Disadvantages of a VPN: Should You Use a VPN in 2023

You can also use our Great Firewall of China test to find out exactly which websites are blocked in China.

The 10 Disadvantages Of Using a VPN

Simon Migliano is a recognized world expert in VPNs. He’s tested hundreds of VPN services and his research has featured on the BBC, The New York Times and more.

  1. What Is a VPN?
  2. VPN Disadvantages

Understanding the disadvantages of using a VPN and appreciating what it can and can’t do is a crucial part of keeping yourself safe online. In this guide, we introduce the 10 most important VPN disadvantages.

scales showing disadvantages of using a VPN

Using a high-quality VPN service is a reliable way to secure your privacy and maximize your freedom online.

A good VPN hides your IP address, encrypts your web browsing activity, and lets you unblock websites that are censored in your location.

But a VPN won’t solve all of your problems. It’s important to understand the limitations and disadvantages of using a VPN in order to keep yourself safe online and help you decide whether a VPN is worth it for you.

Despite the clear benefits, a VPN isn’t a universal solution for all internet privacy issues. Thinking that it is could put you at risk.

In this guide, we explore the ten main downsides to using a VPN.

Quick Summary: The 10 biggest disadvantages of VPNs

  1. A VPN won’t give you complete anonymity
  2. Your privacy isn’t always guaranteed
  3. Using a VPN is illegal in some countries
  4. A safe, top-quality VPN will cost you money
  5. VPNs almost always slow your connection speed
  6. Using a VPN on mobile increases data usage
  7. Some online services try to ban VPN users
  8. It won’t protect you from malware or phishing attacks
  9. Most VPNs fail to bypass censorship and streaming blocks
  10. A lot of VPNs are outright dangerous to use

What’s In This Guide

  • 1. A VPN Will Not Make You Completely Anonymous
  • 2. Your Privacy Depends On Your VPN Service
  • 3. It’s Illegal to Use a VPN in Some Countries
  • 4. Good VPN Services Cost Money
  • 5. Using a VPN Slows Down Your Connection Speeds
  • 6. VPNs Increase Data Consumption
  • 7. Some Online Services Ban VPN Users
  • 8. VPNs Don’t Protect You from Malware or Phishing Attacks
  • 9. It Isn’t Always Possible to Bypass Restrictions
  • 10. Most VPNs Are Dangerous to Use
  • The Bottom Line

What’s In This Guide

  • 1. A VPN Will Not Make You Completely Anonymous
  • 2. Your Privacy Depends On Your VPN Service
  • 3. It’s Illegal to Use a VPN in Some Countries
  • 4. Good VPN Services Cost Money
  • 5. Using a VPN Slows Down Your Connection Speeds
  • 6. VPNs Increase Data Consumption
  • 7. Some Online Services Ban VPN Users
  • 8. VPNs Don’t Protect You from Malware or Phishing Attacks
  • 9. It Isn’t Always Possible to Bypass Restrictions
  • 10. Most VPNs Are Dangerous to Use
  • The Bottom Line

1. A VPN Will Not Make You Completely Anonymous

Even the best VPNs can’t guarantee your anonymity online. Your browsing behavior can still reveal your true identity in ways that your VPN service cannot control.

If you’re logged into a Google or Facebook account, a VPN won’t be able to stop those companies from monitoring your activity.

There’s also a collection of techniques that advertisers use to track you across the internet. These include:

  • Web trackers and cookies: Websites use trackers and cookies to tailor their service to your specific needs. They store details about you, such as your name and geographic location, and can be used to identify you despite a VPN connection.
  • Browser fingerprinting: Most browsers reveal small pieces of information unique to you and your session. Authorities and advertisers can collate this information to build a ‘fingerprint’ that identifies your online presence, even when you’re using a VPN. Learn more about browser fingerprinting in our best private browsers guide.

Illustration of a thumbprint, demonstrating browser fingerprinting.

Websites can track you through browser fingerprinting.

To maximize your anonymity, you should pair your VPN with a genuinely private browser like Mozilla Firefox.

Consider also using an anonymous search engine like DuckDuckGo, and think carefully about your behavioral patterns online.

