10 Reasons Not To Use a VPN (and 4 Reasons You Should)

A virtual private network (VPN) can help keep your information secure while browsing the internet, but a VPN isn’t always necessary.
We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to keep your online activity extra secure. A VPN encrypts your browsing activity and masks your IP address to give you more privacy and also helps you bypass censorship or access geo-restricted streaming content.

However, using a VPN can also have downsides. While VPNs tout added security, using the wrong VPN may actually jeopardize your personally identifiable information and put you at greater risk.

Let’s look at some situations where even the best VPN services aren't necessary, plus somewhere a VPN comes in handy.

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On NordVPN's website
VPN
NordVPN
Up to 69% off 2-year plans + a Saily eSIM data gift
  • Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • 3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices

In this article
VPN pros and cons overview
10 disadvantages of a VPN
When to use a VPN
3 best VPNs for online privacy and security
FAQs about VPN advantages and disadvantages
Bottom line: Should I use a VPN?

VPN pros and cons overview

Pros
  • Secures your internet traffic and activity
  • Lets you access geo-restricted content
  • Hides your IP address
  • Gets around internet censorship
  • Protects personal information
Cons
  • Sometimes decreases internet speeds
  • Possibly blocks some content
  • Potentially jeopardizes your security if the VPN collects user data
  • Illegal in some countries

10 disadvantages of a VPN

1. False sense of security

While a virtual private network (VPN) increases your privacy and security, it can also give you a false sense of security. Even with a VPN connection, you’re still susceptible to dangers like malware and hackers, as a VPN doesn’t stop you from visiting malicious websites.

By bundling a VPN with other security features — like antivirus protection, ad blocking, and identity theft coverage — you can safeguard your privacy and your digital data. 

Full Suite of Cybersecurity Tools on Unlimited Devices
4.8
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On Surfshark One's website
All-In-One
Surfshark One
Save up to 80% + 3 extra months
  • Blocks ads and pop-ups, including cookie consent requests, while browsing
  • Can also browse ad-free without a digital footprint with the Surfshark Search engine
  • All-in-one app includes VPN, antivirus scans, alternative ID creation, malware protection, and more on unlimited devices

2. Some streaming services block VPNs

Just because you have a VPN, it doesn’t mean you’re able to access every streaming service or website. Some streaming services block VPN users. This could be due to copyright issues, censorship, or advertising contracts.

If your main goal is to unblock Netflix or another streaming service, take a peek at our guide to the best VPN apps for streaming to see which ones let you watch your favorite shows.

3. Some websites block VPNs

Similar to streaming services blocking VPNs, other websites may also block VPN usage, too. In many cases, a website may block a VPN to help protect itself and its users from spam or cybercriminals. Websites may also restrict VPN usage to protect revenue from advertisers.

4. VPNs can slow down your internet speeds

One reason why you may not want to use a VPN is because it could slow down your internet connection speed significantly. There are several factors that affect your internet speeds when using a VPN, including the fact that a VPN encrypts your data and routes it through different servers, which slows down the process. This means VPNs slow down your internet speeds as a tradeoff for encrypting your data.

Your internet speed can also be affected based on the VPN server you’re using and the VPN protocol used.

Some VPNs affect your connection speed more than others. When we test and review a VPN, we look to see how our internet speeds are affected when connecting to servers all around the world. If you’re worried about your internet speeds slowing down, you can find one of the fastest VPNs.

If you think your slow internet connection is due to bandwidth throttling by your internet service provider (ISP), a VPN may actually help speed up your internet.

5. VPNs use extra data

The nature of a VPN means you’ll use more data to encrypt your information. While VPNs don’t use a ton of extra data, you want to be cautious if your cell phone provider or ISP has data caps.

There’s no industry standard for how much data a VPN uses since it’s dependent on how you use it. If you’re using a lot of data to stream content, the VPN also uses more data to encrypt your connection while you stream.

If you have data constraints, you may not want to use a VPN because a VPN uses extra data.

6. VPNs are illegal in some countries

Another reason to be cautious about using a VPN is that it may be illegal in the country where you are. While VPNs are legal throughout most of the world, some countries have restrictions or laws against using a VPN.

