Disclosure: Top10VPN is editorially independent. We may earn commissions if you buy a VPN through links on our site.
Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He's tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more.
Fact-checked by Callum Tennent
- What Is a VPN?
- VPN Disadvantages
Understanding the disadvantages of using a VPN and appreciating what it can and can’t do is a crucial part of keeping yourself safe online. In this guide, we introduce the 10 most important VPN disadvantages.
Using a high-quality VPN service is a reliable way to secure your privacy and maximize your freedom online.
A good VPN hides your IP address, encrypts your web browsing activity, and lets you unblock websites that are censored in your location.
But a VPN won’t solve all of your problems. It’s important to understand the limitations and disadvantages of using a VPN in order to keep yourself safe online and help you decide whether a VPN is worth it for you.
Despite the clear benefits, a VPN isn’t a universal solution for all internet privacy issues. Thinking that it is could put you at risk.
In this guide, we explore the ten main downsides to using a VPN.
Quick Summary: The 10 biggest disadvantages of VPNs
- A VPN won’t give you complete anonymity: Read more
- Your privacy isn’t always guaranteed: Read more
- Using a VPN is illegal in some countries: Read more
- A safe, top-quality VPN will cost you money: Read more
- VPNs almost always slow your connection speed: Read more
- Using a VPN on mobile increases data usage: Read more
- Some online services try to ban VPN users: Read more
- It won’t protect you from malware or phishing attacks: Read more
- Most VPNs fail to bypass censorship & streaming blocks: Read more
- A lot of VPNs are outright dangerous to use: Read more
1. A VPN Will Not Make You Completely Anonymous
Even the best VPNs can’t guarantee your anonymity online. Your browsing behavior can still reveal your true identity in ways that your VPN service cannot control.
If you’re logged into a Google or Facebook account, a VPN won’t be able to stop those companies from monitoring your activity.
There’s also a collection of techniques that advertisers use to track you across the internet. These include:
- Web trackers and cookies: Websites use trackers and cookies to tailor their service to your specific needs. They store details about you, such as your name and geographic location, and can be used to identify you despite a VPN connection.
- Browser fingerprinting: Most browsers reveal small pieces of information unique to you and your session. Authorities and advertisers can collate this information to build a ‘fingerprint’ that identifies your online presence, even when you’re using a VPN. Learn more about browser fingerprinting in our best private browsers guide.
To maximize your anonymity, you should pair your VPN with a genuinely private browser like Mozilla Firefox.
Consider also using an anonymous search engine like DuckDuckGo, and think carefully about your behavioral patterns online.
2. Your Privacy Depends On Your VPN Service
One of the key reasons to use a VPN is to stop unwanted individuals from observing what you do online.
Just as you wouldn’t let a stranger watch you from the window of your house, you don’t want strangers spying on you online.
However, by protecting yourself with a VPN, you’re still handing your browsing activity over to someone else: your VPN service.
All your traffic is routed through the VPN provider’s servers. If it wanted to, it could see who you are and what you’re doing online. That’s why it’s crucial to look at the VPN’s logging policy before you start using it.
Your privacy is entirely dependent on how trustworthy the VPN service is. If you choose an invasive VPN like SkyVPN, for example, your privacy won’t be protected at all.
You need a VPN that will not log any personally identifiable information about you or your activities. Ideally, its logging policy will have been independently verified by a third-party audit.
Without a no-logs policy, a VPN is a threat to your privacy and is probably unsafe to use. Learn more about logging policies, and see a list of genuine zero-logs VPNs, in our guides to VPN logs.
3. It’s Illegal to Use a VPN in Some Countries
VPN apps are legal in most countries around the world, but there are still a small number of places where using a VPN is either illegal or restricted.
The countries that ban or regulate VPN use are:
- North Korea
- United Arab Emirates
You could therefore be breaking the law by simply using a VPN, and you may be prosecuted if caught.
In China, for instance, anyone found using a VPN service, that has not been explicitly approved by the government, can be fined up to 15,000 yuan (equal to around $2,300).