2. Your Privacy Depends On Your VPN Service

One of the key reasons to use a VPN is to stop unwanted individuals from observing what you do online.

Just as you wouldn’t let a stranger watch you from the window of your house, you don’t want strangers spying on you online.

However, by protecting yourself with a VPN, you’re still handing your browsing activity over to someone else: your VPN service.

All your traffic is routed through the VPN provider’s servers. If it wanted to, it could see who you are and what you’re doing online. That’s why it’s crucial to look at the VPN’s logging policy before you start using it.

Your privacy is entirely dependent on how trustworthy the VPN service is. If you choose an invasive VPN like SkyVPN, for example, your privacy won’t be protected at all.

You need a VPN that will not log any personally identifiable information about you or your activities. Ideally, its logging policy will have been independently verified by a third-party audit.

Without a no-logs policy, a VPN is a threat to your privacy and is probably unsafe to use. Learn more about logging policies, and see a list of genuine zero-logs VPNs, in our guides to VPN logs.

3. It’s Illegal to Use a VPN in Some Countries

Countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted

Countries where VPNs are illegal or restricted.

VPN apps are legal in most countries around the world, but there are still a small number of places where using a VPN is either illegal or restricted.

The countries that ban or regulate VPN use are:

  • Belarus
  • China
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • North Korea
  • Oman
  • Russia
  • Turkey
  • Turkmenistan
  • United Arab Emirates

You could therefore be breaking the law by simply using a VPN, and you may be prosecuted if caught.

In China, for instance, anyone found using a VPN service, that has not been explicitly approved by the government, can be fined up to 15,000 yuan (equal to around $2,300).

To learn more about global censorship, see where in the world VPNs are legal or illegal.

NOTE: Using a VPN to perform illegal activities is still illegal, regardless of where you are in the world.

4. Good VPN Services Cost Money

The unfortunate truth is that a high-performing, safe VPN will cost money.

It doesn’t have to break the bank, though. The average price of our most-recommended VPNs is just under $4.00 a month, with the cheapest option priced at $1.11 /month.

For a full price comparison, take a look at our analysis of how much VPNs cost.

While the best VPNs don’t necessarily cost the most money, you’re unlikely to find a service that’ll do everything you want for free.

The overwhelming majority of free VPNs are either poor quality or genuinely dangerous to use. When it comes to your privacy and security, it’s just not worth taking the risk.

That said, we have found a handful of trustworthy free VPN apps. These services are very good, considering you’re not paying a cent. However, their performance is limited. For example, most of them cap how much data you can use each month.

5. Using a VPN Slows Down Your Connection Speeds

Using a VPN service almost always slows down your connection speed. This is because, once you turn the VPN on, your connection starts to take a longer route to the internet, via your chosen VPN server.

With good-quality VPNs, the speed loss is minimal, to the extent that you won’t even notice it. For instance, Hotspot Shield delivers a speed loss of just 0.41%.

However, poor-quality VPNs can slow download speeds and increase latency to an unusable degree. This can be a major issue if your internet connection is already quite slow or if you’re doing something speed-sensitive, such as streaming, gaming, or torrenting.

EXPERT TIP: Very occasionally, a VPN will actually improve the speeds of certain activities by helping you to overcome ISP bandwidth throttling.

6. VPNs Increase Data Consumption

By encrypting your data and hiding your traffic from unwanted surveillance, a VPN also increases the amount of bandwidth you use.

For mobile VPN users, this means that whenever you use your VPN while connected to cellular data and not WiFi, you’re consuming data at a faster rate than you would without the VPN turned on.

Our research has shown that VPNs increase data usage by anywhere between 4% and 20%, depending on which VPN protocol you’re using.

As a consequence, you’ll probably reach your contract’s monthly data limit much faster. If you’re abroad, you could end up paying more in data roaming charges than you would otherwise.

For more information, read our complete guide to VPN data usage.

7. Some Online Services Ban VPN Users

Many online services discourage the use of VPNs or even prohibit them outright.

This is often the case with streaming services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, which try to block VPNs in order to stop you from accessing videos and movies that aren’t licensed in your geographic region.

