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What is a cracked VPN, and are they safe to use?

Looking for a cracked VPN? Chill a minute and think about the risks. 

I know premium VPNs can seem expensive, and cheap VPNs mostly suck. 

But do you really want to download a broken piece of software that will have access to everything you do online? A piece of software that’s been broken by hackers who like to play with malware, viruses, and spyware – all of which they can easily slip into your device courtesy of the cracked VPN you’ve chosen to install. 

C’mon. 

Instead, I’ll quickly break down all the reasons you should avoid cracked VPNs, and offer some alternatives. If you’re in a rush, check out our top free VPNs and the best cheap VPNs. They’ll keep you safe without spending too much on a subscription. 

What is a cracked VPN?

A cracked VPN is a pirated version of a legitimate VPN. Hackers modify these VPNs to remove licensing restrictions, allowing free access to premium features. These cracked VPNs, often hiding malicious code within, are distributed through unreliable websites and social media.

While the promise of free access to premium features might seem appealing, cracked VPNs come with a hefty price tag – your security and privacy. 

Are cracked VPNs safe?

The answer is a resounding no. 

Unlike reputable premium VPNs that prioritize user protection and undergo strict, independent audits, cracked VPNs operate with no transparency or oversight. This leaves you exposed to several dangers:

Why else should I avoid cracked VPN apps?

Yes, there’s more!

Beyond the immediate security risks, there are compelling reasons to steer clear of cracked VPNs.

Top alternatives to cracked VPNs 

So, now we get to the part you knew was coming – I’m going to recommend some cracked VPN alternatives. 

If you’re still unconvinced it’s worth paying $2-3 per month for a premium VPN, stick to a free VPN instead. But if you value a good experience, safe connections, access to the top streamers, and super-fast speeds… keep reading. 

1. ExpressVPN
Editor's Choice | May 2024

ExpressVPN is the #1 VPN globally, for its unrivaled speed, security, and reliability. While more expensive than most, it’s worth every penny.

  • Pricing

    • 12 months + 3 months FREE + Backblaze backup: $6.67/mth
      49% OFF
    • 6 months: $9.99/mth
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • 3,000+ servers in over 94 countries
    • Industry-best security
    • Works with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and many more
    • 24/7 live chat support
    • Independently audited – Cure53, PwC, KPMG, and others have thoroughly reviewed their apps
  • Cons

    • Premium price tag
    • Streaming servers aren’t labeled
    • Doesn’t work with BBC iPlayer
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Me and my global team of VPN nuts (sorry, experts) comprehensively test ExpressVPN across five continents every month. We look at speed, reliability, security, and access to content – and bombard their support with pointlessly complicated questions. 


And every time, ExpressVPN delivers top marks!


Let’s start with ExpressVPN's security features. Its automatic kill-switch ensures data protection by instantly disconnecting your internet if the VPN connection is lost. It also employs industry-best encryption protocols, such as 4,096-bit RSA keys, SHA256 authentication, and 256-bit AES encryption, enhancing data privacy and security. The DNS and IP leak protections worked flawlessly during our evaluation.


While ExpressVPN offers exceptional value, its premium pricing may only suit some budgets. If that’s you, check out Surfshark below. Read our full ExpressVPN review to learn more and compare it with cheaper alternatives. 


Or… skip all that and download ExpressVPN. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (no questions asked!), so there’s zero risk to trying it out. 

Surfshark is the best budget VPN, offering comprehensive privacy features and reliable connections at a more affordable rate.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 2 months FREE: $2.3/mth
      83% OFF
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
      70% OFF
    • 1 month: $12.95/mth
  • Pros

    • Unlimited devices
    • Highly secure
    • Large global server presence
    • Access Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer
    • Keeps no logs whatsoever
  • Cons

    • Occasional slow server
    • Downloads can be slow
    • Monthly plans are expensive
    • Mac client isn't as fully-featured
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

Despite its low cost, Surfshark maintains high-quality standards, ensuring robust online security to thwart potential hacker threats.


It goes beyond VPN basics, integrating additional security tools uncommon among leading competitors. These include ad blockers, anti-tracking features, an "IP Address Rotator," malware protection, and a strict "no-logs policy." These features enable you to change your online location and enhance privacy, effectively shielding against various internet risks.


In our tests, Surfshark's extensive global server network, which spans over 3,000 servers across 100+ countries, consistently delivered swift and secure internet connections, bypassing geo-restrictions and granting access to premium content while safeguarding online activities from various locations worldwide.


With unlimited device connections and user-friendly apps, Surfshark proves ideal for securing entire households. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for added peace of mind.


Need more convincing? Read our Surfshark review. 

NordVPN is a fast and reliable VPN boasting industry-leading security features to safeguard your online data and activities.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 3 months FREE: $3.69/mth
      70% OFF
    • 12 months: $4.99/mth
      59% OFF
    • 1 month: $11.99/mth
  • Pros

    • Zero logs policy
    • Strong security protocols (NordLynx, IKEv2/IPSec, OpenVPN)
    • 10 simultaneous connections allowed
    • 6,200+ servers in 100+ countries
    • Solid, independently audited security features
  • Cons

    • A few unreliable servers
    • Switching between servers can be slow
    • You can only pick servers based on location, not a specific need (i.e., streaming or P2P)
    • Doesn’t work well for torrenting
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

With a vast network of over 6,200 servers spread across more than more than 100 countries, NordVPN ensures enhanced online security, shielding users from potential hacker threats regardless of their location.


