As internet users become increasingly savvy about their online security, VPNs have grown in popularity. Once reserved for special purposes, VPNs have now gone mainstream as more people realize VPNs can protect their private data and help them access blocked sites. 

However, that increased popularity has also incentivized bad actors to enter the market, using VPN services as a vehicle to steal users’ browsing data or sneak malware onto their devices. Because of this, it is important for you to understand the tech and know what to look for when researching a safe VPN download. 

How VPNs work

VPNs work by creating an encrypted connection between your computer and the servers of the VPN service you’re using. The VPN provider then passes your traffic to and from the internet resource you’re trying to access, such as a website.

By encrypting your traffic between your computer and the VPN server, you prevent your internet service provider or network administrator from seeing your online activity. You also prevent the websites you visit from knowing your true IP address. All they see is the IP address of the VPN server you’re connecting to.

Free VPNs can be quickly downloaded from online app stores for immediate use. But because of the way VPNs work, any provider can technically monitor your web traffic. Free services have an incentive to do so because this information is valuable to advertisers. 

That’s why it’s so important to choose a trustworthy VPN that is transparent, does not keep users’ activity logs, and does not have a business model that relies on misusing your data for profit. 

Are VPNs safe? 

Most VPNs are safe from a technical standpoint. But there are some malicious VPNs waiting for unsuspecting users to unwittingly download their associated malware. 

Some of the more malicious free VPNs will secretly download malware(new window) onto your computer in order to steal your personal information. 

More common are VPNs that make money by logging your activity and selling your personal information to advertisers. And while not all free VPNs are malicious, many limit your data usage, can slow down your internet speed, and spam you with targeted ads while in use.

Truly secure VPN tools will not track your data or attempt to access your private information, whether for targeted ads or otherwise. 

Safely downloading a VPN

To safely download a high-quality VPN, it’s best to identify one being promoted through a reliable provider. Trustworthy companies tend to have name recognition and real reviews. Untrustworthy companies might have hundreds of positive reviews, but a closer look will reveal that many appear to have been written by bots. 

Safe VPNs will also have a robust web presence. If you come across a free VPN, do a quick search on the company before downloading the app. If you can’t find much of a footprint, skip it and move to the next. Trustworthy VPN providers will have a transparent website and plenty of coverage in the news and by popular reviewers. Additionally, reliable VPNs will provide information on their founders and board members. Funding sources and company location should be easy to find as well. 

Don’t mistake price with quality. There are plenty of free or affordable VPNs that won’t steal your data. That’s because these companies typically operate under a “freemium” business model, offering paid upgrades to their services while keeping the base product free. If a VPN is charging for download, be sure to research them first. 

The benefits of downloading Proton VPN

We created Proton VPN to ensure security, privacy, and freedom for all internet users because we believe privacy should be accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Proton VPN provides both free and paid versions(new window), meaning you can quickly download the app and start browsing or choose to upgrade for more servers and advanced security features. Both options are secure, encrypted and safe, and the free plan offers unlimited browsing. We do not track your usage or data and will not sell your information for targeted ads.

The paid version of Proton VPN also blocks malware, ads, and trackers and supports private streaming(new window) of Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and other channels. 

Our two-factor authentication(new window) ensures that your account is secure against hackers, and all of our servers are fully encrypted(new window), so your data is safe even if a data center is compromised.

And as we mentioned earlier in this article, we pass our own transparency test(new window): All of our code is open source and audited(new window), and we disclose our leadership team, office locations, and funding sources. We believe in a better internet, and by using a trustworthy VPN, you can help make that vision a reality. 

Downloading a VPN FAQ

How do I download a safe VPN?

First, decide on a reliable provider. Next, be sure to download the VPN directly from that provider’s website. Don’t go through a third-party provider or through the results of a web search. There are many VPN services to choose from; when in doubt, try a different provider.

Is it safe to download a VPN app to my phone?

Yes, from a reliable provider. You can evaluate your options for a safe VPN app the same way you would for a computer download. Once you’ve determined the best option, locate the app on the company’s site (and double-check to be sure the URL is correct) and follow their link to the app store on your phone. This will ensure you’re downloading the correct option.

Do I need a VPN?

Once reserved for special purposes, VPNs are now popular for secure internet browsing and as a way of accessing blocked websites, social media, and streaming content. A trustworthy VPN can offer peace of mind and a better internet experience.

Feel free to share your feedback and questions with us via our official social media channels on Twitter(new window) and Reddit(new window).

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Update July 18, 2024: This article has been updated to feature the latest audit of our no-logs policy by Securitum, which was concluded on July 12, 2024. Links to all our no-logs policy audits are included. We’re pleased to announce that Proton VPN
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