Some online stores, such as Steam, also try to prevent users from accessing its service with a VPN. This is because it has localized versions of the store with region-specific prices and release dates.

Although it’s not illegal to use a VPN to unlock ‘hidden’ content on these sites (in most countries), it may be against the company’s terms of use. If so, they have the right to suspend or delete your account if you’re found to be using a VPN.

NOTE: We have reviewed 55 VPN services and tested every one with Netflix. This includes poor-quality VPN services that are easily identified by Netflix’s censors. Despite this, we have never received an account suspension.

8. VPNs Don’t Protect You from Malware or Phishing Attacks

Misunderstanding the limits of a VPN can lead to the false impression that you are untouchable online.

While good VPNs provide essential protection from eavesdropping and man-in-the-middle attacks, VPNs do not protect you from every cyber attack, meaning they are not they’re not a catch-all solution.

Using a VPN will not protect you against:

  1. Malware: A VPN will not secure your device against most forms of malware (such as viruses, spyware, and ransomware). It will prevent the injection of malicious code during a man-in-the-middle attack, though.
  2. Phishing Attacks: You’re still susceptible to social engineering attacks, like phishing scams, when you have a VPN on. Be careful about which links you click on and what you download to your device.

NOTE: Some VPN services do offer additional security features. NordVPN’s Threat Protection feature, for example, includes an adblocker, anti-malware software, and a tool to prevent DDoS attacks. You’ll usually have to pay extra for these features, and they may not perform as well as equivalent standalone products.

9. It Isn’t Always Possible to Bypass Restrictions

The error message that is displayed when DAZN detects a VPN at registration

DAZN displays an error message when it detects a VPN at registration.

More than a fifth of VPN users in the US and UK use their VPN to “access geographically restricted entertainment content,” according to our global statistics survey. This involves unblocking foreign streaming libraries and watching content that isn’t typically available in your location.

Other people use VPNs to access the free, global internet from inside high-censorship countries such as China, Turkey, and Iran.

Unfortunately, no VPN provider can guarantee you’ll be able to bypass these restrictions at all times.

Some VPNs are better than others, but even the best services get blocked from time to time. It’s essentially a game of cat-and-mouse between the streaming service (e.g. Netflix) or censorship system (e.g. Great Firewall of China) and your VPN service.

Consult our lists of the best streaming VPNs and best anti-censorship VPNs for an overview of which VPNs currently bypass aggressive web restrictions.

You can also use our Great Firewall of China test to find out exactly which websites are blocked in China.

10. Most VPNs Are Dangerous to Use

Your VPN service has access to a lot of personal information. It can see your IP address, the websites you visit, and what you do on those websites.

Trustworthy VPN companies ignore this information, and most make sure it is never recorded in the first place.

However, while safe VPN companies make their money through your subscription payments, a large number of free VPNs are not safe. The companies behind these apps make money by collecting your personal information and selling it to the highest bidder.

In short: you are the product, not the VPN. For many of these companies, the whole purpose of operating a VPN service is to gather data to sell on for profit. This is the reason they’re often able to offer their VPN for ‘free’.

For this reason, using a VPN can often be more dangerous than not using a VPN. That’s why it’s crucial to do your research before downloading. Use a trusted, safe VPN, or don’t use one at all.

The Bottom Line

Using a VPN is crucial if you care about your privacy, security, and freedom online.

A good VPN will hide your identity, secure your personal information, and keep your online activity hidden from the government, ISPs, large corporations, and prying third parties.

It will also let you bypass geographical restrictions and access content that is blocked or censored in your location. For this reason, we recommend you use a trusted VPN service while browsing the internet.

However, a VPN won’t meet all your privacy and security needs. Also, it will slow down your internet speeds and increase your data usage.

Even worse, a poor-quality VPN could carry serious security and privacy risks, and leave you worse off than if you weren’t using one at all.

Disadvantages of a VPN: Should You Use a VPN in 2023?

