly holds on to enough information to allow them to figure out who is doing what on the VPN. In other words, Psiphon is safe-ish, but not safe. And, as Yoda would tell you, safe-ish isn’t good enough.