Tobi’s take on secure communications: Is there such a thing as a free lunch?

Hello, everybody!

As promised last time, today we are going to focus on money. You've probably read on the Internet that there are free versions of VPN clients. For example, I have a free client on my personal laptop so that I can connect to the university's network and access the online library, among other things. But what key differences are there between free and paid versions? Thanks to the experience that I have gathered at NCP so far, I’m now able to answer this question for you.

Firstly, we need to look at the wider picture. Remember that VPNs have many applications. Using two examples below, I will try to explain why you might choose free verses paid software.

Let's take a look at using VPN for consumer applications first. Perhaps you want to connect to public Wi-Fi with your laptop or want to surf anonymously at home. If this is the case, it’s best to use a VPN client that supports an encrypted connection the server. Without using a VPN, theoretically anyone could intercept sensitive data and passwords. This might allow hackers to log into your PayPal account and access your hard-earned cash, for example. To prevent this, there are a variety of free VPN clients that could be used which are completely sufficient for anonymous or secure surfing.

As for the corporate world, VPNs face different requirements. Here, VPN infrastructure can help to prevent damages running into the millions due to malicious attacks. Imagine the following example from industrial production:

As you know, many machines are used to build cars today. For some time now, these machines have even been able to communicate with each other via the Internet. Machine A, which attaches the tires to the car, communicates with machine B, which delivers the tires to the car. If machine A detects that it has too few tires to attach, it tells machine B that it should produce more tires to avoid bottlenecks in production. Suppose an attacker hacks into this communication channel and prevents the message from machine A from arriving at machine B. This would cause a bottleneck; fewer cars would be produced, and the car manufacturer would have to accept financial losses. To prevent this from happening, the machines are equipped with a VPN component that allows secure data traffic between the two machines.

Taking these examples into account, both free and paid VPNs have their place in the market for very different applications. It’s impossible to compare free and paid versions 1:1 since they are designed for different purposes. That's why the myth free VPNs are just as good as paid VPNs is hard to criticize, because they are two very different beasts, it's like comparing apples and pears.

Next month will be the last time that we bust some VPN myths together. I hope you are excited as I am to see what I have in store for the final episode. I promise you won’t want to miss out.

See you next time,


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