Research on VPN usage in the UK, which has been published by NordVPN, shows encouraging figures.
But the positive news is tempered slightly by the worrying revelation that almost 40% of VPN users are opting for a free service, despite all the risks they pose.
VPN use growing in the United Kingdom
The figures were revealed as part of a global research survey which saw questions about cybersecurity habits and VPN use, in particular, being put to users in 18 different countries.
It found that, of those surveyed in the UK, an encouraging 68% of people had now heard of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and had some understanding of what a VPN is.
That is a significant jump on similar surveys in the past and shows that the work that we do here at VPNCompare and the multiple other VPN advocacy sites across the internet is now helping to get that key VPN information through to consumers.
The survey also found that 28% of respondents already use a VPN. That, too, is a positive number and means that more than a quarter of Brits are now using VPNs.
So far, so good. But from there, things get a little gloomier as the survey dug a little deeper into exactly what kind of VPN Brits are using.
Britain’s unhealthy free VPN numbers
Unfortunately, NordVPN’s survey found that 40% of British VPN users are using a free VPN service. That means that two in five British VPN users are connecting to the internet using a VPN service that is likely to be inherently unsafe to use.
As regular readers will know all too well, there are a myriad of different reasons why free VPNs should be avoided.
They often harvest and sell user data, regularly restrict services, and sometimes don’t even bother to encrypt your information at all.
Lots of free VPNs come packaged together with malware and spyware too, and there is data to show that a lot of free VPNs are linked back to Communist China where the law requires tech companies to log and share information.
A free VPN might sound great, but they are basically not worth the effort, especially when you consider that a premium VPN should only set you back a few pounds a month max.
Sadly, this message isn’t getting through in the UK nearly as effectively as it is in other countries. Compared to the other 18 countries surveyed, Brits are among the worst at free VPN usage.
VPN demographics in the UK
The information about which demographics are using a VPN in the UK is a little more in line with what we would expect to see.
The NordVPN survey found that the group most likely to be using a VPN in the UK is men aged between 25 and 44. This demographic, which is usually referred to as “millennials” is the group most likely to be clued up on cybersecurity issues more generally, so this comes as no great surprise.
However, it is the younger Generation Z demographic that is also most likely to be using free VPNs. While the cost of living crisis is likely to be a factor in this, it shows that youth does not necessarily equate to good decision-making when it comes to cybersecurity.
Commenting on the survey results in the UK, Adrianus Warmenhoven, cybersecurity advisor at NordVPN, said, “Awareness of VPNs is growing because more people care about the safety of the data they post online.”
“However, usage habits can be better, and some people still choose free VPNs over paid ones, while others only use VPNs at work and forget about the importance of a safe internet at home.”
“Free VPNs don’t charge monthly or yearly fees, making them seem like an attractive option, but using one is a real roll of the dice. These need to make money so they often end up tracking and selling user data to third parties, bombarding users with ads, or employing aggressive strategies to get their free users to upgrade to a paid version.”
“It is important to choose reliable VPN services to make sure you don’t pay with your data instead of money. Also, remember that VPNs have many advantages, including browsing privately online, using public Wi-Fi safely, or even saving money on holiday bookings.”
He is absolutely right, and here at VPNCompare, we will continue to bang the drum for the use of proper premium VPN services that offer genuine security and privacy as well as a far better level of service and features than all free VPNs can muster.
NordVPN has also offered some advice to those who do not use VPNs too. They recommend that they should use impenetrable passwords, should be sure to employ some form of anti-malware software, and should not overshare on social media.
It goes without saying that NordVPN are absolutely right on all these points. But a proper premium VPN offers so much more, and for the sake of a couple of pounds a month, it really should be a no-brainer for just about every internet user in the UK and beyond.