Cracked Security: Why a Cracked VPN Could Cost You

It might be tempting to use a cracked VPN if you’re in need, but there are legitimate alternatives that won’t leave you worse off than when you started.
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When you’re strapped for cash but still need a VPN service, it’s tempting to try a free version on the internet. Crack downloads are popular because they offer online services that are necessary but oftentimes expensive.

It isn’t worth the risk, however, to use a cracked virtual private network (VPN). There’s the potential for malware, adware, and getting scammed out of your money if you use a cracked VPN. Whether you need it for cheap (or free) or are just trying to figure out what’s real and what isn’t in the sea of VPN options, we have you covered.

In this article
What is a cracked VPN?
7 risks of using a cracked VPN
5 ways to avoid cracked VPNs
Free and cheap VPN alternatives
Cracked VPN FAQs
Bottom line: Are cracked VPNs safe?

What is a cracked VPN?

A cracked VPN is a rip-off of a legitimate VPN provider. Like pirated movies or illegally downloaded music, it offers the product for free even though it’s not offered that way by the manufacturer.

There are a variety of reasons someone may choose to use a cracked VPN. The most obvious reason is wanting to save money on a VPN. However, others might need to conceal their identity and fear a legitimate VPN could log their payment data. And there’s always the possibility that it’s just not in the budget.

Whatever the reason, there are plenty of people out there willing to use (and create) cracked versions of VPNs. The pirated versions are usually made from well-known VPN services like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark. With the right tools, pirating this software is easier than you think — you really only need a text editor that can overwrite some of the code. Then you’ve got an open version of the program.

7 risks of using a cracked VPN

Software from legitimate manufacturers is vetted and tested to ensure you get a functional and safe program.

You can trust Betty Crocker is going to give you the same results whether you buy it from a grocery store or a discount store; it still all comes from Betty Crocker. That’s the same for software. You wouldn’t take an open box of cake mix labeled as Betty Crocker from a stranger on the street, so you shouldn’t download cracked VPNs.

1. Malware

This is the number one concern. If someone is able to alter the code of a program to distribute it for free, imagine what else they can put into the code.

Also, remember that most people aren’t cracking VPNs and giving them away because they believe in encrypted browsing for all. It’s likely they’re trying to distribute viruses and malware to as many places as possible in order to get a payday or cause havoc.

2. Privacy concerns

There’s a saying that if you aren’t paying for a product, then you are the product.

A VPN encrypts your traffic, which means it has access to all your most private information. Using a cracked VPN leaves you open and vulnerable to anyone who chooses to include data-stealing codes or a connection to a data-gathering server. The purpose of using a VPN is to encrypt and hide your data, not offer it up on a platter.

3. Missing features

While it may be attractive to use a pirated version of the software, there is a huge VPN disadvantage if something goes wrong.

Since the cracked version of the VPN won’t be covered, you won't have access to customer support. You’ll also lose access to updates of the latest version as it’s released by the developer. This can result in security issues and hacking as patches won’t be available. There are also likely to be features missing or features that don’t work properly.

4. Adware

Even if the distributor of the cracked VPN isn’t a cybercriminal looking to harvest your data, you can still get slammed with adware.

While adware wasn’t created to encrypt your files, harvest your data, or ransom the contents of your hard drive, it can still create a host of problems. It can bog down your device with endless pop-ups and redirect you to malicious sites. Adware has been known to be so troublesome that your device can become unusable.

5. Getting the wrong software

There’s always a chance you’ll end up the victim of a bait and switch. This means you may purchase a cracked VPN for a single payment and receive a completely different product than you thought you were paying for.

There’s no assistance for this either. Since you were already purchasing something illegally, you likely won’t be able to report the transaction to get your money back.

6. Getting booted off the account

You may get a completely normal and working cracked VPN that works just fine with no adware and even comes with an activation code or license key.

These hacked accounts exploit the original owner’s poor password strength to get you into their program. But once the software updates or the user changes the password, you’re out of luck.

7. Having to wait for someone to sign out

Similar to being booted off a hacked legitimate account, you may end up using someone else’s VPN account, which means you aren’t able to access it if they’re already logged on. If they only have so many connections, you may have to wait to use it. If the person catches on to the extra connection on the account, you could end up booted.

5 ways to avoid cracked VPNs

Whether you want to unblock Netflix, increase your online privacy, mask your IP address, or just browse anonymously, there are safe methods. Don’t get caught in a scam thinking you’re using a secure VPN when you’re not.

1. Don’t download from unofficial sources

It should go without saying, but you should only download software from the developer’s site or an official marketplace. If you want NordVPN, the only place you should get the software is from NordVPN’s site.

Marketplaces like the Apple Store or Google Play Store are usually reliable as well. Be careful with the Google Play Store, however, and check reviews. Sometimes it lets apps with viruses through.

You can tell a website’s legitimacy by looking at the address bar. A legit website will begin with “https:” and usually have a lock beside it. The s in the https: coupled with the lock symbol means that the site is most likely secure.

2. Avoid sketchy payment terms

If the VPN software you’re purchasing offers a one-time payment, you should be cautious. Even the most affordable VPNs charge on a monthly basis or let you subscribe annually.

