How to Know If a VPN Is Trustworthy

4 min

We’re at a juncture where we must vet every software before we download and install them. In an increasingly hostile web, it’s important to do a background check of the apps we intend to use. Security apps top the list of software that need vetting because our device security, privacy, and data depend on them.

In the personal security space, VPN apps need the most inspection. The ownership of your VPN app, its policies, the strength of its infrastructure, and its partnership (if any) with governments, law enforcement agencies, and other establishments all need to be considered and vetted. VPN apps have mushroomed over the last decade and it’s become difficult to not only choose one over another but also find an independent one that you can buy once and stick to for life. Overchoice fuzzes decision-making.

It may seem counterintuitive to test security software like a VPN application but we feel it’s better to be cautious and be responsible for what you install in your devices than be a silent victim to customer-agnostic practices. In most cases, it’s not an isolated factor that makes a VPN provider untrustworthy. It’s a combination of multiple red flags that you should watch out for before committing.

Vetting a VPN is not easy as providers rarely share information about ownership or other factors publicly. Even when they do share, the important points are hidden in the fine print. With this article, we hope to make it easier for you to do a background check on any VPN.

Check If Your VPN is Trustworthy: 4 Critical Parameters

Keeping the challenges in mind, here’s a quick guide to check if your VPN app is trustworthy enough.

  1. Ownership Information

The ownership of a VPN has some bearing on its trustworthiness. According to a CNET article published in 2022, many mainstream VPN apps are controlled by a handful of companies. This is not to infer that having a common owner of multiple apps is intrinsically problematic. Instead, CNET stresses how ownership information, and therefore policies, can become opaque in such situations.

When two or more apps are owned and handled by the same entity, there is no way to know for sure what the underlying policy will be for one of the apps or what legal rule will take effect should a customer get involved in a particular event. This aspect is most critical for journalists and activists who depend on VPNs to fight censorship and voice their concerns against authoritarian governments online.

What to do: Go through your VPN app’s website and check out who owns it. There’s usually a trail that you can follow to unearth the entity that owns and manages your app, and therefore, controls your privacy. Next, go through the terms and conditions, and privacy policy. If something that you read in the fine print goes against what you believed or were marketed initially, you can take it as a signal the VPN provider in question may not be trustworthy.

  1. Subscriptions and Disclosures

An easier way to test a VPN’s trustworthiness is a two-pronged approach. First, if you’re not paying for your VPN, chances are that you are using a questionable app. As we have noted before, free VPN apps are never a good idea. They can make you and your devices vulnerable to cybercrimes. 

Second, even if you pay for your app through subscriptions, it’s not a sure-shot signal of trustworthiness. We recommend going a step further and vetting the provider for its disclosures. If a provider says it has a no-logs policy to market its product, but has a pro-logging policy hidden in its terms and conditions, you are looking at false advertising. Stay away from such VPN apps.

What to do: Read the terms and conditions carefully and watch out for disclosures before you pay.

  1. Collusion with Governments

Some countries have agreements in place where they can share information about their citizens’ data with each other. Called the Eyes Alliance, it’s a mutual treaty between countries that can potentially make your data vulnerable. For example, if a country requests a VPN provider registered in another country for information about certain users, the provider may be liable to honor that request based on its own set of terms and conditions.

From a user perspective, this is problematic if the VPN of your choice is registered in a country that is part of such an alliance. However, it isn’t easy to find a provider outside these alliances’ gamut. The only alternative is to go with an independent VPN provider

What to do: Look for an independent VPN provider registered in a country outside the Eyes Alliance. 

  1. Quality of VPN

Lastly, the quality of your VPN app’s network infrastructure also influences its trustworthiness. The quality of its servers, its customer base, and the security tools that it employs to protect its data and infrastructure from security threats are critical parameters to judge a VPN on.

While there is no way to check the quality of a VPN’s servers before you sign up, you must depend on unbiased user reviews on non-mainstream portals to make a decision. Instead of depending on reviews on aggregator and review sites, look them up on social media and comment sections. The sentiment in these areas is more truthful than other avenues where reviews are often sponsored or written with a conflict of interest.

What to do: Take a trial period if available to test out the VPN product before you subscribe.

Knowing if your VPN app is trustworthy requires some digging around. If not these four critical factors, you can try to gauge a company’s standing through the look and feel of its website and app. If they are in poor shape or if it uses pretentious language to market itself, it’s a sign to investigate further or just switch to another provider.

If you’re looking for an independent VPN provider that focuses on residential IPs, try tuxlerVPN

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