The Uselessness of Consumer VPNs

Categories: Security

Many of the Youtube channels that I follow are promoting VPNs as their “sponsors”. That’s a shame.

VPNs were useful in the past, but in the last years just about every website and mobile app has integrated network encryption. Therefore VPNs these days are pretty pointless for normal people and are close to being a scam.

In any browser, try visiting a site using the non-encrypted protocol http:, eg or or Notice that you immediately get redirected to the https: version, ie the encrypted one - at which point a VPN adds no benefit. Then try searching for “nytimes” in google - the recommended link will be the https one. Any website which requests data from you will certainly use https. And all serious mobile apps also already use encrypted communications.

Yes, DNS (Domain Name Service, ie hostname lookup) isn’t encrypted by default yet, so someone controlling the network you are on can see the “hostnames” (overall websites) which you visit (though not the individual pages). However that’s not so important - and many browsers optionally support dns-over-https (aka DOH) if you really want (search for details).

And of course the provider of a VPN gets a lot of detailed info about your network access…ie you’re moving your privacy vulnerability from the provider of the network you’re currently using to the VPN provider. What’s more, without a VPN you are exposing small amounts of data to a large number of networks (eg the various WIFI networks you might use) plus a large amount of data from your local ISP in your legal region, while with a VPN you are exposing all that information to a single centralized point which can potentially make better use of it (against your interests) and which is operating in a legal region which might not be accountable to you.

In summary, if you happen to live under a repressive regime, a VPN might bring some value. If you wish to access content which is blocked in your country, it might help. However otherwise the value of a VPN for most people is zero. For more info, see Knudsen or Scott.