Should You Be Using a VPN?

When you install and use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) you will gain an additional layer of protection for your online activities by creating an encrypted tunnel of servers between your device and the internet. Thus, by using a VPN server no one trying to spy on you will be able to access your confidential information or private internet activity.

VPNs are useful both at home and when you are on the go, whether you travel frequently, or connect to unsecured WiFi networks in coffee shops, public transport, or hotels. Despite that your home network connection may be relatively secure, and significantly safer than public Wi-Fi networks, it is still a good idea to install a VPN.

A VPN will also provide access to a host of geo-restricted content on websites and streaming sites that you would not otherwise have access to. Using a VPN is great for ensuring a secure internet connection when using an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, but it can be useful at home too. Here is why you should be using a VPN.

What is a VPN?

A premium VPN (Virtual Private Network) will protect your private internet traffic from spies, cyber-criminals, and third parties who may be trying to steal or profit from your data. If you frequently connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots, you may be putting your online privacy at risk. Installing a VPN on your device will ensure your information is not exposed to cyber-threats.

When you activate it, a VPN generates an encrypted tunnel of secure servers, between your device and a remote server location that is managed by your VPN service provider. All of your internet traffic is re-routed through the secure tunnel and due to the fact that your internet data exits through the VPN server rather than your IP server, your real IP address and location and identity remain hidden.

Do I need to use a VPN when traveling?

When you are traveling or on the go, you likely connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes, hotels, and public transport. However, it is often difficult to tell which Wi-Fi networks are safe and legitimate. Unless the establishment displays the Wi-Fi name and password, you are left to guess.

You may connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes or airports. However, it is difficult to know whether those networks are safe or who may be monitoring the network. It is also often hard to tell whether the network is legitimate, or whether it is operated by a cybercriminal intent on stealing private user data. Consider the banking details, usernames, passwords, and photos you share and receive that may become exposed when you are connected to the internet through unsecured hotspots.

Cybercriminals often set up fake Wi-Fi hotspots with familiar names in an attempt to trick vulnerable users into connecting to them. Once connected, users are at risk of an attack, during which all of the information they share and receive while connected to the network is exposed. Despite that this may often be mundane information, it may also include your bank account details, credit card numbers, usernames, and login information.

Also, if your device is set up to connect to available networks automatically, the cybercriminal does not even have to trick you, just your device. If the attacker utilizes the same name as a familiar Wi-Fi network such as that of a coffee shop or popular restaurant, your device may connect to it automatically without you knowing.

More sophisticated internet criminals will configure their network access points to alter SSID’s to reflect the one that your device requests. In such situations, a VPN is essential. VPNs create an encrypted server tunnel to ensure no one on the same network as you has access to your personal information or private internet activity.

If you utilize a VPN while connecting to such an unsecured public Wi-Fi network you will have the peace of mind that your online activities are safe and that nobody will be able to access or steal your information. Even the Internet Service Provider who manages the network will be unable to intercept or access your activities.

When traveling to a foreign country, you may open up your internet browser to realize that your search engine is displayed in an unfamiliar language, your favorite websites are not accessible, and you cannot watch your favorite shows due to geo-restrictions.

A VPN will allow you to connect to a distant server in another country, masking your location. If you are outside of your home country, you can connect to a server in a familiar region, allowing you to access the internet in the same way as you would at home. This method also works if you are at home and you want to connect to a distant server in order to access streaming sites that are not available in your country.

Do I need a VPN at home?

Despite that you may believe your home WiFi network to be completely secure, it is often a good idea to utilize a VPN at home too. It is unlikely that you experience a cyber-attack like those common to unsecured Wi-Fi networks. However, there are other threats to your home network.

The main threat to your internet privacy at home comes from your internet service provider (ISP) itself. In many countries, ISPs access, store and even sell private user internet data for profit. Many even compile profiles about their users and sell such profiles to advertisers, resulting in personalized advertisements and often even higher online shopping prices.

Your ISP has extensive insight into your private online activity and it is difficult to prevent prying eyes without a VPN. Services such as social media sites do profit from your online activity too, but you do not have to use such services. However, there is often no such choice when it comes to your ISP as there is just a limited number of ISPs to choose from.

Your ISP may not be the only threat to your online privacy, your state government agencies, websites, and apps may track your activities too. However, a VPN offers protection against such surveillance, making it much more difficult for any third party to access your information and to link your activity to you and your device.

Most users do not install VPNs for the protection that they offer but rather for streaming purposes. VPNs are often considered a hindrance because of the effect that they may have on your internet upload and download speeds, however, they can in fact positively affect your internet experience.