Select countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted:

  1. China
  2. North Korea
  3. Russia
  4. Iran
  5. Iraq
  6. United Arab Emirates
  7. Belarus
  8. Turkey
  9. Oman
  10. Uganda

We talk about this more in our guide to the best VPN providers for Russia, as the country has banned almost all VPNs within its borders. At the end of the day, be sure you understand how your country or the country you’re visiting views VPN usage, and be safe.

7. Free VPN providers might log your data

While a free VPN may sound like a dream come true, the cost savings could jeopardize your security.

Free VPN services are known to log your data and use that information to make money by selling your data to advertisers and marketing agencies. The worst part is that those data logs of your activity could end up in the hands of cybercriminals, who could use them to steal your identity or target you with cyberattacks.

It’s important to find a VPN dedicated to protecting your privacy online. You can understand how a VPN will or will not protect your privacy by researching whether the VPN keeps logs of your activity and reading the VPN’s privacy policy to see what information it collects and how it uses it.

8. Free VPNs may include malware

Speaking of cyberattacks, you may also find malware or malicious content included with a free VPN.

In the past, free VPNs were used to gain access to unsuspecting users’ devices. These free VPNs could add malware to your device through advertisements that help make the VPN free. To better protect yourself, it’s better to opt for a premium VPN than use a free one that may have vulnerabilities.

9. Not all paid VPNs protect you from malware

Just because a VPN protects your activity and masks your IP address, it may not also protect you from malware, trackers, and unwanted ads.

To better protect yourself from malware and viruses, it’s important to use antivirus software or to find a VPN that also includes that functionality. These five VPNs with malware protection can help you keep your devices safe.

5 VPNs with malware protection

  1. NordVPN Threat Protection: NordVPN comes with Threat Protection, which scans files you’re downloading to make sure they’re free from malware or trackers. NordVPN blocks these threats before they can access your device. Threat Protection also blocks intrusive ads and trackers and stops you from heading to malicious websites.

    See NordVPN Plans | Read Our NordVPN Threat Protection Review
  2. Surfshark CleanWeb: CleanWeb 2.0 is the latest malware protection tool from Surfshark. CleanWeb 2.0 has malware alerts, data breach alerts, a pop-up blocker, and an ad blocker. You can use CleanWeb 2.0 with Chrome, Firefox, or Edge by downloading the Surfshark VPN browser extension. Surfshark’s regular CleanWeb can be used with any device that has the VPN app installed, including Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and also smart TVs.

    See Surfshark Plans | Read Our Surfshark CleanWeb Review
  3. Private Internet Access (PIA) with Antivirus: With PIA, you get access to Web Shield, which protects you from ads, trackers, and malicious websites. PIA also sends detailed security reports on the types of malware and threats that were prevented, which is reassuring since you can see how well it’s working.

    See PIA Plans | Read Our PIA Review
  4. Avast SecureLine VPN: Avast offers a VPN and antivirus combo with its Avast One plan. The Avast One individual plan gives you malware protection for up to 10 devices, unlimited VPN usage, and alerts if your password is leaked. It also blocks scam messages sent to your phone.

    See Avast VPN Plans | Read Our Avast Review
  5. Malwarebytes Privacy VPN: Another great solution for a VPN and antivirus combo is Malwarebytes. The Malwarebytes Privacy VPN comes bundled with anti-malware, antivirus, and anti-spyware solutions in the Malwarebytes Premium + Privacy VPN plan. We also like that it removes third-party ad trackers and blocks malicious websites.

    Read Our Malwarebytes Review

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On NordVPN's website
VPN
NordVPN
Up to 69% off 2-year plans + a Saily eSIM data gift
  • Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • 3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices

10. Good VPN services cost money

To get a trustworthy and reputable VPN, you’ll need to pay for a VPN service. The price of a VPN depends on the features you want, and most, if not all, VPN services give better pricing if you commit to a 1- or 2-year contract.

You can find a VPN for a minimal monthly cost, ranging from $2.00–$16.00, depending on how long of a commitment you agree to. Many VPNs also offer a money-back guarantee for up to 45 days, so you can get a refund if the VPN isn’t meeting your needs. There are other ways you can save money on a VPN subscription as well, such as waiting for holiday sales or using a student discount.