VPN shield with a thumbs down next to a woman looking disappointed

While VPNs are a great tool for increasing anonymity and improving security online, they do have disadvantages. We’ve summarized the main disadvantages of using a VPN below:

  • Some VPNs may slow your connection speed and you could experience connection drops.
  • You could be blocked from using particular services or websites, like Netflix.
  • VPNs are illegal in a few countries and could give you a false sense of (legal) impunity.
  • Some VPNs don’t offer sufficient protection and privacy.
  • Some VPNs — particularly free VPNs — may log and sell your browsing activity to third parties.

Fortunately, choosing the right VPN will resolve most of these issues with ease. That’s why we recommend using a trustworthy VPN with reliable connections, good speeds, and solid unblocking measures, such as NordVPN.


If you want to learn more about the disadvantages of a VPN, and how a good VPN can mitigate these, check out the complete article below.

A virtual private network might seem like the perfect solution to many online privacy problems. After all, a VPN encrypts your data, hides your IP address, and unblocks geographically restricted content. Why shouldn’t you use a VPN? Well, as with anything, there are some disadvantages of using a VPN.

We’ve tested dozens of VPNs for our reviews, so we know these VPN apps inside out. So, before you hit the purchase button on that VPN, let’s look at the main disadvantages of a VPN!

Overview: Pros and Cons of VPNs

Icon showing thumbs up and down, representing pros and cons

Need the short version? Here’s a handy table of the pros and cons of a VPN. Broadly speaking, VPNs can help increase your privacy and security. They also give you access to restricted content like international Netflix catalogs or YouTube videos that are unavailable in your country.

However, as with all software, there are disreputable apps that fail to perform as advertised. These low-tier VPNs fail at unblocking restricted content and can significantly slow down your VPN connection.


  • VPNs encrypt your data and hide your IP address, increasing your privacy and security.
  • Good VPNs can bypass government censorship and access geo-restricted content.
  • VPNs let you stop speed throttling from your internet service provider.
  • Public WiFi networks are safer to use when connected to a VPN.
  • Businesses can use VPNs to allow remote connection to the company’s network.
  • VPNs can give you access to games that haven’t been released yet in your part of the world.
  • A VPN with dedicated IPs can help you log into important services abroad.


  • Quality VPNs cost money.
  • Some countries ban or restrict VPN use.
  • Low-tier VPNs can decrease your speed and get you blocked by streaming services.
  • Low-tier VPNs can’t bypass censorship and streaming blocks.
  • Some free VPNs don’t offer secure encryption or will sell your data to third parties.
  • You may experience connection drops with low-tier VPNs.

Now, let’s take a closer look at these VPN disadvantages.

The 10 Main Disadvantages of Using a VPN

Like any other software, there are VPNs that disappoint. These low-tier VPNs can cause problems for their users, such as slowing down your internet connection or getting you blocked by your favorite streaming site.

Keep reading below to see these VPN disadvantages discussed in detail.

Infographic showing the 10 main disadvantages of using a VPN

1. Low-tier VPNs will decrease your speed

Because a VPN reroutes and encrypts your internet connection through a VPN server, your connection speed might drop slightly. This is why it’s important to test your VPN speed when trying out a new provider.

Most premium VPN services such as NordVPN won’t slow down your internet too much. Some of the fastest VPNs, according to our speed comparison, include the following:

VPN Download speed decrease (Fastest server) Upload speed decrease (Fastest server) Ping increase (Fastest server)
Surfshark 4.71 MB 4.60 MB 3
NordVPN 6.86 MB 3.86 MB 3
CyberGhost 11.69 MB 13.58 MB 3

With a fast premium VPN, most internet users won’t notice significant speed drops when browsing the web and using social media. That’s because these activities don’t require huge amounts of data.

However, during activities that use lots of data, such as streaming and downloading, you could definitely notice some speed differences. For instance, gamers who want to play online multiplayer games should look into the best VPNs for gaming to make sure they don’t experience any lag.

2. Low-tier VPNs can get you blocked by streaming services

There’s a lot of content online that you can only access from within a certain region. This includes streaming services like Netflix. These services lock out internet users from countries where they aren’t allowed to broadcast content.

These geo-restrictions are due to contracts with movie distributors that only allow content to be shown in specific regions. In addition to Netflix, some other services that use region blocking include BBC iPlayer, Hulu, HBO Max, Disney+, and Shudder.

