VPN Disadvantages: Do They Outweigh the Advantages?
The disadvantages of VPN services are often glossed over, but there are some drawbacks to using a VPN.
While the many uses & advantages of VPN services are well-known, the risks & disadvantages of using a VPN are often ignored.
Whether you’re trying to protect your privacy online or access geo-restricted content, like Netflix, a good VPN – or “Virtual Private Network” – is a must-have.
But that doesn’t mean VPNs are perfect. They do have their disadvantages, even if most of them can be minimized or eliminated by using a top-quality VPN. Here are the most notable VPN security risks and drawbacks.
1. Costs Money
There are some free VPN services but, as they say, “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product”.
The better VPNs that you can trust do require a subscription fee, but it’s usually as little as $3 per month – and it’s more than worth it.
Not only will a good VPN protect your privacy and prevent you from being tracked online, a VPN also gives you access to a lot more content that you would otherwise be blocked from.
• best VPN overall
Try risk-free for 30 days
• best VPN for privacy
Try risk-free for 7 days
• excellent VPN for speed
Try risk-free for 30 days
2. Slight Speed and Performance Drops
If you know how a VPN works, this won’t be a surprise.
Even the best VPNs will usually cause a small hit to your Internet speeds when you are connected.
How big this drop in speed is depends on everything from your distance to the connected VPN server, to the number of other customers using the same server (load), to the encryption strength used by the VPN.
But any speed degradation you typically experience isn't a big deal, provided that your connection isn’t extremely slow to begin with.
Sometimes a VPN connection can drop completely, but this is usually for a fraction of a second and barely noticeable.
Plus, if you follow our recommendation and use a VPN with a kill switch, you never have to worry about your true IP address leaking during these drops.
If you choose your VPN service wisely, these speed and connection issues are all very minor.
3. Can Make You (Wrongly) Feel Invincible
A reliable VPN will provide more solid protection than poor or even mediocre VPN services.
But you should never assume that you’re invincible while connected to one.
Even the best VPNs can’t protect you from things like malware, if you let your guard down and download a nasty file and open it. They also won't stop you from being hacked if you use weak passwords either.
4. Some Countries Restrict VPN Use
While using a VPN is legal in most countries (it’s how & what people use them for that can spell trouble) , there are a handful of places that restrict their use.
Places where VPNs are restricted include China, Russia, and Turkey.
Even in countries which allow VPNs in some form, using a non-government authorized VPN, accessing certain restricted content, etc. can land you a fine or even jail time, so it’s best to exercise caution if living or traveling in countries that ban or restrict VPN use.
Check out our picks for best VPN per country.
5. More Captchas
We won’t lie. Many websites are on to VPN use and will serve up more captchas and other annoyances that force you to prove you are a human rather than a robot.
This is more noticeable with some VPNs than others.
For example, even though Private Internet Access (PIA) is one of our favorite VPN services, we get a lot of captchas when using PIA. That’s because it has been around a long time and is super popular, so more of the VPN blocking tools know about and can detect IP addresses associated with PIA’s VPN servers.
In contrast, when we use VyprVPN, which is just as good a VPN service as PIA but more below the radar, we are hardly ever bothered by captchas or other bothersome authentication steps.
6. Not All Providers (Even Paid Ones) Can Be Trusted
While paid VPN providers are definitely more trustworthy than free VPNs, there are still plenty of bad apples in the paid camp as well. This includes providers that collect logs when they’re not supposed to or even turn this data over when the authorities come knocking. Not good.
One of the biggest problems with untrustworthy VPNs is that people using them are doing so under the assumption that they’re fully protected. Too often, however, these VPN providers don’t have their customer’s back when the chips are down.
Fortunately, there are still VPN providers that care about your privacy. We only recommend VPN providers that do not log the activities of their customers and whose claims have been proven, either in court or by audit.
OK, so using a VPN definitely does have some disadvantages. But it’s better that you know about them than be in the dark.
If anyone tries to tell you that a VPN is a magic cure for all online ills, they aren’t telling you the whole truth.
While we still believe that the disadvantages of using a VPN are far outweighed by the advantages of using a VPN, it’s still important that you know their limitations & drawbacks.