Just know that legitimate premium VPNs will have recurring charges. Legitimate free VPNs will usually have restrictions on the product with more options and features on higher tiers.

3. Double-check and compare prices

If the deal seems too good to be true… well, you know how that ends. Double-check whether a product is legit at trusted review sites like All About Cookies, TrustPilot, and other tech forums.

Reviews almost always link back to the legitimate site. Make sure you trust your review site and the marketplaces you’re downloading from if they’re not from the developer. Credit cards and payment services like PayPal are less risky and make it easier to challenge a charge.

4. Use alternative methods

If you need privacy but can’t afford a premium VPN subscription, consider other ways to browse anonymously. There are private search engines like DuckDuckGo as well as an incognito mode in your current browser that don’t cost a dime.

You also have the option to use private browsers that are offered through some services like Tor. While these won’t provide you with as much encryption as a VPN, they’re still offering more privacy than using the internet without them.

5. Choose a reputable cheap or free VPN

There are some products that are worth getting for free (like password managers), but a VPN is usually the kind of product you want to purchase. Free VPNs typically sell your data and cheap VPNs may also log and sell your data.

If you do need a VPN and have no room in your budget, there are some that are more affordable and will do the job. Be careful, however, and do your research. We have a list of our favorite cheap and free VPNs with the drawbacks are for each.

Be careful choosing a free VPN

If you aren’t paying for the product, you are the product. Be aware that free and cheap VPNs usually make money by selling your data. And worse, free downloads could install malware on your device.

Free and cheap VPN alternatives

If we’ve successfully dissuaded you from risking it with a cracked VPN but you’re still looking for a safe, free VPN service, check out the suggestions below.

Two of our recommendations can be used for free with data limits. Most, if not all, free VPNs have data limits, so be suspicious of any that don’t.

Our recommendations all operate with a no-logs policy, so you know your information isn’t being sold off to the highest bidder. If you do end up needing more than the free services require, the pricing structure on each of these options won’t break the bank.


Unlimited Device Protection and Large Server Network
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On Surfshark's website
83% off + 3 months free
  • All-in-one VPN app with 24/7 protection thanks to 3,200+ RAM-only servers in over 100 countries
  • Real-time malware defense, webcam protection, alternative ID creation, ad blocking, and more
  • One subscription covers unlimited devices for your entire household with access to 24/7 support

Surfshark is our top-recommended, low-cost option if you need a VPN. It includes CleanWeb, which is an ad and tracker blocker that blocks malware and phishing attempts.

We also like that you can connect unlimited devices with no data cap. These features aren’t found on every VPN, so Surfshark rises above the rest with these extra touches.

Surfshark VPN features

Features Surfshark Starter 24 Months
Lowest price $2.19/mo (billed biennially)
Data cap Unlimited
Speed cap None
Simultaneous connections Unlimited
Server locations 3200+ servers in 100 countries
No-logs policy No logs
Learn more Get Surfshark
Prices as of 05/19/2023.

Read Our Surfshark Review


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On PrivadoVPN's website
  • Affordable pricing and a free plan option
  • Fast speeds and unblocks Netflix
  • Low server count

Privado has a no-logs policy and unlimited devices on its free version. While you can only have one connection going at a time, you can enjoy that on any of your devices.

The 10 GB data cap every 30 days is on par with competitors, but there are other features included with PrivadoVPN, like a kill switch and three different VPN protocols to choose from, that help it stand out. Overall, it’s a great free option and the paid plans are pretty good too.

PrivadoVPN features

Features Free Plan 24-Month Plan
Lowest price Free $1.48/mo (billed annually)
Data cap 10 GB/mo Unlimited
Speed cap None None
Simultaneous connections 1 10
Server count 12 servers 63 cities
No-logs policy No logs No logs
Learn more View Plans View Plans
Prices as of 05/19/2023.

Read Our PrivadoVPN Review

Cracked VPN FAQs


How hard is it to crack a VPN?

It is surprisingly easy to crack a VPN. You’ll need a text editor that allows you to edit hexadecimal values in a binary. You’ll then just need to overwrite some code, and you’re done. It’s worth noting that this is illegal.


Is the ExpressVPN crack safe?

No, the cracked version of ExpressVPN is still a cracked piece of software and therefore subject to all the issues that come with cracked VPNs.


Is the NordVPN crack safe?

The NordVPN crack is not safe either. No cracked VPN is safe or legit. You should only use software that comes from the original developer.

Bottom line: Are cracked VPNs safe?

No, cracked VPNs are not safe. They can be a hotbed of malware that may slip past your antivirus software and ruin the functionality of your device.

Even if the cracked VPN isn’t loaded with malicious code, it can be a hacked version of another user’s legitimate software that could boot you or lock you out with an update or password change. At its very best, you’ll be using a VPN with no software updates and no support, so eventually it will become a security issue.

It may be tempting to use a cracked VPN, but it just isn’t worth it. There are plenty of options for free or low-cost VPN services that are a better alternative to using illegally acquired software. Remember, at the end of the day, using pirated software is still just plain and simple theft.

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On NordVPN's website
Up to 71% off 2-year plans + 3 months extra
  • 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
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.