What Is a Cracked VPN & Is It Safe to Use One in 2024?

Tim Mocan
Tim Mocan Senior Writer
Updated on: May 29, 2024
Fact Checked by Katarina Glamoslija
Tim Mocan Tim Mocan
Updated on: May 29, 2024 Senior Writer

I have never used a cracked VPN and don’t recommend using them. That said, I can see the appeal. Cracked VPNs promise free (or very cheap) access to premium VPN services, which sounds like a great deal to many people, especially those on a tight budget.

Still, cracked VPNs come with tons of disadvantages — they might expose your device to malware, they might compromise your privacy, they might not even work with streaming sites, and they won’t provide consistent updates.

I’ll explain more in-depth why cracked VPNs are not worth it in this article. Also, I’ll discuss other things, like how to spot a cracked VPN, if cracked VPNs work, and what are the best cracked VPN alternatives (ExpressVPN is my #1 pick).

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Disclaimer: Cracked VPNs use pirated copies of top VPN products. In some countries, using pirated software is against the law. SafetyDetectives doesn’t condone the use of illegally pirated software, and I strongly recommend researching your local laws before trying to download a cracked VPN to make sure you don’t face any legal risks.

Editors' Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

What Is a Cracked VPN?

A cracked VPN is a pirated version of a premium VPN. You usually find cracked versions of popular VPN providers, like ExpressVPN, Private Internet Access, and CyberGhost VPN. Hackers usually create cracked versions of premium VPN clients by using various methods to tamper with the VPN apps. Also, most cracked VPNs come with an activation code.

You can find cracked VPNs on many online platforms. They’re most frequently found on piracy forums (like cracked.io and nulled.to, for example). But you can also find cracked VPNs on other sites — even on social media. Hackers either offer them for free or for a small cost.

On top of pirated versions, cracked VPNs might also consist of stolen VPN credentials. Basically, cybercriminals compromise weak VPN account logins and then sell them on the dark web or on piracy forums.

Why You Should Avoid Cracked VPNs

1. Malware Infections

If you’re unlucky, you might download a cracked VPN client that’s infected with malware. This could expose your device to all sorts of malware that could compromise your device’s security and your personal data — you could be exposed to stuff like ransomware, spyware, or adware.

If you still insist on using a cracked VPN, combine it with an antivirus. This is a security program that detects malware infections and protects devices against them. If you’re not sure which antivirus to use, I personally recommend Norton 360 since it’s the best antivirus program on the market right now.

Why You Should Avoid Cracked VPNs

2. Privacy Concerns

Cracked VPN clients might come with privacy issues. For example, the hackers who cracked it might have configured the VPN app to route your traffic through malicious VPN servers (instead of the VPN provider’s servers) — and the hackers could configure those servers to log your data, such as your IP address and browsing traffic. They could then sell that data on the dark web.

3. No Updates

There’s no way for cracked VPN apps to receive regular updates, like premium VPN clients do. And without regular updates, the VPN app might experience bugs that make the client hard to use or cause certain features to not work anymore. A lack of updates can also lead to security issues (like traffic or IP leaks) that put your data at risk.

4. Legal Risks

In certain countries, it’s against the law to download and use cracked software. Depending on your country’s local regulations, you might face legal issues (including steep fines) if you’re caught using a cracked VPN.

5. No Customer Support

With a cracked VPN, you won’t receive any technical support — at most, you might get access to customer support that can access basic questions, but not provide technical assistance with whatever issues you’ll face by using compromised software.

6. Poor Streaming Support

Cracked VPN apps are very unlikely to support streaming on their servers. This is because they don’t get updates and their servers likely won’t refresh their IPs. Streaming sites will recognize the IP address as a VPN IP address and block you from using their services.

Best Cracked VPN Alternatives in 2024

Quick summary of the best cracked VPN alternatives:

  • 1. 🥇ExpressVPN — Best cracked VPN alternative in 2024 (highly secure & fast speeds for all activities).
  • 2. 🥈Private Internet Access — Excellent cracked VPN alternative for P2P downloads (with extra torrenting features).
  • 3. 🥉CyberGhost VPN — Great cracked VPN alternative for streaming + easy-to-use apps for beginners.

Editors' Note: Intego, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN are owned by Kape Technologies, our parent company

Do Cracked VPNs Work?

A cracked VPN might work, but there’s no guarantee it will work 100% of the time. You might be able to use it to surf the web, stream, and download files — but there’s no telling when an issue might occur that will prevent you from using the VPN client. Even if you don’t experience any issues, you still open yourself to tons of risks by using a cracked VPN.

