Pinterest Stumbleupon Whatsapp
Advertisement

Virtual private networks (VPNs) have experienced a surge of interest since Congress voted to allow ISPs to sell your browsing history FOR SALE: Your Browsing History -- So What Can You Do? FOR SALE: Your Browsing History -- So What Can You Do? An FCC ruling that the ISPs must obtain permission from customers before selling personal data could be reversed. Your ISP is about to set a price for your personal data. How can we fight back? Read More . It’s not always clear exactly why you should be using one though. Sure, it can help you unblock geo-restricted content Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Which VPNs Still Work With Netflix? Netflix is trying to stop people accessing its service through VPNs, but a handful of VPNs are managing to stay one step ahead of the streaming giant. Read on to find out which ones... Read More on streaming sites like Netflix. However, a VPN can dramatically improve your security and privacy 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN 10 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a VPN Virtual Private Networks are affordable and easy to use. Along with a firewall and antivirus/anti-malware solution, here is exactly why you should have a VPN installed. Read More by routing your traffic out of the reach of eavesdropping governments, ISPs, and malicious hackers.

While using a VPN at home is a good idea, it is even more important when on-the-go. Public Wi-Fi networks have a number of security issues, and you can’t trust your network provider What Are Supercookies, and Why Are They Dangerous? What Are Supercookies, and Why Are They Dangerous? Verizon has been fined for tracking customers with a unique identifier header (UIDH), also known as a "supercookie." But what is a supercookie? And why is it worse than a regular cookie? Read More . The terminology around VPNs The Short MakeUseOf Guide to VPN Terminology The Short MakeUseOf Guide to VPN Terminology The need for a secure internet connection has never been more vital. A VPN is a great way to stop unwanted snooping in your internet traffic. We're here to cut through the VPN jargon. Read More can seem like a hurdle, but it’s worth getting your head around. Choosing to never venture online without a VPN may be the best security decision you’ll ever make.

1. Improve Your Security

An episode of the hit TV show Silicon Valley had the team at Pied Piper monitoring public Wi-Fi traffic using a device called a Wi-Fi Pineapple. These easy-to-use devices may seem like a work of fiction, but they are indeed real. It requires very little technical knowledge for an attacker to eavesdrop everything you do online with a Wi-Fi Pineapple. Sadly, those devices are far from the only way that public Wi-Fi networks can be compromised.

The promise of a fast and reliable Wi-Fi network can be almost irresistible, but just one rogue connection could cause you a lot of pain. Instead of passing up the opportunity to connect, simply add a VPN into the mix. The encryption that comes as standard with many VPNs means that no matter who is snooping on the connection won’t be able to see your data. Your browsing history, online transactions, and email will be hidden by the power of cryptography.

2. Defeat Censorship and Bypass Restrictions

Public Wi-Fi networks are often provided free of charge. In return for their service, you agree to their Terms & Conditions, which may limit what you can access on their network. As the provider can’t determine what content you access through the VPN, you can effectively bypass their restrictions. The same is also true of government censorship 3 Ways a VPN Can Shield You From Big Brother's Surveillance Panopticon 3 Ways a VPN Can Shield You From Big Brother's Surveillance Panopticon Not convinced that you need a VPN? Here are three surprising reasons why a virtual private network should be the cornerstone of your security. Read More . China has become infamous for its Great Firewall that blocks a number of websites like Facebook. All you need to do to evade this censorship is activate your VPN and choose a server in a less restrictive country.

Advertisement

great firewall of china

Unfortunately, countries like China and Russia have begun to clamp down on VPNs Russia's VPN Ban: What Is It and What Does It Mean for You? Russia's VPN Ban: What Is It and What Does It Mean for You? Millions of people around the world use VPNs to protect their privacy while online. But some states are moving to block VPNs, banning their usage. The latest is Russia -- can you use a VPN... Read More in an effort to continue surveillance and maintain their censorship of the internet. This worrying development at least shows that oppressive governments are nervous about the protection that VPNs offer against digital oppression. With the Net Neutrality debate What Is Net Neutrality & Why Should I Care? What Is Net Neutrality & Why Should I Care? A significant number see Net Neutrality as essential to the survival of the Internet. In this article, we're going to look at why Net Neutrality matters, and why we should fight to protect it. Read More still raging on, you can get ahead of the game and use a VPN. As your ISP won’t be able to identify your connection, it can’t be prioritized or demoted. If you do come across any connection issues, you can simply change your VPN’s server to a different location.

