VPNs: A Tool for Online Security
Do you worry about online security? Search engines keep records of your searches. Unfamiliar wifi networks may easily be hacked. Fortunately, virtual private networks (VPNs) are one tool you can use to make your data safer. Learn what a VPN does, how it can help you, and what to consider before you get started.
What does a VPN do? A VPN masks your signal so it is more difficult to detect. A VPN can even make it seem like you are connecting from a different country. Particularly when using a laptop or a tablet, a VPN gives you extra peace of mind. Here are five reasons you should use a VPN:
• More security when using the internet in public places. Public wifi is not secure. Whether you are connecting to the wifi network at your local coffee shop, a busy airport, or your business hotel’s lobby, it is always risky. It doesn’t take a master hacker to access data that you transmit using an unsecured wifi network. A VPN ensures that important emails and online interactions remain confidential on any network.
• VPNs can bypass government imposed internet restrictions. If you are a business traveler and find that a website you need is blocked, a VPN can mask your location and allow you access. For residents of countries where internet censorship is a big problem, VPNs open new doors and make it possible to access the entire internet.
• VPNs increase privacy. Search engines like Bing and Google keep records of your internet searches. A VPN cloaks your internet protocol (IP) address so that your searches cannot be linked back to your home or office computer. The end of net neutrality means that an ISP (internet service provider) can profit by selling your browsing data. VPNs are built on the notion of protecting your privacy. In this new environment, a VPN can keep your browsing data safe from your own ISP.
• If you work with sensitive information, VPNs provide extra security. VPNs are very useful for activists, journalists, and researchers who need extra protection. A VPN will change the IP address that appears and masks all internet activity.
• Companies may charge you more if they recognize your IP address. A return visit to a commercial website may suggest that you are serious about buying. To take advantage of this, some online retailers will raise the price for users with recognized IPs. A VPN masks your IP address, making it more difficult for retailers to charge you extra.
VPNs give you extra privacy and remove restrictions, but consider these important factors when choosing which VPN to use:
• Using a VPN will slow down your connection speed. VPN hosts that are located nearby might slow your connection down by 10 to 20%. A VPN host on the other side of the world might slow your speed down by as much as 50%.
• Pay attention to where the VPN is hosted. Countries such as Panama, Norway, the Netherlands, and Switzerland have some of the strictest data privacy laws in the world. Your data will be more secure if hosted in a country like this. If you are unsure about a particular VPN’s host country, do an internet search on data privacy laws in that country
• Be wary of free providers. Some free providers sell user information in order to make a profit. It is worth it to pay a small fee for a VPN, especially if it promises not to keep user records. Some VPNs may actually collect user records despite claims to the contrary. Make sure to do research and read reviews about any VPNs you are considering before making a final decision.
• VPN providers must turn over any records that are requested by law enforcement in their home country. VPNs provide a lot of extra privacy, but there are instances where your data might be susceptible. Stronger data privacy laws in the VPN’s home country will make this less likely. And if your provider truly doesn’t keep records about your internet history, there will be nothing to turn over to authorities.
Choosing a VPN is a task you should take seriously. Research your options and be willing to pay for the best protection. People around the world have their data compromised every day. Others will be denied access to websites they need. Educating yourself and using the right tools can prevent you from becoming the next victim. Consider using a VPN and minimize your risk today.