Different streaming content is available in different countries. Every streaming site such as Netflix has an agreement to offer various television shows and movies, some of which are restricted to specific regions. Thus, if you travel abroad, you may not be able to continue to watch the same shows at home. Similarly, when at home, there may be television shows and movies that you cannot access due to geo-restrictions.

This is where VPNs come in useful. You can utilize a VPN to connect to a distant server location, enabling access to streaming sites that are not typically available in your country. Despite that many streaming services such as Netflix have strong VPN blocking technology and firewalls, a premium VPN provider will grant access to such sites. Many sports fans also utilize a VPN to access games or events for which coverage is not available in their country.

Whether or not you need a VPN at home will depend on your individual needs and preferences. There is a range of benefits to installing and using a VPN at home and it can be a useful additional layer of protection to your home network. If you are concerned about your ISP storing and selling your private information, or you simply want to gain access to a greater range of streaming services, a VPN is a good addition.

Is a VPN compatible with all of my devices?

It will be necessary to install a VPN service on all of your devices if you want to ensure complete privacy online. Most premium VPNs offer user-friendly clients for Windows and macOS, as well as mobile apps for Android and iPhone. Many providers also offer clients for gaming consoles, Linux, and Chromebooks. However, it is necessary to bear in mind that a Virtual Private Network may not always work smoothly with a cellular connection.

VPNs ensure that nobody has access to your private online activity by ensuring your data traffic from third parties, spies, and hackers. However, VPNs are more compatible with some devices than others.

For example, Google Chromecast enables a simple local network connection between your phone or laptop and your TV. However, when you attempt to utilize a VPN server with your Chromecast device, your information will become jumbled in the secure tunnel, meaning that you cannot access other devices on the local network. Thus, it is necessary to turn off the VPN if you want to use the Chromecast connection feature.

There is a solution to such issues. All you need to do is install the Virtual Private Network on your router. By doing so, all of the traffic on your local network is passed through the encrypted VPN tunnel, ensuring all of your devices are protected without complications. This means that it is not necessary to install a client or app on any of your devices, as a secure connection to your router will ensure automatic VPN protection.

Despite that installing a VPN on your router may sound difficult, especially for novice users, some VPN providers offer a pre-configured VPN provider, making the process even easier.

Many users install VPNs to access online streaming content. However, most streaming websites have strong VPN-blocking technology. One way to overcome this issue is to invest in a static IP address as an add-on from your VPN provider. These IP addresses are unique to you and are not linked to the VPN provider, offering greater freedom online.

Should my VPN be activated all of the time?

We would recommend that you keep your VPN on all of the time to make sure that your online activity and network traffic data is secure. With your VPN activated, nobody will be able to see what you are up to. A VPN will protect you from cybercriminals such as hackers or identity thieves, IP leaks, information breaches, malicious advertisers, or your ISP.

A VPN connection will protect your privacy and offer secure internet access by re-routing your network traffic to a remote location. Thus, nobody trying to access your data will be able to view your activity. Premium VPN providers also offer security features such as a kill-switch to ensure your data remains safe even if the VPN connection fails.

Unsecured public WiFi hotspots

It is essential to activate your VPN whenever you connect to a public WiFi hotspot in a coffee shop, hotel lobby, or on the bus. Most such networks are unsecured and are common targets for cybercriminals. A VPN will protect your privacy if you want to gain access to the internet from a public hotspot as it will encrypt your data traffic.

Geo-restrictions

You should also use a VPN if you want to access a streaming service that is not available in your region. Simply connect to a VPN in the same country as the content you are trying to access.

Speed throttling

Internet Service Providers are known to intentionally slow users’ internet access. This may occur when an ISP does not have the resources to meet the demands of streamers and gamers. Often, they will target users depending on their usual internet activities and the data that they consume. If you utilize a VPN, your ISP will be unable to view your activities and will be less inclined to restrict your bandwidth.

HTTPS extension

If you want to gain access to a website that does not use a secure HTTPS extension, it is a good idea to use a VPN to ensure your browsing activities are safe from prying eyes. Many websites you visit may not use a secure HTTPS extension, placing your personal data at risk. HTTPS utilizes the TLS protocol that encrypts web traffic that is shared between the person and the site. While you should still utilize a VPN service when accessing an HTTPS site, it is even more important for those that do not utilize HTTPS encryption.

