What’s all the hype about Virtual Private Networks
Everyone spends hours on the Internet these days. We are constantly creating and upholding an online presence in the form of remote work, social media, emails, and many more.
Take a step back and think about how much information about yourself you are transmitting over the Internet. It probably is a lot. However, in this article, I will go more in-depth and focus solely on VPN and how it provides you with some security online.
What is a VPN and How Does It Apply To You?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN), allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. It creates a tunnel between you and the network, where the data you transmit is encrypted and protected.
When your VPN is enabled, all traffic you have on the Internet is routed through that secure tunnel, keeping it safe from prying eyes. Your data goes through the VPN server and exits onto the public Internet, which results in “your” IP address being the address of the VPN server, which masks your identity, location, and actual IP address. If the data you transmitted was intercepted, this would make it hard to view the data and trace it back to you.
This is incredibly helpful if you were in a public Wi-Fi network, for example at the airport or coffee shop. The public network in these locations may be illegitimate or dangerous. People could sniff out your personal data such as passwords, banking information and the websites that you browse.
Using a VPN would ensure that even if the data was intercepted, it cannot be read, due to being encrypted. Not even the owners or operators of the network can read it.
A VPN can also help you appear as if you were accessing the Internet from that country. This is useful as you can access things you usually couldn’t under normal circumstances.
Some countries block certain content from being accessed by their citizens. With a VPN, you can route your web traffic to a different country with different policies, and access the sites that are blocked in your actual country.
Some examples include:
- Watching streaming services like Netflix
- Hiding your true location and country
- Accessing music only available in a specific country
More Uses of VPNs
Besides those listed above, VPNs have many other uses as well, some being:
- Accessing your office network remotely
- Accessing your home network remotely
- Hiding your browsing activity from your ISP
- Bypass Internet Censorship
- Torrenting Files
VPN Suggestions For You
The VPN you should use varies based on your needs. For example, if you were trying to remotely access your office network, you would need a corporate VPN. However, this article is catered to the general population, who would just want a VPN to protect themselves, to torrent files or to access geo-blocked websites.
One major downfall of VPNs is their speed. Due to the diverting of your traffic to the VPN server, it can affect your browsing or download speed. Hence, this is usually an important factor to consider when choosing a VPN service.
I personally use Avast SecureLine VPN, as I also use its anti-virus service. However, after asking a few individuals and doing some research myself, these are my top 3 options for VPN services. Take note not all of them are accessible on every platform.
- ExpressVPN — Easy to use VPN Server, really fast and supports streaming media and torrenting well. Not too expensive either!
- Avast SecureLineVPN — May be a bit expensive, but the speed is good and supports multiple locations all around the world, some of which are optimized for streaming as well.
- TunnelBear — Really easy to use VPN for normal day-to-day uses, even has a free tier! However, it is pretty slow for streaming and torrenting though.
VPNs Don’t Completely Protect You
Despite the wonders of a VPN, it doesn’t protect you entirely. Things like browser cookies can allow web services like Amazon or Google still track your internet usage. To avoid this, you can figure out how to remove cookies on your browser.
VPNs only make your traffic anonymous and does not hide what you do. If you want to achieve true anonymity and privacy, use Tor Browser. Tor routes your traffic through several server nodes which makes it really hard to trace and much harder to find out your identity. Moreover, its a free service! Perhaps I will write an article on Tor soon as well.
VPNs do not protect you from the government as well. Government tracking will most likely bypass your VPN protection and services. Powerful agencies like NSA will probably have a way to get to you if they really wanted to. To be honest, if what you are doing will get governments and NSA interested, you probably should log off and go hide in a cave for a few hundred years.
Which VPN you choose is also very important. Be sure to choose a good and reputable VPN service. Poor and sketchy VPN services may even log your information and sell it off to companies. Make sure to read their privacy policies very carefully. You trusting a VPN could very well help create a database full of your personal information.