To learn more about global censorship, see where in the world VPNs are legal or illegal.
NOTE: Using a VPN to perform illegal activities is still illegal, regardless of where you are in the world.
4. Good VPN Services Cost Money
The unfortunate truth is that a high-performing, safe VPN will cost money.
It doesn’t have to break the bank, though. The average price of our most-recommended VPNs is just under $4 a month, with the cheapest option priced at $1.11/month.
For a full price comparison, take a look at our analysis of how much VPNs cost.
While the best VPNs don’t necessarily cost the most money, you’re unlikely to find a service that’ll do everything you want for free.
The overwhelming majority of free VPNs are either poor quality or genuinely dangerous to use. When it comes to your privacy and security, it’s just not worth taking the risk.
That said, we have found a handful of trustworthy free VPN apps. These services are very good, considering you’re not paying a cent. However, their performance is limited. For example, most of them cap how much data you can use each month.
5. Using a VPN Slows Down Your Connection Speeds
Using a VPN service almost always slows down your connection speed. This is because, once you turn the VPN on, your connection starts to take a longer route to the internet, via your chosen VPN server.
With good-quality VPNs, the speed loss is minimal, to the extent that you won’t even notice it. For instance, Hotspot Shield delivers a speed loss of just 0.41%.
However, poor-quality VPNs can slow download speeds and increase latency to an unusable degree. This can be a major issue if your internet connection is already quite slow or if you’re doing something speed-sensitive, such as streaming, gaming, or torrenting.
EXPERT TIP: Very occasionally, a VPN will actually improve the speeds of certain activities by helping you to overcome ISP bandwidth throttling.
6. VPNs Increase Data Consumption
By encrypting your data and hiding your traffic from unwanted surveillance, a VPN also increases the amount of bandwidth you use.
For mobile VPN users, this means that whenever you use your VPN while connected to cellular data and not WiFi, you’re consuming data at a faster rate than you would without the VPN turned on.
Our research has shown that VPNs increase data usage by anywhere between 4% and 20%, depending on which VPN protocol you’re using.
As a consequence, you’ll probably reach your contract’s monthly data limit much faster. If you’re abroad, you could end up paying more in data roaming charges than you would otherwise.
For more information, read our complete guide to VPN data usage.
7. Some Online Services Ban VPN Users
Many online services discourage the use of VPNs or even prohibit them outright.
This is often the case with streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which try to block VPNs in order to stop you from accessing videos and movies that aren’t licensed in your geographic region.
Some online stores, such as Steam, also try to prevent users from accessing its service with a VPN. This is because it has localized versions of the store with region-specific prices and release dates.
NOTE: We have reviewed 56 VPN services and tested every one with Netflix. This includes poor-quality VPN services that are easily identified by Netflix’s censors. Despite this, we have never received an account suspension.
8. VPNs Don’t Protect You from Malware or Phishing Attacks
Misunderstanding the limits of a VPN can lead to the false impression that you are untouchable online.
While good VPNs provide essential protection from eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks, VPNs do not protect you from every cyber attack, meaning they are not they’re not a catch-all solution.
Using a VPN will not protect you against:
- Malware: A VPN will not secure your device against most forms of malware (such as viruses, spyware, and ransomware). It will prevent the injection of malicious code during a man-in-the-middle attack, though.
- Phishing Attacks: You’re still susceptible to social engineering attacks, like phishing scams, when you have a VPN on. Be careful about which links you click on and what you download to your device.
NOTE: Some VPN services do offer additional security features. NordVPN’s CyberSec feature, for example, includes an adblocker, anti-malware software, and a tool to prevent DDoS attacks. You’ll usually have to pay extra for these features, and they may not perform as well as equivalent standalone products.
9. It Isn’t Always Possible to Bypass Restrictions
More than a fifth of VPN users in the US and UK use their VPN to “access geographically restricted entertainment content,” according to our global statistics survey. This involves unblocking foreign streaming libraries and watching content that isn’t typically available in your location.
