When you connect to the Internet, your activity isn’t private. Your Internet service provider (ISP) monitors your traffic, and while this isn’t harmful in itself, that information sometimes gets sold to third-party groups, like advertising companies. Furthermore, using an unsecured, non-private network makes you vulnerable to cyberattacks and hackers. A VPN solves these issues by protecting your security and privacy online. Read below to understand more about VPNs and find seven great reasons to use a VPN for your own security.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, is a method of encrypted connection that adds security and privacy to your online browsing. A VPN hides your public IP address, routing the connection through the VPN server rather than public servers. As a result, your IP address is replaced by a different, VPN-provided IP address.
VPNs use advanced encryption protocols and secure tunneling techniques to encapsulate all online data transfers. In the unlikely event that a hacker accesses your network, they won’t be able to decipher anything from your activities. Your information is protected from outside threats.
7 reasons to use a VPN
VPNs have a host of different uses beyond just providing a more secure connection at home. If you’ve thought about getting a VPN for privacy reasons, but wondered if it was really worth the investment, consider the following reasons to use a VPN connection.
1. Access the Internet anywhere, securely
VPNs provide encrypted connections from any location. You can access your VPN anywhere with any device or operating system through a secure username and password. One of the benefits of a VPN is that you can have protected Internet anywhere – at an airport, staying at a hotel, stopping by a coffee shop, or anywhere else. You don’t need to worry about using public WiFi when you browse the web because you have your own secure connection.
2. Your data is private from the government
In a perfect world, your browsing data would be completely private. Third-party sources or the government would have no access to the information. This is unfortunately not the case. The government does a great deal of data collection and surveillance on Internet users, whether we’re aware of it or not. The encrypted connection a VPN offers means your Internet traffic and activity are much harder to monitor, meaning virtual private networks help protect your data from the government as well as other sources.
3. It provides safety when not in secure areas or sites
With a VPN, you can feel safe entering your information online even when on public or untrustworthy WiFi. The end-to-end encryption of a VPN secures your activities, your information, and your privacy online, no matter where you are. Without a virtual private network, hackers on the same WiFi network can easily intercept your connection.
4. Ability to find better deals when online shopping
Online shopping is becoming more common – not only for its convenience, but also for the online-only prices or sales that stores offer. When buying certain items, especially big items like airline tickets, hotel stays, or subscription services, prices can vary based on your geographical location. With a VPN, you can change your IP location to get access to the best deals.
5. VPNs evade network censors to access blocked sites
Your country or region may block certain websites or services online. Your employer or school may also block sites. With a VPN, you can set your IP address location to wherever you need to be to access the content.
Furthermore, a VPN lets you view other countries’ streaming services without sacrificing Internet speeds or taking the risk of watching on a suspicious website. A virtual private network can spoof a user’s IP location in order to get American viewers onto Netflix Canada, for example, and access all the shows that the USA doesn’t have. In the same vein, gamers can access games outside their region. A VPN helps you bypass geo-blocking and do it safely.
6. Compatibility with smart technology
VPN services don’t work exclusively on computers. Visit your phone's app store to determine what VPN options are available for you. Each VPN company will have different capacities to cover phones and other smart devices, but in most cases, you’ll be able to install a VPN service that covers your device. Just like desktop VPNs, VPN apps encrypt your data and offer the same protection on the go.
7. VPNs restrict apps’ data accessibility
The government and your computer aren’t the only ones collecting data. Apps on mobile devices collect user information, too. A VPN inhibits apps from associating your online activity with your computer’s IP address, which limits the amount of accurate information that the app can gather.
Is it free to use a VPN?
Not all VPNs are free, but many VPN services do offer free versions of their technology. A free VPN still provides security and privacy online, as well as the ability to change your IP location. However, a paid VPN typically provides better service. Furthermore, paid VPNs tend to be more secure; some free VPNs collect your information themselves, defeating the purpose of using a VPN for privacy. Weigh the benefits and downsides of using a free VPN before you download one.
Am I using a VPN? How to tell if you’re connected
If you believe you’ve enabled a VPN connection but aren’t entirely sure, there are ways to figure out if you really are connected to your VPN. The simplest way is to check for the connection in your settings. On a Windows PC, check under your WiFI settings to see if a VPN or proxy connection is listed. On a MacBook, check your top status bar; if you have a VPN or proxy set up, it will show a black box with four grey lines and one white line.
You can also use a VPN checker online to check if your connection is working. The test tells you your IPv4 and IPv6 addresses, checks the DNS servers you’re using, and alerts you if your DNS is leaking or your IP is able to be seen by others.