Despite what many websites would like you to believe, VPNs have disadvantages too. If you need bulletproof anonymity, unfettered speeds, or a solid anti-malware solution, a VPN might not be worth purchasing for you.
Achieving Total Privacy & Anonymity Online
VPN services are a valuable tool for privacy-conscious users. They’re worth using as part of a wider suite of software, but VPN software alone will not make you fully anonymous online.
Tracking methods that work within your browser are not stopped by a VPN. For example, a VPN doesn’t block cookies or fingerprinting based on your screen size, browser type, browser extensions, and how your graphics card works.
If you’re signed in to any social media accounts, your VPN will also become mostly worthless from a privacy point of view.
VPNs do not protect against browser fingerprinting.
It’s also worth considering if a VPN is really necessary in your circumstances. We believe privacy is a fundamental right, but if you’re not concerned about your browsing activity being recorded, you might not need any additional software.
You’re Only As Secure as the VPN You Choose
If you’re deciding whether a VPN is worth it for privacy and security reasons, you need to make sure the VPN itself does not increase your risk. All of your traffic passes through the VPN’s network, so it’s vital that the VPN service itself is trustworthy.
A good VPN service will have its own DNS servers, a minimal logging policy, strong encryption, and a trustworthy history that’s been proven in real-life cases.
Put simply, if you choose the wrong VPN then it’s not worth using for privacy or security reasons. In this case, you’re simply shifting your privacy risk from the ISP to the VPN. However, a reliable VPN provider can make all the difference.
Speeding Up Your Internet Connection
VPNs can stop your ISP from slowing down your connection based on your browsing activity. This is called internet throttling.
However, if no throttling is taking place, a VPN will make your connection slower. Even the fastest VPNs will slow your connection down by between 4% and 6%. Your data is encrypted and has to make an additional hop to the VPN server, which means some speed loss is inevitable.
PIA had a download speed loss of 21% when connecting to a US server.
If you’ve been told that it’s worth using a VPN to speed up your connection, this is not true in the vast majority of cases.
Avoiding Malware And Phishing Attacks
Some VPN services include ad-blockers and malware blockers, but they’re not as effective as dedicated antivirus or anti-malware software.
If your primary goal is to protect your device and its sensitive data from digital attacks, then it’s worth investing in a different type of security software.
Most attacks use some form of social engineering. They convince someone to install something they shouldn’t, or to visit a website that has been weaponized to find and attack vulnerabilities in the user’s device.
A VPN doesn’t do anything to stop users doing this. Nor will a VPN scan any incoming emails or files to check whether they’re safe.
While a VPN’s encryption can prevent attackers from inserting malware into your web traffic (man-in-the-middle attacks), it can’t stop you downloading malware through the tunnel if that’s what you choose to do.
If the VPN Leaks Your Location, or Fails to Encrypt Your Data
VPN services are not made equally. Regardless of what you plan to use it for, a VPN that leaks your true IP address or fails to encrypt your data is not worth using.
Leak test tools can be used to detect VPN leaks.
If you’ve already subscribed to a service, use our VPN leak test to check for vulnerabilities. If you’re still considering getting a VPN, you can use our comparison of the very best VPNs to help you decide which service is worth buying.