Other people use VPNs to access the free, global internet from inside high-censorship countries such as China, Turkey, and Iran.
Unfortunately, no VPN provider can guarantee you’ll be able to bypass these restrictions at all times.
Some VPNs are better than others, but even the best services get blocked from time to time. It’s essentially a game of cat-and-mouse between the streaming service (e.g. Netflix) or censorship system (e.g. Great Firewall of China) and your VPN service.
Consult our lists of the best streaming VPNs and best anti-censorship VPNs for an overview of which VPNs currently bypass aggressive web restrictions.
You can also use our Great Firewall of China test to find out exactly which websites are blocked in China.
10. Most VPNs Are Dangerous to Use
Your VPN service has access to a lot of personal information. It can see your IP address, the websites you visit, and what you do on those websites.
Trustworthy VPN companies ignore this information, and most make sure it is never recorded in the first place.
However, while safe VPN companies make their money through your subscription payments, a large number of free VPNs are not safe. The companies behind these apps make money by collecting your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder.
In short: you are the product, not the VPN. For many of these companies, the whole purpose of operating a VPN service is to gather data to sell on for profit. This is the reason they’re often able to offer their VPN for ‘free’.
For this reason, using a VPN can often be more dangerous than not using a VPN. That’s why it’s crucial to do your research before downloading. Use a trusted, safe VPN, or don’t use one at all.
The Bottom Line
Using a VPN is crucial if you care about your privacy, security, and freedom online.
A good VPN will hide your identity, secure your personal information, and keep your online activity hidden from the government, ISPs, large corporations, and prying third parties.
It will also let you bypass geographical restrictions and access content that is blocked or censored in your location. For this reason, we recommend you use a trusted VPN service while browsing the internet.
However, a VPN won’t meet all your privacy and security needs. Also, it will slow down your internet speeds and increase your data usage.
Even worse, a poor-quality VPN could carry serious security and privacy risks, and leave you worse off than if you weren’t using one at all.
VPN Logging Policies Explained
Does a VPN Use Data? A Beginner’s Guide to Using VPNs on Mobile Data
What Are VPN Leaks, and How Do You Fix Them?
The 10 Disadvantages of Using a VPN: What You Should Know? ›
Why shouldn't I use a VPN? A VPN might reduce your connection speed even if your internet service provider isn't throttling your speed; Using a VPN on mobile will increase your mobile data usage; Using a VPN is considered an offense in some countries, and you can get fined or even be incarcerated for it.Why you shouldn't use VPN all the time? ›
Why shouldn't I use a VPN? A VPN might reduce your connection speed even if your internet service provider isn't throttling your speed; Using a VPN on mobile will increase your mobile data usage; Using a VPN is considered an offense in some countries, and you can get fined or even be incarcerated for it.What will a VPN not protect you from? ›
A VPN helps you stay invisible and behind the scenes, but it doesn't give you immunity against online risks like malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, or even computer viruses. That's where your antivirus software comes in.What are the most common problems that VPN users face? ›
- Scalability: The Challenge of Growing Networks. One of the most common issues businesses face with VPNs is scalability. ...
- Access Control: Over Provisioned Permissions. ...
- Simplified Management: The Challenge of Maintaining VPN Configurations. ...
VPNs Can Give You a False Sense of Security
Browsing through the internet may expose you to malicious websites, phishing attacks, data breaches, and more. Although VPNs typically give you an extra layer of security and privacy by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address, they are not foolproof.
- 🛑 You need to set up an internet connection for the first time.
- 🛑 Your workplace doesn't allow VPNs.
- 🛑 You only use a VPN to unblock content and aren't concerned about keeping it on for privacy and security.
- 🛑 You visit a country like China that doesn't allow VPN use.