Firewalls

Many people use VPN services to overcome firewalls. A VPN service creates an encrypted secure tunnel, hiding your actual IP address and location. Thus, nobody will be able to view or restrict your access, enabling you to bypass firewalls on websites and apps.

When should I disconnect my VPN connection?

There are some cases in which you may need to disconnect your VPN connections, however, it is best to do so as little as possible. If speed is your highest priority, perhaps when gaming or downloading files, a VPN may be a disadvantage.

VPNs can sometimes slower connection speed because they generate a secure tunnel of servers and send your traffic to a remote location. This process requires extra resources and takes longer than a normal internet connection. However, if you opt for a premium provider such as NordVPN or ExpressVPN, you may not notice a significant reduction in speeds.

Also, if you want to access content that is available in your current location, but the VPN does not offer servers in that region, it will be necessary to de-activate the secure connection.

We would recommend keeping your VPN activated as much as is possible. You should also ensure that you choose a reliable and trustworthy VPN provider. Make sure that your chosen VPN service does not log customer data, offers a wide range of servers, and that the provider is trustworthy.

VPN limitations

Despite that VPN providers offer a great level of protection, they are not immune to every internet threat, nor do they promise to completely anonymize your browsing activity. If you want to browse the internet with complete anonymity and gain access to the Dark web, a Tor connection will be necessary.

Tor works differently from a VPN and will bounce your internet data through various connections, making it extremely hard to monitor or trace. The service is operated by a non-profit organization and is offered for free. Some VPN services will even offer a Tor via VPN feature for an additional layer of security and privacy.

It is also worth keeping in mind that not all VPNs are equal. Some VPNs profit from selling the data of users that they claim to protect. Thus, it is important to do your research and to choose a trustworthy provider with a strict no-logging policy.

Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?

When you use the internet, your activities are often tracked or monitored by your ISP, your web browser, and the websites that you visit. Many websites can also store a history of your browsing activity and link that data to your actual IP location.

If you want to keep your information private, a VPN can help to offer an excellent additional layer of security. A VPN serves to mask your real IP address and location so that nobody can link your browsing activity to your IP, meaning that you cannot be tracked in this way.

Anybody who has access to your IP address can view your browsing history as well as your location when you made each search. Your IP address can be used to link your history back to you and your device. However, a VPN masks your IP address, so your online activity cannot be linked to you or your location. A VPN can also protect your devices and the data that you share and receive from spies, hackers, or malicious third parties.

However, it is important to bear in mind that if you use social media sites, it is likely that you can be tracked online whether you are using a VPN or not. A VPN can only provide a certain level of internet privacy and can’t protect against every threat.

How to choose a VPN provider

A VPN is an excellent solution if you are looking for more privacy and anonymity online. However, there is an extensive array of VPN providers on the market, making it difficult to choose the right one for you. There is a range of factors to consider when choosing a VPN.

No-logs policy

First, consider whether the provider itself is proven to protect user privacy. If you install a VPN to protect your online privacy, it makes sense that the provider will protect it too. Look for a service that operates on a strict no-logging policy to ensure that your private data will never be misused or sold to third parties.

Secure protocols

It is also necessary to choose a provider that offers the most up-to-date VPN protocols, to ensure the highest levels of online security. Look for a VPN that offers secure protocols such as OpenVPN rather than outdated protocols like PPTP.

Bandwidth

Many VPN providers will place a limit on data usage and bandwidth. If you intend to use the VPN for streaming, gaming, or torrenting, it will be necessary to choose a provider that offers unlimited bandwidth, so that you do not need to worry about how much data you are consuming.

Server locations

Consider what locations you require. If you want to access Netflix libraries in specific countries, make sure that your chosen provider enables access to servers in that location.

Simultaneous device connections

If you want to install the VPN on all of your devices, you will need to choose a provider that offers multiple simultaneous device connections. The average provider offers protection for between 3-5 devices, others even offer unlimited device connections, meaning that you can share the subscription with your friends and family too. If you choose to pay for a VPN subscription, it makes sense to be able to use the VPN on all of your devices at the same time.

Price

It is also necessary to choose a VPN that meets your budget. There is a range of free VPNs available, however, it is necessary to remain cautious when considering a free VPN. Many such services offer a lower standard of protection, access to a limited number of servers, and bandwidth restrictions.

Free VPNs also need to make a profit, and many do so by selling user data for profit, thus harming the users that they promise to protect.

We would thus recommend that you avoid free VPNs if at all possible because of the lower security standards and limited features that they offer. Most paid plans will offer a free trial or a money-back guarantee, enabling you to try the service risk-free.