A VPN gives you secure, private internet access.
Using a VPN to surf online is like slipping on a rain jacket before going out into a storm.
The point of VPN is to encrypt your IP/connection so that your ISP (or anyone else prying) can't see where you're coming from, where you're going online or what you're doing. With a VPN, you're using a software or service that connects you to an online server which funnels your internet (network) activity through an encrypted funnel for maximum security and privacy.
A VPN is essential for work or school use as it allows you to conduct private matters, such as checking your bank balance, unblock (restricted) game apps or watch Netflix without prying eyes.
For the frequent business or casual traveler, a VPN is an essential part of life as you'll be connecting from a lot of random devices, any of which can spy on and collect your personal data.
For browsing on public wifi, whether at an airport or coffeeshop, a VPN is a must as it encrypts your connection (and masks your activity online) that would otherwise be visible to anyone.
You may not think twice to check your email over free public wifi at a coffee shop until you consider that same email is probably the one linked to your bank account or Paypal. Anyone spying on the free wifi connection can easily collect your email login information and use it to access your email for bank password recovery.
Surfing anonymously online for business or personal isn't the only reason to use a VPN as it may also help you unlock sites your government doesn't want you to see, such as Facebook or geo-restricted website content such as BBC which limits video watching on the site to United Kingdom.
With a VPN, you can regain access to social media sites, forums or games, where you have been previously IP blocked.
For instance, a VPN may be the solution if your account was previously ghosted on Reddit or CraigsList. You can use the IP to create and access Reddit again without fear of being blocked.
While using a VPN is the ideal solution for times when you want privacy, you should not use when accessing Paypal, bank or other financial institution as it may cause an 'unrecognized (fraud) device' alert for your account.
A free VPN may serve your most of your needs, but there may be a time when you want the more fully featured experience that a paid VPN service can provide. A paid VPN will help you unlock faster speeds, more places to connect and enhanced security features (for the advanced user). In addition, paid usually comes with a full customer service experience, no advertisements or popups or other annoyances that are usually associated with anything free and other premium feature.
The good news is that most free VPN software have a paid upgrade option that lets you seamlessly segue from the limited benefits that free provides to the more functional paid version. Some even give you a free trial period for premium so you can experience the pro benefits with no cash out of pocket.
Free wifi is usually limited in data or MB available per day/week/month and are usually only ideal for checking emails at a local internet cafe or coffee shop; signing in from the university 'free' campus wifi. If you want to access paid/subscription sites or stream music/video you'll want to upgrade to paid/unlimited data.
You should be cautious when using any free VPN service as some companies finance the 'freebie' by collecting your IP and other data for sale or use in marketing.
When selecting a free VPN service, be sure to look for an independent audit report that proves they don't collect or track your activity online.
As NordVPN says, "We never log where you go or what you do on the internet... That’s why we couldn’t share anything with third parties even if they asked us".
For now, let's consider free (and a few paid) VPN options to ensure maximum privacy, anonymity and security when surfing online.
ProtonVPN is another good free VPN service for unlimited bandwidth and data. No worries about privacy intrusion into the sites you are visiting or other unnecessary online tracking as they are regulated under Swiss privacy laws. No annoying ads or data/speed limits. An ideal choice for unlimited free online surfing with VPN protection.
3) AnchorFree HotSpotShield
Get military grade encryption with AnchorFree HotSpotShield, blocks 57 million malware and phishing sites daily. Over 650,000,000 downloads prove the reliability and trustworthy nature of this VPN company. AnchorFree's 1GB per day limit. Much like TunnelBear , HotSpotShield doesn't store or share your IP or log your activity (past the point of your session). On the downside, you may have to endure ads.
4) Avira PhantomVPN
Bank-grade end-to-end data encryption, dns leak protection and a firm no logging policy make Avira a good choice for privacy conscious users. Most Avira customers say 'simple, easy to use'. Similar to TunnelBear, with 500 MB per month limit. Free VPN for Windows 10, Android, Mac. On the downside, not as many servers to choose from for free version.
5) Kaspersky Free VPN
Founded in 1997, Kaspersky Lab Technologies boasts 400+ million users protected including corporate and government entities. And, while Kaspersky is a known and trusted brand, there are some major downsides, such as no ad-blocking and not compatible with Netflix viewing. Available for use in most areas, but not not available for download in Belarus, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar and Hong Kong.
In addition to 100% free (but limited) VPN, there are also trial versions and free with purchase VPN such as Avast Secureline and Bitdefender Basic VPN free with Bitdefender Total Security 2020.
As they say, privacy is a right not a privilege and you shouldn't have to worry about prying eyes from strangers or government intrusion. What you make public should be seen by all. What activities you choose to keep to yourself should be your own business not for public consumption. A VPN helps you preserve your privacy in this way, whether free or paid.