Netflix simply blocks IP addresses that access their service with a large number of simultaneous connections. Since VPN users share a server — and therefore an IP address — Netflix can accurately guess when you’re using a VPN.

Luckily, some VPN providers offer great countermeasures against VPN blocks. Premium VPNs such as NordVPN offer dedicated IP addresses and obfuscated servers, both of which help disguise the fact that you’re using a VPN.

3. Most VPNs can’t bypass censorship and streaming blocks

Streaming services have become very aggressive and effective in enforcing their geo-blocks over the years. This means they also block many VPNs and VPN servers. As a result, only a few VPNs can unblock popular streaming services these days.

As such, it’s important to choose your VPN wisely if you want to use it for streaming. We recommend you check out our overview of the best VPN providers. All of these providers are able to unblock various streaming services, such as Netflix, HBO, Disney+, and BBC iPlayer.

4. Some countries restrict or ban VPNs

The use of a VPN is legal in most countries. However, some governments want complete control over what their citizens get to see on the internet. Since a VPN can be used to bypass government censorship, the tool has been made illegal in some totalitarian countries, such as North Korea, Belarus, Oman, Iraq, and Turkmenistan.

In certain countries, like China and Egypt, you can only use government-approved VPNs. The use of a VPN isn’t necessarily illegal there, but VPN use is restricted.

Some quality VPN providers, such as NordVPN, have developed special “obfuscated servers,” which should still be usable in countries like China. These servers mask the fact you’re using a VPN because they don’t show any metadata associated with VPN use.

5. Some free VPNs don’t offer secure protocols or encryption

Many free VPN services don’t actually care about protecting your privacy and anonymity online. They just want to make money. A prime example is Hola VPN, a VPN service you should think twice about using. Hola might be “free,” but the service has still found “creative” ways to get paid in the past.

Several years ago, Hola has been found to sell users’ bandwidth. They sold this resource to a party that used it to launch a DDoS attack against a controversial web forum (8chan). Another reason to avoid Hola is that it’s known to log an enormous amount of user data.

Another example is TuxlerVPN, which mentions it offers “military-grade encryption.” This implies high security standards. However, it completely fails to explain which protocols it uses or any of its encryption characteristics.

Typically, predatory VPNs like these don’t offer trusted VPN protocols, such as OpenVPN or Wireguard, and are not transparent regarding their encryption. They may also have spyware or malware hidden away in the download file. In this case, your antivirus program should flag the VPN app as soon as you download it.

6. Free VPNs might sell your data to third parties

When you connect to a VPN provider, your internet traffic is routed through its servers. The VPN encrypts your data and hides your IP address, replacing it with a different one.

This offers greater security and anonymity. However, it also means that you need to trust that your VPN won’t manipulate or abuse your data.

Many VPN providers hold up their end of the bargain: these “no-logs” or “zero logs” VPNs neither log your actions nor store your data. Most premium VPNs like NordVPN have proven to be zero logs VPNs.

However, some low-tier VPN providers do log data, including your real IP address and your browsing activity. Some even claim not to log any data — but have been later found to do so.

In June 2021, the free VPN service DoubleVPN had its servers, data, and customer logs seized as a result of an international sting by the National Crime Agency (UK), Polisen (Sweden), Europol (the EU’s law enforcement agency), and others. The sting was organized due to suspicion of illegal activities on the dark web. DoubleVPN’s website has since been taken down.

7. You may experience connection drops with low-tier VPNs

Many VPN providers include a so-called kill switch in their software. If your connection to a VPN server drops, the kill switch will prevent your data from leaking by severing your entire connection to the internet. Your connection will only get restored once the VPN is back up and running.

While a kill switch ensures that your data or connection is never exposed, it can also disrupt your daily activities. Thankfully, quality VPN providers have ways to combat this issue.

For one, they often have a vast server network. This means you can usually find a server that’s not too far away from you. Secondly, a large server network prevents overcrowding on a single server. Both of these features increase the strength of your connection and reduce the probability of connection drops.