In short, you can still get hacked while using a VPN. Some VPN services provide threat management features like NordVPN Cybersec, which can block access to URLs that are known to be malicious. However, it is still possible to get hacked when using these services.Can you be tracked through a VPN? ›
Can police track online purchases made with a VPN? There is no way to track live, encrypted VPN traffic. That's why police or government agencies who need information about websites you visited have to contact your internet service provider (ISP for short), and only then your VPN provider.Does a VPN protect your phone from being hacked? ›
When you connect to a VPN, the original IP address assigned to you is hidden from public view. All anyone online can see is the address of the VPN server you're connected to. By hiding your original IP address, a VPN can prevent hackers from using it to remotely hack into or otherwise attack your device.How much does a VPN cost per month? ›
|Service||Monthly price||Max number of devices|
|Private Internet Access||$11.95/mo.||10|
What are the three major uses of a VPN? ›
- Security on Public Wi-Fi. ...
- Data Privacy From Your Internet Service Provider. ...
- Data Privacy From the Apps and Services You Use. ...
- Data Privacy From Your Government. ...
- Access to Any Content in Any Place. ...
- Security When Working Remotely.
VPN use is important for online privacy whenever you're logging into the internet from a public spot because cyber snoops could track your online activity when you are using public Wi-Fi, whether it's on your computer or your mobile device.What is the number 1 VPN? ›
ExpressVPN received a CNET Editors' Choice Award for best overall VPN. We evaluate VPNs based on their overall performance in three main categories: speed, security and price. Express isn't the cheapest, but it's among the fastest and, so far, is the most secure. Surfshark is a close second among our picks.How do I know if my VPN is safe? ›
There are several different ways to check that your VPN service is working properly and protecting your internet traffic and personal data. Check your IP address. Take note of your current IP address, connect to a VPN server, and recheck the IP address. If it differs from the one you initially noted, your VPN works.Why do I lose Internet connection as soon as I connect to VPN? ›
If the internet is not working when you're connected to VPN, using an older VPN version might be the reason. Having an updated VPN is important to avoid connection issues. If you are running an outdated version, update it. You can also re-install the VPN software again.What is illegal with VPN? ›
No, a VPN cannot make you anonymous. They help secure what you're doing, but your ISP still knows when you're using the internet. They just can't see what you're doing, what sites you visit, or how long you've been on a site.Who has the safest VPN? ›
- Private Internet Access: Best for Customizable Security.
- hide.me: Best for Wi-Fi Security.
- Surfshark: Best for Unlimited Connections.
- VPN Unlimited (aka KeepSolid): Best Multi-Device User Experience.
- CyberGhost: Best for International Server Locations.
- ExpressVPN: Smoothest App Interface.
VPN software creates an encrypted 'tunnel' between your device and a remote VPN server. Every ten seconds, your device will send a message to the VPN server to maintain a continuous connection. If the server takes more than 120 seconds to respond, the VPN tunnel closes and your client will disconnect.Does my iPhone need a VPN? ›
Do I need a VPN on my iPhone? It's crucial to use a VPN on your iPhone whenever you're connected to the internet. The built-in encryptions in iPhones are limited to the traffic your device sends to Apple's servers. Cybercriminals can easily sneak a peek at the rest of your internet traffic.
