The Need for a Virtual Private Network
I’m going to step outside of the norm in this article and talk a little about protecting yourself online and the importance of using a VPN (aka virtual private network). Don’t worry, I’m going to skip all of the techno babble for those that aren’t interested and simply address what a VPN is and what it protects you from. First let’s look at the threat.
Here’s what you’re exposing yourself to when you connect to the internet
First of all, if you’re interested in protecting your privacy, then a VPN is a must. They aren’t completely foolproof but they go a long way to keeping you anonymous online. When you’re online over a traditional connection (even from your home) the company providing your internet service can see exactly what you’re doing online. Where you shop, what you buy, what information you’re looking for on Google, and on and on is all stored in their servers. It can then hold on to that information or sell it to advertisers as they see fit. All of which is perfectly legal for them to do.
A VPN allows you to access the internet anonymously. This means that your ISP cannot track your actions online, you can bypass work and school internet restrictions, avoid surveillance and national censorship and prevent others from gathering your personal data. A VPN allows you to use the internet as it was originally envisioned, a place to share and discover ideas with people across the globe.
On top of information gathering, a VPN can protect from a number of other things, such as Wi-Fi spoofing.
I’m not really worried about my information being out there, but I do believe that my information is mine, so I use a VPN. It keeps my online banking secure, makes public connections from airports or hotels MUCH more secure and keeps my personal business private while I’m online.
How a VPN works
A VPN connects your computer to one of the servers run by the VPN company. Once that connection is made, it encrypts all of the data between your computer and that server. After that you’re free to surf the net however you want. From that point on your ISP can only see an encrypted connection between you and the VPN server. Even if your data is intercepted, it will be encrypted and cannot be read.
Logging into a VPN also masks your actual location. For instance, if you are travelling overseas and want to watch Netflix, then you can simply log into a server in America and watch Netflix or YouTube without restrictions (This doesn’t work with all VPNs). Your choice of VPN provider will dictate where their servers are. Most VPN services freely disclose that info on their website.
Not all VPNs are created equal when protecting yourself online
There isn’t a standard for VPN services so make sure to do some research to make sure you’re working with a credible company. For instance, you need to be sure that the company is trustworthy. You can end up purchasing a VPN service just to have that company start selling your information. Also, make sure you look over your terms of service to see when the company may turn over your information.
The main thing I look for is a VPN that doesn’t keep logs. If the VPN doesn’t keep logs then they can’t possibly turn your information over to anyone. This is one reason that I use, and decided to advertise for, Nord VPN. They fall under Panamanian law which does not require them to keep logs of their user’s data. They also have over 1000 servers spread across the globe and logging into Netflix from overseas still works. Their software allows you to add an extra layer of security (by basically going through two VPN servers) and lets you identify certain programs (like your internet browser or torrenting software) to stop functioning if you lose connection to the VPN service.
Nord VPN is the company that I have the most experience with and can vouch for. Please use whatever company you want, just do yourself a favor and do some research before you buy anything.
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