What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a tool that encrypts your internet traffic and conceals your online identity to make it more difficult for third-party entities to track your online activity and steal data such as your browsing history, IP address, and location.
A VPN can give you anonymity while surfing the web, preventing the collection of information that can be sold to marketers and advertisers. This can prevent online research into a product or brand from being advertised to you on apps, browsers, and so on. You should use a VPN when accessing the internet on an unsecured public network to ensure your privacy is protected.
All this sounds very complicated, but really, a VPN does one thing, and one thing only-it spoofs where your IP address is, which hides your physical location. This gives a certain amount of privacy, and the encryption then protects the data. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) provide online privacy by creating a secure connection that masks your IP address and online activity. Advantages of a VPN can be that they can add extra layers of protection. Not all VPNs are of the same quality, so it’s best to shop around, and look at reviews. A good rule of thumb is that while free VPNs might seem appealing, they may collect and share your information, disconnect often, limit servers, and not offer support.
What Are Some Uses of VPNs?
VPNs have a variety of uses. They can be used for:
1. Security on Public Wi-Fi
Using a VPN protects your data while you are on other networks, hiding your personal information from people in the area who might steal it.
2. Data Privacy From Your Internet Service Provider
While connected to your home Wi-Fi, you are less likely to be attacked by strangers than on a public connection. However, your data is still vulnerable. Most people are unaware that your ISP can take and sell your data, even while you pay for a service.
3. Data Privacy From the Apps and Services You Use
Do you use social media? Unfortunately, social media apps are not known for being responsible stewards of consumers data, especially Facebook. A VPN will prevent apps and websites from attributing your behavior to your computer’s IP address. It can also limit the collection of your location and browser history.
4. Data Privacy From Your Government
Right now, we are in the earliest days of the Digital Revolution. Because it is so early, laws and ethics have not always caught up, and somehow there are always rumors surrounding the government and how information is used regarding its citizens. While there are laws and ethics protecting US citizens, it is also true that just the nature of technology and surveillance equipment means that an extraordinary amount of data is collected on us daily. That is enough for many to want to take extra protective measures to protect themselves against overreach.
How VPNs Protect Your Information:
Unfortunately, VPNs cannot wholly protect you from hackers and ID theft; rather, they can make it harder for these entities to collect the information needed to compromise your privacy.
Some VPNs come with helpful features to better secure your internet experience.
- Invisibility on LAN ensures your computer isn’t visible to others on a local network.
- Internet kill switch shuts down your internet connection if your VPN server drops.
- Onion over VPN adds additional security by simultaneously using Tor browsing to further your anonymity.
VPNs can limit the amount of personal information accessible to interested third-parties, help you stay safe on public networks, and protect your anonymity while searching the internet.
As we continue to seek more ways to privatize your internet life and prevent the collection and selling of your personal information, it is important to find a VPN that offers you the features you need to feel more secure.
A good VPN will have servers near you, which will help with speed. You should also be looking at reviews and updates-if they don’t look current, that’s a red flag. There should also be a customer service line with immediate access. Ask for referrals from colleagues and friends-see what they like and use. Often their experience is similar to yours, and they often have a lifestyle that is also similiar.
Another thing to explore is how a particular VPN operates-transparency and trust are words bandied around, and these are great qualities to have, but it’s good to be vigilant and read the fine print, especially of anything regarding data privacy. Many brands have their own parameters, and guidelines, set by their clients, as well as laws.