Does iPhone have VPN built-in? ›
As a result, Apple offers a built-in way to activate a VPN through your iPhone's settings, according to McAfee. On your iPhone, navigate to Settings > General > VPN & Device Management > Add VPN Configuration. Select Type and choose the VPN type you are using.Is it safe to use credit card with VPN? ›
A VPN is a surefire method to protect your credit card while shopping online, and should be the first service you turn to whenever you plan to pick up a new pair of boots on Amazon or just want to get a quick bite delivered to where you are on the go. VPN for online shopping will be a safe and secure method.Can you be spied on through a VPN? ›
However, a VPN keeps your browsing activity safe. Even those who can see that you use a VPN (i.e., your ISP, websites you visit, or even hackers) can't access your data, real location, or any sensitive information. But make sure to choose a VPN with transparent privacy and no-logs policies, like Surfshark.Does a VPN protect your email? ›
A VPN can protect from your ISP sniffing, but it does not encrypt email content. The email server and every computer connecting to it can still read the emails in plaintext.Does a VPN track all devices? ›
There are three main types of data that your VPN can potentially record: usage logs, connection logs, and no logs. Usage logs contain information like websites, apps, or devices you use. Connection logs will include your real IP address, the VPN IP addresses you have access to, and data usage.Can FBI track VPN? ›
Can the FBI see through a VPN? If the VPN company is located in the US, and the server is located in the US, the FBI can get a warrant for their logs. But if either is located outside the US they can't. (The overseas server used by an American VPN company usually isn't “connected” to the company in any way.)Does a VPN protect your bank account? ›
In fact, online banking with a VPN is safer than without it. A virtual private network does NOT compromise your data, protecting it when you bank over public Wi-Fi or through a home network. Generally speaking, encryption is the most important feature a VPN offers.Can your phone be monitored with VPN? ›
A VPN creates an encrypted channel between your device and the VPN server. As data passes through the VPN server, the encryption software scrambles the information, making it impossible to read to anyone monitoring the communication channel.What should you pay for a VPN? ›
The average cost of a VPN per month is often around $5 to $10. This is typically true for most VPNs, including popular services such as NordVPN and ExpressVPN. But pricing could vary depending on multiple factors. Each VPN provider could charge different rates depending on how popular they are.Why would I pay for a VPN? ›
Protect your data
Whenever you enter the infinity of the internet, your data is accessible to dozens of prying eyes, such as trackers, your ISP, the government, and more. The best way to avoid this is to use a reputable VPN, which encrypts your data using advanced AES-256 encryption and additional security layers.
Does Verizon have a VPN? ›
Verizon's VPN services.
It's affordable — just a few dollars a month — and works globally to protect privacy and block ad tracking. There are 2 ways to subscribe: Go to MyVerizon.com and sign in; then go to the Products & Apps page.
- Personal VPN services.
- Mobile VPNs.
- Remote access VPNs.
- Site-to-site VPNs.
- Hotspot Shield - Best Overall. ...
- 500 MB Daily Data Usage Limit. ...
- PrivadoVPN - Best Free VPN with Unlimited Speeds. ...
- Atlas VPN - Best Free VPN for Privacy. ...
- Surfshark - Best Encryption. ...
- TunnelBear - Best Free VPN for Beginners. ...
- Windscribe VPN - Best Free VPN for the Security.
How does a VPN protect you on public Wi-Fi? A VPN protects your online activity by redirecting your internet connection through a private internet server — your real IP address is hidden, and your activity is obscured. Anyone trying to spy on you won't be able to see past the VPN's encryption protocols.Is it safer to use VPN at home? ›
Using a reliable virtual private network (VPN) can be a safe way to browse the internet. VPN security can protect from IP and encrypt internet history and is increasingly being used to prevent snooping on by government agencies.When should I use a VPN on my phone? ›
VPNs are important because internet connections can be eavesdropped easily by malicious cybercriminals. Whether you are using wireless or wired connections, your data might be visible to others that can access the network.What type of VPN is most commonly used today? ›
- Open source, meaning it's transparent. ...
- Versatility. ...
- Security. ...
- Bypasses most firewalls.
Does Netflix ban VPN users? No, Netflix does not ban users who use a VPN. However, you won't be able to watch anything if Netflix detects that you're using a VPN.Which type of VPN is best? ›
|OpenVPN||Requires additional configuration files||Very secure|
|L2TP||Windows, macOS, iOS, Android||Secure|
|WireGuard||Linux, requires additional configuration files for other OS||Very secure|
It's important to remember that VPNs do not work in the same way as comprehensive anti-virus software. While they will protect your IP and encrypt your internet history, but that is as much as they can do. They won't keep you safe, for instance, if you visit phishing websites or download compromised files.
