A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a decades-old technology that allows any computer to securely connect to a remote server in distant location, yet appear as though it’s connected locally.
Most of you would already be familiar with VPNs and probably use one to circumvent geo-restrictions, engage in P2P activities, or otherwise remain anonymous online. Although VPNs have been around for a while, there are still several damaging myths about them that could potentially negate the benefits of the service, or even confuse you when looking for the best VPN provider.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the top five myths about VPNs and why they’re simply not true.
Myth #1: I Don’t Need a VPN If I’m Not Doing Anything Illegal Online
One of the most common misrepresentations about VPNs is that it’s only needed when the legality of your online activity is in question. For instance, when accessing geo-restricted video content that’s otherwise not available in your region, or circumventing legal roadblocks in your country. Although a VPN might help in these cases, it’s not really the most important reason for using one.
VPNs are designed to encrypt your communication, thereby securing your data. So even if you’re not engaged in shady internet activities, using a VPN whenever your data security could be at risk (e.g. when connected to a public hotspot) is always a good idea.
Myth #2: VPNs Slow Down Your Connection
You’ve probably heard that since VPNs route all of your data through another server in some far off land, that using one will slow your browsing speed significantly.
That’s not entirely true.
First of all, the speed of the VPN is limited to the speed of your connection to the internet, which it will not be able to exceed. Secondly, it also depends on the location of the server to which you’re connecting — usually the further the server is from you, the greater the latency.
That’s why it’s important to choose a VPN service provider with lots of well-maintained servers in a variety of locations to help you get the connection speeds you’re used to.
Myth #3: A Free VPN Is Good Enough
While free is usually good, there’s an old economist rule: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. You’re usually giving up something to get something else in return. In this case, you could be giving up quite a lot.
First of all, while free VPNs are able to offer you service at no cost, they’re usually accompanied by a few restrictions. Speeds are usually severely limited, and bandwidth usage per month not entirely generous. Unsurprisingly, that’s quite normal.
However, it may shock you to learn that you may be voluntarily offering your browsing data, email address, and other personal information in order to use a free VPN service. Think about it: the free VPN providers have to pay for their server fees. There are costs to bear, and something’s got to give.
To understand what you’re getting yourself into, always read the terms and conditions carefully. And remember, you get what you pay for.
Myth #4: All VPNs Are the Same
Not even close. If you’re using a VPN, it means you have decided that it’s worthwhile to secure your online data transmissions, so that what should be private, remains private.
For that purpose, you should understand that a crucial part of a VPN service is to encrypt your communications as you connect via their servers; but that level of encryption can vary across VPN services. Some will offer weaker encryption, while others offer industry-leading secure encryption systems. Strive to pick a VPN provider that offers OpenVPN; avoid PPTP at all cost.
As far as privacy goes, you should most certainly make sure that your VPN provider doesn’t keep logs. Some VPNs do retain minimal logs, and they will explain what’s included. In any case, you should always check that no personal data is stored, and that the activities you were engaged in while using their VPN service are not stored in any way.
Myth #5: I’m Using a VPN, so I Can Do Anything I Want Online
This last myth is important to dispel: VPNs can’t provide you with absolute protection while you’re engaging in potentially risky activities. When visiting dodgy websites — even while using a VPN — there’s still a good chance you’ll encounter malware such as keyloggers or phishing attempts.
You must still remain vigilant while you’re online. That means staying safe while you’re connected to free public Wi-Fi, being cautious about suspicious emails, and employing other measures such as using an adequate firewall, anti-virus, anti-malware; in addition to being savvy.
Your safety and online privacy are important. Therefore, understanding the truth about VPNs and signing up with a good VPN provider can help alleviate any worries you may have about your security online.
Are there any other myths about VPNs you know to be false? Or do you have any lingering questions about the service? Let us know in the comments below!
Image Credits: old book by Ksenia Palimski via Shutterstock, Stressed hispanic woman having some connection problems, Photo of the new Pirate Bay homepage on a ipad monitor screen through a magnifying glass, Network administrator working on cabling in a server cabinet, Hacker in Work