When you should use a VPN

Although there are reasons not to use a VPN, there are also many advantages to using one. A VPN is a valuable tool for boosting your online security and anonymity. When privacy is your first concern, a VPN is a great solution. Here are a few more situations where a VPN can protect your privacy and let you safely and confidently browse the web.

  1. While using public Wi-Fi: If you’re using a public Wi-Fi connection and you’re accessing personal information such as bank accounts or email accounts, you may want to use a VPN to encrypt your activity and keep that information safe.
  2. Accessing geo-restricted content: Whether you’re traveling abroad or want to watch a blacked-out MLB game, you can use a VPN to mask your IP address and stream geo-restricted content. You can also use a VPN to mask your location so you can access Netflix libraries from other countries and have even more content to choose from.
  3. Avoiding censorship: Whether your company blocks social media or you’re traveling to a country that doesn’t allow access to certain types of content, a VPN can help you circumvent restrictions.
  4. For remote work: Your employer may require you to log into a VPN to access confidential or proprietary information. This is usually a policy set by your company and most provide a specific VPN to connect to. 

If you want to encrypt your connection while you check your bank account balances, you can choose to access your bank’s website through the VPN and not use the VPN’s encryption to access all other websites. This is called split tunneling.

3 best VPNs for online privacy and security

If you want to improve your privacy and security online but need advanced security features, these tested VPN providers are fast, secure, and highly rated. Best of all, these VPN apps come with all the bells and whistles, from a larger server network to unlimited simultaneous connections to a Lightway-fast connection speed.

Starting price Starts at $3.99/mo (billed every two years) Starts at $2.19/mo (billed biannually) Starts at $2.03/mo (billed every two years)
Number of devices 10 Unlimited 7
Server count 6,300+ in 111 countries 3,200+ in 100 countries 11,700+ in 100 countries
Streaming support
Torrenting support
Learn more See NordVPN Pricing See Surfshark Pricing See CyberGhost Pricing

FAQs about VPN advantages and disadvantages


+

Is it risky to use a VPN?

Not all VPNs are risky to use. To decrease the risk of using a VPN, it’s best to choose a reputable VPN solution that has a no-logs policy and protects your privacy over free VPN services. In many cases, a paid VPN is a better choice instead of a free version. 


+

What does a VPN not protect you from?

On its own, a VPN can’t protect you from malware or malicious content that may infiltrate your device. A VPN works by encrypting your internet traffic and masking your IP address, so you’re still susceptible to malicious attacks from the sites you visit.

But several VPNs offer antivirus or malware protection as well, and some, like NordVPN and Surfshark, have at least basic antivirus protection built in.


+

Should I use a VPN all the time?

You don’t need to use a VPN all the time. You should use a VPN when you need additional privacy while using the internet. This may be because of government censorship, geo-restricted content, or because you’re accessing sensitive information.

Bottom line: Should I use a VPN?

To VPN or not to VPN is much easier than understanding Shakespeare. The need for a VPN is completely based on your internet activity and what you’ll be up to.

The great thing about a VPN is you can turn it on for certain activities and turn it off once you no longer need it. If you’re using public Wi-Fi and need to go through your finances, turning on the VPN while you do so gives you added protection. And many of the best VPN services offer split tunneling, which gives you more control over which apps go through the VPN and which ones don't.

On the other hand, if you’re just casually browsing the internet from your home Wi-Fi network, using a VPN may not be necessary. As we covered earlier, you may not want to use a VPN if you have data constraints or if you need reliably fast internet speeds.

Customizable Coverage That is Simple to Use
5.0
Editorial Rating
Learn More
On NordVPN's website
VPN
NordVPN
Up to 69% off 2-year plans + a Saily eSIM data gift
  • Ultra-secure, high-speed VPN complete with malware protection and automatic blocking of intrusive ads and third-party trackers
  • Other benefits include a premium password manager, dark web monitoring, and access to IP-restricted content
  • 3 plans to choose from for custom protection on up to 10 devices

Author Details
Andrew Strom Adams is a freelance writer focused on online privacy and digital security. He writes on various topics to help individuals protect themselves on the internet. Andrew has worked in legal marketing, technology, and startups. He has more than 12 years of experience in marketing and communications. He holds an M.B.A. from Westminster College and a B.A. in journalism from Oklahoma Baptist University. When he’s not writing, he’s playing with his two kids or watching reality TV.