How do I know if my phone is connected to VPN? ›
Tip: When you're connected, you'll see VPN on . Open your phone's Settings app. VPN. If you can't find it, search for "VPN." If you still can't find it, get help from your device manufacturer.How do I stop VPN from blocking my internet? ›
- Choosing a secure and reliable VPN. ...
- Switching to another server or VPN. ...
- Using obfuscated servers. ...
- Changing the tunneling protocol, encryption, or port. ...
- Getting a dedicated/static IP address. ...
- Switching to mobile data. ...
- Changing the DNS settings. ...
- Setting up a manual VPN connection.
To fix VPN connection problems, you can try restarting your VPN client, resetting your network settings, changing the VPN server location, checking for updates, and contacting your VPN provider's support team for assistance. If the issue persists, you may need to troubleshoot your network configuration or hardware.Is it wrong to use VPN? ›
Most VPN services will provide various methods to secure your identity while you're connected as a way to guarantee you'll stay safe and anonymous. While the use of a VPN is perfectly legal, any illegal activity carried out online will remain illegal regardless of whether you use a VPN or not.Is it really necessary to have a VPN? ›
Do you need a VPN? Probably not. When you established your home Wi-Fi network, it is likely that you protected your network with a password. Because of that, you may not need the added security of a VPN to shield your online activity.Does VPN slow down internet? ›
A VPN slows down your internet because it adds multiple extra steps to the process of getting data from your home internet network to your internet provider and back. VPNs work by letting you sign on to a separate server—usually located in a different state or foreign country.Does using a VPN drain battery? ›
If you're wondering “does a VPN affect battery health?” the answer is yes, but no more than any other app on your device. On average, you should expect around a 5-15% drop in battery life on your Android or iOS device when a VPN is connected.Is VPN safe for online banking? ›
A VPN is safe for online banking, but you should also take other precautions. If you don't have up-to-date antivirus software installed, your operating system is old, or you ignore virus alerts, you will still be at risk of being hacked even if you are using a VPN.Is it illegal to watch Netflix with a VPN? ›
While Netflix has a ban against VPNs and proxy servers, it's perfectly legal to use VPNs on Netflix; it just may not work. Netflix has specific licensing agreements with TV shows and movies, meaning that they're only allowed to offer them to certain audiences, divided by country.Can the police track a VPN? ›
Can police track online purchases made with a VPN? There is no way to track live, encrypted VPN traffic. That's why police or government agencies who need information about websites you visited have to contact your internet service provider (ISP for short), and only then your VPN provider.
Is it worth having a VPN on your phone? ›
Smartphone VPN services are a reliable way to protect your internet activities. Since tons of personal details are sent in your phone use, hackers love to target this data. Whether using your cellular connection (3G, 4G, 5G, etc.) or Wi-Fi, your smartphone leaves you open to identity theft and other cyber dangers.How can I tell if I am being throttled? ›
- Certain websites are blocked or are nonfunctional.
- Download speeds have slowed.
- Specific websites or services are slower than others.
- Videos are buffering or lagging.
- Your internet speeds are slower than usual.
- Your Wi-Fi connection is choppy or broken.
The reason you'd want a VPN on your router is to provide network-wide online security. Once you set up a VPN on your router, all connected devices will be granted the benefits of VPN protection.Does a VPN speed up your Wi-Fi? ›
Most of the time, you won't get a speed increase by using a VPN. That's because a VPN can't actually increase the amount of bandwidth available to you beyond what your connection is capable of.Should I leave my VPN on all day? ›
VPNs offer the best protection available when it comes to your online security. Therefore, you should leave your VPN on at all times to protect from data leaks and cyberattacks.Does Apple have a VPN? ›
You can configure VPN settings for an iPhone, iPad, or Mac enrolled in a mobile device management (MDM) solution. Use the VPN payload to enter the VPN settings for connecting to your network. Settings you specify in the configuration profile can't be modified by users.What happens if your VPN turns off? ›
The moment you become disconnected from your VPN while still using the internet, your IP address and all your online activity instantly become visible to your Internet Service Provider (ISP).