8. Using a VPN increases mobile data usage

VPN connections generally use up more bandwidth or data than unprotected internet connections. After all, your data traffic will no longer travel straight from your device to the website you’re visiting or vice versa. It now has to take a detour and pass the VPN server, as well.

When you’re using a WiFi network or an ethernet connection, this increased data usage doesn’t really change anything. However, if you’re using a mobile data plan, you will burn through your data allowance more quickly.

The above could mean you’re left without any mobile data before the end of the month. Alternatively, you could face an unexpectedly high phone bill. This is something important to keep in mind. Generally, it’s better to stick to WiFi or ethernet connections if you’re using a VPN.

9. Quality VPNs cost money

Just like with anything in life, in the world of VPNs, you get what you pay for. This means that premium VPNs cost money because you’re paying for encryption, server use, and more security features.

The extreme market competition has caused many VPNs to offer very affordable packages, so you have plenty of cheap subscription options. However, at the end of the day, it’s still an investment. Only you can decide if it’s a worthwhile one.

The good news is you can try premium VPNs for free if you take advantage of their 30-day money-back guarantee. All you need to do is subscribe to any of the available plans, then file for a refund before your 30 days is up.

10. VPNs can’t protect against other threats

VPNs can only do so much to protect you from cyber threats. The protection and privacy good VPNs offer come from the fact they mask your real IP and encrypt your traffic.

Infographic showing what VPNs cannot protect you against

However, a VPN can’t protect you from malware such as Trojan horses, keyloggers, and spyware. If you’re looking to protect your devices, you’ll have to invest in solid antivirus software. This software has device scanning capabilities, unlike VPNs, which you need to protect your device from malware.

VPNs also can’t protect you against cookies and other trackers. Cookies are little text files that nestle themselves in your browser and contain information about you. Since they are stored by your browser, they follow you around and are able to show you annoying ads wherever you go. A VPN doesn’t influence what your browser stores or how it behaves in general. For this purpose, you’ll need a browser extension that blocks trackers.

On top of this, if you log into your Google account, a VPN will no longer protect your identity. A VPN only hides your real IP. It doesn’t magically delete all of the information you provided to different websites. In other words, when you log into an online account, you are voluntarily giving away your anonymity and a VPN can’t change this in any way.

What are the Advantages of a VPN?

Most of the disadvantages of a VPN are canceled out when you choose a fast, reliable, and trustworthy provider. And while some of the disadvantages above might give you cause for concern, the truth is that there are more pros than cons to using a VPN.

These are just some of the advantages of a good VPN:

Infographic showing what are the advantages of a VPN

  • Access to geo-blocked content. VPNs let you spoof your location so you can access international Netflix catalogs or restricted YouTube videos.
  • Data encryption. Your browsing activity is usually visible to your internet service provider (ISP) or your university or company’s network administrator. Using a VPN keeps your traffic hidden so no one can see what you do.
  • Freedom from bandwidth throttling. Some ISPs limit your connection speed when they see that you’ve been streaming or downloading too often. VPNs hide your online activity, so these ISPs can no longer observe you.
  • Safe access to public Wi-Fi. Using public Wi-Fi without a VPN provides an opportunity for hackers to try and hijack your internet connection.

Essentially, VPNs are the perfect tool for increasing your personal freedom, privacy, and security online. For more information, check out this full article on the advantages of using a VPN.

Best VPN icon

What is the Best VPN?

If you’re simply looking for a high quality VPN and want to avoid many of the potential disadvantages, it’s worth investing in a VPN service like NordVPN.

NordVPN is a highly affordable provider that provides great service, a huge server network, great speeds, and useful features if you find yourself to be the victim of a VPN block, such as obfuscated servers and dedicated IP addresses.

What’s more, if you’re not completely sold on its benefits in the first 30 days, there’s a reliable money-back guarantee. If you want to download NordVPN, simply head over to its official website and follow the simple steps below to download its software:

  1. Create an account on the NordVPN website.
  2. Download the VPN software.
  3. Install the VPN software.
  4. Log into your account once the software has been installed and opened.
  5. Choose your preferred VPN server.
  6. Turn on the VPN!