There was a beautiful time a few years ago when the internet didn’t resemble a massive shopping mall haunting you with ads. Unfortunately, that memory still haunts some people who believe free software is still worth it.
A decade ago, antivirus companies offered free versions of their products that worked well to help you test them out and convince you to get the paid version. Seeing that their marketing strategy didn’t perform nicely, they decided to change their approach. Instead of charging for their services, they implemented some shady tactics.
First, they started changing your default search engine. Instead of being directed to Google, you got a weird-looking page with many ads. Not only that, but they also installed extra software that you didn’t need. Sure, the installation bubble asked if you wanted to download it, but no one reads through the steps, especially when you’re in a hurry and there are ten panels forcing you to click next.
These companies sacrificed the comfort of their users to make more money. They installed junk ware or bloat ware on your device to make a few extra dollars on the side. Luckily, that practice has stopped, but that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t evolved.
Is free software useful?
The reason why marketing something as free works so well is because everyone wants free stuff. When you download something, and it gets the job done, you’re delighted and think you’ve outplayed the system. You’re horribly wrong if you believe you can do that in 2022.
Nowadays, it’s common knowledge that every device needs to have a VPN installed. Virtual private networks protect your devices from hackers and can bypass geographical restrictions. Even though they don’t cost a lot, many people are stingy and go for the free version. Here’s what happens if you do the same thing.
You install a free VPN on your device, and as soon as you open the application, you realize their marketing has fooled you. Instead of unlimited data, you only get 500 megabytes, which you’ll use up in half an hour by scrolling on Instagram. That’s one scenario.
Another thing that can happen is that the app is filled with ads that completely ruin your entire browsing experience. You scroll for 2-3 minutes and get an ad break. If you want to stop the ads, the only solution is to buy their premium service. That’s the second scenario.
Now, it starts getting trickier. Instead of showing ads or restricting your usage, some VPN companies will keep logs of what you’re looking at and sell it to ISPs or data companies. This goes against what a VPN is supposed to do, protecting your privacy and keeping you private online.
Finally, some applications claim to be VPNs or antivirus programs but are malware in disguise. This is the most dangerous scenario because you could be installing spyware or a virus. The difference between the two is thin. Viruses immediately harm your computer by making it slower or making certain processes impossible.
Spyware, however, does zero harm but keeps track of everything you’re doing. If you’re inserting passwords, emails, bank details, or ID numbers, all of that info can be sold on the dark web. You allow all permissions, your data gets stolen, and your bank account gets drained. Not everything on the App Store and Play Store is safe and secure to use.
What should you do instead?
There’s a massive difference between getting something entirely for free or using a free trial. A VPN free trial allows you to test whether you like the experience for a week or a month and proceed with payments if you’re satisfied with the service. You’ll have access to all the tools, and then they’ll hook you in with the ease of use and no change in browsing speed while enjoying all the benefits.
Some companies offer ad-blocking features. They scan files for malware and check whether websites have an SSL certificate before you visit them. Whenever you download or install free software, it’s a gamble that you will get exactly what you’re paying for it. Since you’re not paying, the only thing you can get is a virus, a new search engine, and stress before paying for the real deal.