For protecting your privacy and identity online, for accessible region-specific web services, or bypassing web censorship, a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a great tool.
They work by redirecting your internet to connect through a remote network point, making it appear to internet services as if you are connecting directly from that location.
Several VPN services are available as Chrome extensions, letting you use a VPN through your web browser rather than with separate standalone software or configuring your router.
Free VPNs generally offer less security than paid VPNs, and often are ad-supported services, and limit speed or other functionality compared to paid options, but they do still offer basic functionality. These are good for quickly accessing something that’s restricted in your region, but we do not recommend accessing sensitive personal information through these VPNs, or entering any payment details whilst this VPN connection is active.
This is a highly regarded VPN service that has been around for a very long time, having first launched back in 2011. For anyone concerned about the various security risks that can be associated with using a VPN, TunnelBear management published the results of an extensive security audit here back in 2017, showing that they’d done a great job of improving their security following the discovery of some vulnerabilities in the previous year.
The report concluded:
“TunnelBear deserves recognition for implementing a better level of security, for both the servers and infrastructure, as well as the clients and browser extensions for various platforms. The audits further went full circle in underlining, ideally to other security-affine VPN providers and their user-community, that no matter which mechanisms are at play, lacking regular external auditing negatively impacts on the effectiveness of the extended protections.”
As for logging of user data, TunnelBear, this is what they say:
“TunnelBear does NOT log any activity of customers connected to our service. Period. Your privacy is paramount.”
They offer a free tier with a limit of 500MB of browsing. This is useful if you just have a single low bandwidth requirement for a VPN, but it’s not great for long term use. They then offer a monthly unlimited option at $9.99 a month, $59.88 for a year, or $120 for three years.
Clearly the biggest limit of TunnelBear as a free VPN is the data limit, otherwise, there are no major drawbacks, and the browser extension option integrates nicely and conveniently with Chrome.
Founded all the way back in 2004, CyberGhost is one of the longest-running VPN services.
CyberGhost is another paid VPN service that offers some aspects of its service for free. The full version of their VPN service requires a subscription of $12.99 a month, $71.88 for a year, or $99 for three years.
Their free version will limit you to using VPNs located in four countries, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, and CyberGhost home territory Romania. You’ll have to pay for the premium option if you need a VPN located somewhere else
The free version includes many of the advanced security features that the paid version includes, such as anonymous browsing with no user logs. There is also no hard bandwidth limit, meaning that you can use this free VPN indefinitely if it suits your needs.
CyberGhost markets their service from a clear anti-censorship stance, where they see this service as not only a technical one, but an ideological one.You can grab CyberGhost VPN for free from the Chrome App Store, and for other platforms and devices from their website.
ZenMate is a German VPN that has been around for seven years. They offer a strict zero tracking policy across their entire service. ZenMate offers both a paid and free tier for their VPN service. You can pay $12.99 for one month of service, $32.34 for 6 months of service, and $39.96 for 12 months of service + 6 free months.
They also offer a seven day trial of their paid service, so you can see how it works for you before you commit to it. You don’t even need to enter payment details to get a free trial.
There is also a free version offered as a browser extension, but this does have limited speeds compared to the paid version, and you’ll be missing out on some of the advanced features, and only get access to a smaller number of VPN locations to choose from.
This is a VPN provider with a high volume of excellent user reviews on the Chrome App Store, but their policies are somewhat vague compared to others on this list. Their plain English explanation of their service doesn’t go into much detail at all, but information about what user data they log is buried in the terms of service. They clearly have a large number of happy users, but it’s hard to gauge just how trustworthy this service is.
Unlike the other services featured in this roundup, there is no paid version of Touch VPN, it’s just the free service. Since they are not charging users, they must have some other monetization model, which includes but may not be limited to serving ads.
Our recommendation is that Touch VPN may work for some low stakes uses, but if you’re going to be needing any kind of seriously secure connection, you look elsewhere.
Once again, we do not recommend using any of these free VPN services to do anything involving sensitive personal information. Don’t enter any payment details to sites whilst using these, and don’t log into anything with personal accounts of a private nature.
Do you use any of these VPN services? Have any other free VPN services to recommend? Let us know in the comments.