NordVPN offers a comprehensive suite of security features and tools meticulously crafted to prioritize user safety. Its proprietary VPN protocol, NordLynx, balances cutting-edge security measures and optimized code for enhanced speed. Additionally, NordVPN provides a cybersecurity suite known as Threat Protection, which effectively blocks ads, malware, and other online nuisances, fostering a secure online browsing experience.


To learn how all these complicated features keep you safe online, read our full review of NordVPN


NordVPN boasts user-friendly interfaces and broad compatibility with various devices, including iOS, Android, macOS, Windows, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and select routers. Furthermore, its round-the-clock live chat support ensures prompt assistance in case of any queries or concerns.


New NordVPN subscribers enjoy a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

CyberGhost is the most beginner-friendly VPN on the list. It provides swift connections suitable for streaming, torrenting, and various online activities.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months + 3 months FREE: $2.11/mth
      83% OFF
    • 6 months: $6.99/mth
      42% OFF
    • 1 month: $11.99/mth
  • Pros

    • Fast, streaming-optimized servers
    • Connect up to seven devices simultaneously
    • Kill-switch on all apps and keeps no logs
    • WireGuard protocol
    • Accepts cryptocurrency payments
  • Cons

    • Doesn’t reliably work in China or UAE
    • No apps for routers
    • No option to allow local networking
    • Limited torrenting Support
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • iPlayer
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

With an extensive network of over 9,500 servers across more than 90 countries, CyberGhost offers an affordable and dependable VPN solution. 


Leveraging cutting-edge VPN technologies, including WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2 protocols, CyberGhost ensures fast, stable, and secure connections capable of streaming HD content globally. In our recent evaluations, CyberGhost maintained average speeds of 6 Mbps.


Although its performance may be disappointing in VPN-restricted regions like China or the UAE, CyberGhost provides speedy connections elsewhere. Its user-friendly interface makes it particularly well-suited for beginners, and it allows installation on up to seven devices with preconfigured settings from the outset, facilitating family sharing.


Read our full CyberGhost review to see how these preconfigured settings work IRL. 


Finally, backed by a 45-day money-back guarantee, you can confidently test CyberGhost's apps firsthand.

IPVanish is a reliable VPN offering user-friendly apps for unlimited devices, swift speeds, robust security measures, and airtight privacy protection.

  • Pricing

    • 24 months: $3.33/mth
      75% OFF
    • 12 months: $3.99/mth
      70% OFF
    • 1 month: $12.99/mth
  • Pros

    • Unlimited device connections
    • Excellent value
    • Lots of US servers
    • Strong encryption and a kill-switch
  • Cons

    • Based in the US
    • Doesn’t work with Netflix US or Hulu
    • Slow support
    • No browser extensions
  • Available on

    • Windows
    • macOS
    • iOS
    • Android
    • Linux
  • Unblocks

    • Netflix
    • Amazon Prime
    • Hulu
  • Website

In addition to conducting standard speed tests, we thoroughly assessed IPVanish's security and privacy features across various devices, including Windows PC, iPhone, and Android. 


Impressively, it passed all our tests with flying colors on every device. Its military-grade encryption, leak protections, and kill-switches performed flawlessly, instilling a strong sense of security among our team members while the VPN was active.


During our evaluation against popular streaming platforms, IPVanish successfully accessed most sites, including Netflix. However, it faced challenges accessing Amazon Prime Video and other prominent platforms (see more in our full IPVanish review). Consider this if you intend to stream extensively. 


Nonetheless, IPVanish stands out as one of the best options for torrenting.


Based in the USA – a founding member of the secretive Five Eyes global surveillance alliance – IPVanish assures users of its no-logs policy and other privacy rules. These have been proven as legit in court cases. However, it's worth noting that other, better, VPNs on this list are situated in more privacy-friendly locations, like ExpressVPN (British Virgin Islands) and NordVPN (Panama).


Try IPVanish risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee.

Methodology: how we tested the best alternatives to cracked VPNs

We use strict criteria to test every VPN we recommend – and the ones we don’t! 

When trying to convince you against a cracked version of ExpressVPN, NordVPN, or another popular provider, we focus on value, performance, and how many devices they protect. But that’s not all we looked at. 

Here’s a quick rundown of the complete process: 

Look at our complete VPN review process to see the full list and use it to guide you when choosing a VPN. 

Free VPN vs cracked VPN: Which is better? 

In theory, a free VPN should be better than a cracked VPN. At least you’re not using deliberately broken and hacked software.

Sadly, free VPNs are often as dangerous. Because they don’t charge a subscription fee, most free VPNs use shadier tactics to make money from you. We’ve seen some really crazy tactics over the years, but the most common can be grouped into the following:

Plenty of cheap VPNs offer fantastic experiences, airtight security, and fast speeds. Surfshark is our favorite, and you don’t need a cracked version to save money on a subscription. 

Cracked VPN FAQs

Conclusion

Using cracked VPNs poses significant security risks, endangering your online safety and privacy.

Opting for a legitimate VPN provides lasting benefits. It guarantees encryption and anonymity for online activities, empowering you to navigate the digital realm confidently.

It's essential to prioritize a secure online experience, as the dangers of cracked VPNs are not worth the risk. Instead, consider reputable VPNs to safeguard your online journey effectively.

Written by: Conor Walsh

Conor is a tech writer with professional paranoia. He's passionate about privacy, and when not writing about it, can be found trying to get far away from his phone and any other technology, enjoying some live music, outdoorsy stuff, or a good (physical) book.

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