That’s why it’s much better to just use a premium VPN instead — with a top VPN, you don’t have to worry about the VPN client not working anymore or your personal data being compromised.

How to Recognize & Avoid Cracked VPNs

The easiest way to spot a cracked VPN is to check the download source — if it’s unofficial, then you’re very likely dealing with a cracked VPN. You can usually find these kinds of apps on unofficial app stores, torrent sites, social media, piracy forums, and the dark web.

Also, cracked VPNs are usually offered for free. This is always a red flag if you’re about to download a cracked version of a top provider (like ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access), as they pretty much all come with paid subscription plans. And the top VPNs that do have a free plan still come with a paid version in addition to it.

Finally, cracked VPN apps might require a different setup and look outdated. For example, on Android, you might not be able to download the app from the Google Play store — instead, you’d need to download and install an .apk file from a third-party website. And most cracked VPN clients might look outdated, as they don’t receive regular updates. Alternatively, if the apps don’t look outdated, another sign of a cracked VPN is the fact that you won’t be able to update the app.

The easiest way to check if a VPN app is legit is to download it from an official source. This means you should only subscribe to top VPNs on their official websites, and only download and install their apps from their sites.

What to Do If You’ve Downloaded a Cracked VPN

  • Delete or uninstall the cracked software. Whether you accidentally or intentionally downloaded and installed a cracked VPN client, the smartest move is to just uninstall it from your device. Don’t forget to also delete the installer.
  • Run an antivirus scan. Some cracked VPNs can contain malware, so it’s best to use an antivirus program to run a scan after you remove the cracked software from your device. An antivirus will detect any trace of malware and remove it. If you don’t know which antivirus to use, I personally recommend Norton 360 since it’s the best one on the market right now.
  • Download a legitimate VPN from an official source. Finally, make sure to get a trustworthy VPN that won’t put your device and data in danger. The best way to do that is to pick a provider from our list of the best VPNs in 2024, sign up for its plan, and download and install its apps from its official site.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are cracked VPNs safe?

Usually, no — cracked VPNs come with many risks. Many of them might contain malware, which could compromise your device. Other cracked VPNs might route your traffic through servers that are operated by hackers and log your sensitive data. Also, using a cracked VPN might be against the law depending on which country you live in.

It’s honestly much safer to just use a paid premium VPN. My top pick is ExpressVPN since it has industry-leading security and privacy features, super fast speeds, excellent streaming and P2P support, and very intuitive apps for all major platforms.

Are free VPNs better than cracked VPNs?

They’re safer, but not exactly the superior choice. While most free VPNs might not expose you to malware like cracked VPNs, they still come with annoying limitations — for example, they might limit how much data you can use each day or month, they might lack streaming support, or they might have slow speeds or buggy apps.

The best option is to just get a paid top VPN. My personal recommendation is ExpressVPN, as it’s ultra-secure, provides the fastest connection speeds on the market, works with 100+ streaming services, and has beginner-friendly apps.

Is it legal to use a cracked VPN?

I can’t offer a definite answer here, as this depends on the laws of your country. In some regions, it’s actually against the law to use cracked software (and this obviously includes cracked VPNs) — if you’re caught doing that, you might face legal repercussions, like huge fines.

It’s honestly better to just avoid cracked VPNs, and stick to paid premium VPNs instead. Top VPNs provide access to 100% legal software that’s safe to use. In addition, they also come with strong security features, fast speeds, and good streaming and P2P support.

What’s the best cracked VPN alternative?

The best VPN to use instead of a cracked VPN is ExpressVPN — it’s the best VPN on the market since it has super fast speeds, it works with 100+ streaming platforms, it comes with high-end security and privacy features, and it has very intuitive apps for all major platforms. Plus, it’s affordable and it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you insist on using a free alternative, stick to Proton VPN’s free plan — it’s one of the only free VPN plans that provides unlimited data, and it also comes with fast speeds, strong security and privacy features, and easy-to-use apps for all major platforms.

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About the Author
Tim Mocan
Tim Mocan
Senior Writer
Updated on: May 29, 2024

About the Author

Tim Mocan is a Senior Writer at SafetyDetectives. He has 5+ years of experience researching and writing about cybersecurity topics, and he specializes in VPNs. Prior to joining SafetyDetectives, he worked as a contributor for other VPN review websites and as a content writer for several VPN providers. Throughout his freelance writing career, he has also covered other niches, including SEO, digital marketing, customer loyalty, home improvement, and health and rehab. Outside of work, Tim loves to spend his time traveling, playing video games, binging anime, and using VPNs (yes, really!).