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Some free VPN apps on Android come with malware, DNS leaks

(Image credit: Image Credit: Flickr / Mike MacKenzie)

Some free VPN apps for Android come with serious privacy issues, as well as malware, new research claims. Metric Labs claims that out of the top free 150 VPN apps found on Google's Play Store, 27 were flagged as potential sources for malware.

It was also said that a quarter (25 per cent) leaks DNS information. Permissions, which is generally seen as a touchy subject, also turned out to be a problem. The report says 85 per cent of all tested free VPN apps exposed their users to risks through questionable permissions. These include location tracking, access to device status information, use of camera and microphone (albeit in a smaller percentage), and access to the user's last known location.

Commenting to BleepingComputer (opens in new tab) about the result of the research Simon Migliano, Metric Labs' Head of Research, says: “While we didn't upgrade any apps that offered premium versions and do additional testing, I am confident that the main privacy issues would persist: ie leaks, intrusive permissions and risky code functions. It’s still the same app when you upgrade after all. It's possible that network performance may be better in some instances as paid subscribers gain access to the full range of servers.”

The full report, which explains the methodology and serves as a risk index designed to help Android users understand privacy risks, can be found on this link (opens in new tab).

Those interested in learning more about VPNs should read our Best VPN service for 2019 guide here.

Image Credit: Flickr / Mike MacKenzie

Sead Fadilpašić
Sead Fadilpašić

Sead Fadilpašić is a freelance tech writer and journalist with more than 17 years experience writing technology-focussed news, blogs, whitepapers, reviews, and ebooks. And his work has featured in online media outlets from all over the world, including Al Jazeera Balkans (where he was a Multimedia Journalist), Crypto News, TechRadar Pro, and IT Pro Portal, where he has written news and features for over five years. Sead's experience also includes writing for inbound marketing, where he creates technology-based content for clients from London to Singapore. Sead is a HubSpot-certified content creator.