Virtual Private Networks have been around for a while, but time has shown that they are not always the perfect tools for privacy-conscious users. At least not all of them. Over the years, sooner or later, many VPN scandals have emerged that have raised the question - should you really trust your VPN provider?

VPNs you can rely on are difficult to find, especially nowadays with the whole industry experiencing large growth due to the extended demand for privacy. The more VPN providers emerge in this market, the harder it gets to obtain one that is completely trustworthy. Many VPN service providers are here only for your money, and only a handful of them truly want to protect your online privacy and provide you with proper customer care.

Looking back, Virtual Private Networks were used for limited purposes and mostly by companies that wanted a secure way of working and communicating even outside of the office. Nowadays, their range has grown immensely, and a good VPN can serve you many purposes. You can bypass restrictions, avoid censorship of any kind, and stay anonymous online.

With that being said, it can’t be all that perfect, can it?

As a matter of fact, many VPNs give out false claims of what they can and will do for their customers, especially the potential ones. Many times these promises have led people that were primarily concerned about their privacy to fall victim to VPN scandals. Let’s go over the most scandalous cases.

Hola - don’t trust free VPNs

Free VPNs have a bad reputation and should most often be avoided. One case that dates back to 2015 proves these claims and is a fair warning that all free VPN service providers should be taken with precaution.

Hola was one of the most popular free VPN providers a few years ago and had millions of users at the time. One of their best attributes was the fact that this VPN was one of the few that could bypass Netflix’s restriction. Not many providers can do this, let alone free ones.

Of course, this was the main thing that made them popular. However, this didn’t last long. After a while, it was discovered that Hola was allowing premium users to utilize their service as a botnet. A botnet can be used in performing a DDoS attack, allow attackers access to the device and its connections, steal data, etc. Not only this, but the service also operated on a p2p system, by using their free-users’ connections to provide this. In other words, they were using their free VPN users’ systems connections to run their paid VPN service. Although this was stated in their FAQ, users claimed that this should not have been allowed or at least made clearer from the beginning.

To make things even worse, three years later, in 2018, the VPN’s Google Developer account was compromised for a few hours, as the attacker was trying to obtain users’ crypto accounts through Hola’s browser extension.

Facebook’s VPN stole all your data

In a more recent scandal, Facebook’s own VPN Onavo was removed from the Apple store after violating the store’s policies. Namely, the free app was collecting your application usage and then was sending this data to Facebook, as its parent company, giving them insight that was used to determine which apps were more used and which ones weren’t, as a way of being one step ahead of the competitors.

Despite promising to protect user’s personal information, buried deep down in its descriptions Onavo revealed that they collect your mobile data traffic and use this information to improve Facebook among other things.

And while Apple removed this VPN from their app store, Android phones can still access it. If you are one of the users, we advise you to try a different VPN, one that won’t store your data or track your activity. Moreover, friendly advice, make sure you always read carefully the privacy policy and everything a provider has to say. You never know what you might find hidden in those lines.

HideMyAss - The importance of a zero logging policy

In what is known as the LulzSec fiasco, HideMyAss seriously endangered its popularity and never truly recovered from it.

Back in 2011, a group of hackers calling themselves LulzSec were involved in many website attacks, including Sony Pictures, Fox.com, and the UK’s Serious Organized Crime Agency.

To cover their tracks, the hackers used HideMyAss, which at the time was considered to be one of the most trustworthy VPN service providers. Nonetheless, their identities were soon discovered and authorities caught LulzSec with the help of the VPN and their logs.

Although VPNs are not to be used for illicit purposes, they should, by all means, practice zero logging policies. This means a trustworthy VPN should not store its users’ connection logs because this is a serious attack on privacy.

Cases such as this were becoming more common in the following years. Two of them involved some of the biggest and most popular names in the VPN industry, PureVPN, and IPVanish.

In PureVPN’s case, the service provider got in the middle of a large cyber-stalking case back in 2017. PureVPN worked closely with the FBI to determine the suspect’s internet usage. This left a rather negative impact on the company and gave them a bad reputation regarding privacy.

On the other hand, in IPVanish’s case, the company handed over information that helped put behind bars an American citizen that was sharing child pornography images. This is without a doubt morally correct, but it definitely shed a light over the VPN’s true logging policies.

How to know which VPNs to trust?

This is a tricky question. The first thing you need to know when it comes to VPNs is that you always have to read carefully through their Terms and Conditions, as well as the Privacy Policy. Don’t trust everything you see on the front page or in an ad. Usually, there are many things carefully hidden in plain sight that we are too lazy to notice. This is exactly what leads to such events happening, and it’s also the one thing that can help you evaluate a VPN.

Unfortunately, even this is not a 100% guarantee that you won’t become a victim to such VPN scandals. Our advice is to be careful and to always double-check things, even if they seem perfectly fine. Read reviews from users and experts, go through everything on the website. If something looks suspicious, there is probably a reason to it and you should take precautions.

Overall, sometimes even though we think that we are doing everything in our power to protect our privacy, it’s not all that easy. So, stay alert and above all, make sure you choose only the best VPNs that have been proven to work and protect your privacy.

In the meantime, if you need help choosing one that fits your needs, don’t hesitate to ask for directions and we will guide you through the whole process of getting the perfect VPN provider for you.