ZenMate is amongst the most popular VPN services you can find today. This popularity has been partly because the VPN service is free to use. You can use ZenMate on PC or Mac for free by using it browser extension (Chrome, Firefox & Opera). Similarly, you can also use its free app for Android and iOS devices. However, in the midst of all this, one question still beckons – is ZenMate safe to use?
In general, no free VPN service is safe to use. Free VPNs lack certain features and processes that separate them from a paid VPN services. Due to lack of these features, your privacy and online security can be significantly compromised.
Having said that, ZenMate now offers a premium service as well but its free service could still have potential drawbacks. To substantiate whether ZenMate is safe to use, we have weighed up different concerns about the VPN service.
Concerns Associated with ZenMate
Here are some drawbacks of using ZenMate that might pose a threat to your online privacy and security.
ZenMate IP Leakages & Blockages
The free version of ZenMate has been subjected to various IP leakages and blockages. Many users have complained about their original IP address being leaked while using ZenMate. This issue was mainly faced by users when any website required Flash Player or WebRTC requests.
Since the identification of this issue, ZenMate has provided a solution to this problem. If you are using the free ZenMate browser extension, you can prevent IP leakage by installing another extension called ‘Flashcontrol’.
However, your privacy and anonymity could still be at risk as IP leakage could occur from other sources, which ZenMate has not yet identified. Here is one user who used ZenMate for online privacy and secure browsing, but that was not the case.
— Snot Boogie (@jramjee) May 29, 2015
Encryption Provided by ZenMate
A VPN secures your data and web traffic by using encryption. There are different kinds of encryption used by different VPN providers. ZenMate uses AES 128 bit encryption to secure your data against various cyber threats.
AES 128 bit encryption is longer the safest or the strongest encryption level in today’s time. An attacker with the right equipment could use brute force to break down this encryption. Currently, the strongest encryption level available is AES 256 bit, which is used by US military as well. Therefore, ZenMate doesn’t offer the strongest encryption at the moment, leaving your data exposed to various threats.
Lack of Servers Offered
Since the launch of premium service by ZenMate, only few servers are available in the free version. Currently, you can only use servers located in the following four regions: United States, Romania, Germany and Hong Kong.
Lack of servers would mean that you cannot switch to a region of your choice. Similarly, if you are looking to access certain websites or web services from a particular region, lack of servers would restrict you from doing so. This is where a paid VPN service provides you more benefit as it offers wide variety of servers located in different regions to choose from.
OpenVPN Not Supported by ZenMate
One of the problems with ZenMate browser extension is that you cannot select the protocol of your choice. With that said, ZenMate does not support OpenVPN protocol as well for Windows and Mac at the moment. The open source nature of OpenVPN makes it more secure compared to other protocols and it is also faster than L2TP/IPSec, SSTP and IKEv2 protocols.
This is where using a paid VPN service helps. Majority of premium VPNs offer OpenVPN in their basic packages and when you combine that with AES 256 bit encryption, you are virtually using the strongest defense mechanism available today.
ZenMate Doesn’t Supports P2P & Torrents
Since ZenMate offers a free browser extension, using P2P files sharing and torrent services is out of the question. For you to share files safely and securely, you would need a VPN that encrypts your entire systems network traffic.
Although premium ZenMate service does offer a desktop client, whether its servers support torrents or P2P is another question. Various paid VPN services offer optimized servers dedicated for the use of torrents and P2P file sharing.
Speed & Performance Issues
Another problem with various free VPN services are that their servers are highly congested, overloaded, and affects your internet speeds considerably. Same is the problem with ZenMate’s browser extension. In recent times, there has been a considerable drop in ZenMate’s performance.
One theory is that ZenMate has compromised the speeds of free users on purpose so that they switch to their paid version. However, a more realistic approach would be that their number of users has increased significantly over the years. This has led to an overload on servers as it is being used by numerous users at the same time, resulting in poor performance.
Alternatives to ZenMate
Now that we have weighed up different drawbacks about ZenMate, we recommend that you consider other VPN services. The concerns and drawbacks associated with ZenMate could hamper your privacy and online security. Here are some paid alternatives you can consider over ZenMate:
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These paid VPNs offer more servers to choose from. Also, each of them offers VPN clients for Mac and Windows along with exclusive apps for various handheld devices; allowing greater flexibility and compatibility. Some of these VPNs also offer dedicated servers for torrents and offers military grade security (AES 256 bit encryption + OpenVPN protocol).
So is ZenMate safe to use? In the long run, no. We wouldn’t advise anyone to consider ZenMate a safe VPN for their everyday use. The server limitation and weak security features could result in piracy and security breaches by various cyber threats.
ZenMate works best if you are looking to unblock certain websites for a small period of time. However, that is only limited to the four regions offered by ZenMate. Even the paid version of ZenMate lacks in certain features, making it not a worthwhile investment as far as privacy goes.
Therefore, if you are looking for a VPN that provides better performance, online security, and more features, you should look at different paid alternatives.