3. Stop Tracking Dead in Its Tracks

I’m going to go ahead and say that Sting called it all the way back in 1983. In the Police’s chart-topping hit single, Sting sang “every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you” — correctly predicting the rise of online tracking. Ad networks the world over, including the likes of Google and Facebook, all track you across the internet, building a profile of you that can be sold to advertisers.

VPNs encrypt the data that you send from your computer to their servers. The encryption scrambles the information making it impossible for a third party to intercept. This means that your search terms and browsing history are hidden out of sight. Not even the website itself will be able to identify you, as the traffic will appear to be from the VPN’s IP address. Of course, if you are signed into your Google or Facebook account then they will still be able to store your movements Facebook Is Tracking You! Here's How to Stop It Facebook Is Tracking You! Here's How to Stop It Who is tracking your movements online? ISPs, the government, Google... but what about social media sites like Facebook? Yes, them too. Here's how you stop Facebook tracking you around the internet. Read More . You can minimize this risk by using the anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Why This Longtime Google Fan Now Prefers DuckDuckGo Most of us don't remember life before Google search. Try DuckDuckGo. Learn its tricks. There could be nothing you miss about Google. Read More or privacy-focused browsers like Epic 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private 4 Anonymous Web Browsers That Are Completely Private A good way to protect your information on the web is to surf anonymously. Google Chrome’s Incognito mode can help to an extent, but you should also look at the following web browsers. Read More or Firefox Focus Firefox Focus Blocks Ads and Trackers By Default Firefox Focus Blocks Ads and Trackers By Default Firefox Focus blocks ads and trackers by default, ensuring you can browse the web without fear of your every action being analyzed. Which is unfortunate for us. Read More .

4. Steer Clear of Surveillance

If only it were advertisers and social networks that wanted to pry into our online lives. Unfortunately, the Edward Snowden leaks of 2013 showed that we can’t even trust our own government not to spy on us. The documents revealed that the NSA had been performing mass surveillance on almost all American citizens What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know What Is PRISM? Everything You Need to Know The National Security Agency in the US has access to whatever data you're storing with US service providers like Google Microsoft, Yahoo, and Facebook. They're also likely monitoring most of the traffic flowing across the... Read More — tracking their online activity, phone calls, and messages.

surveillance cameras spying on man

Your VPN’s encryption is the first line of defense against this surveillance Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Avoiding Internet Surveillance: The Complete Guide Internet surveillance continues to be a hot topic so we've produced this comprehensive resource on why it's such a big deal, who's behind it, whether you can completely avoid it, and more. Read More by turning your data into garbled nonsense. However, there is a potential flaw here: your VPN provider can decrypt it. As the data is not end-to-end encrypted, governments can demand that providers hand over unencrypted user data. This is why it’s important to choose a VPN provider that is entirely logless 6 Logless VPNs That Take Your Privacy Seriously 6 Logless VPNs That Take Your Privacy Seriously In an age where every online movement is tracked and logged, a VPN seems a logical choice. We've taken a look at six VPNs that take your anonymity seriously. Read More , and takes a firm stance on privacy. If you are concerned about routing your traffic through certain countries, then you can change your VPN server to a country of your choosing.

When Will You VPN?

A VPN is one of the easiest ways to improve your online security. Create an account, download, connect and your VPN will do most of the heavy lifting. Then you can browse the internet, sending data back and forth with impunity, knowing that you are protected. As with any market, there are unfortunately those who have an incentive to mislead you. Free VPNs often can’t be trusted to properly secure your data, with some even selling it on for profit.

While it’s generally considered more secure to choose a premium VPN, it doesn’t guarantee security. A report from RestorePrivacy showed that some providers are faking server locations in an effort to minimize costs. Fortunately there are some tell-tale signs that you can actually trust a VPN provider. Despite these risks, if you find a trustworthy VPN The Best VPN Services The Best VPN Services We've compiled a list of what we consider to be the best Virtual Private Network (VPN) service providers, grouped by premium, free, and torrent-friendly. Read More then you can reap the benefits of a secure connection.

Just remember: don’t expect too much from a VPN Just an Illusion? Why You Should Think Before Using a VPN Service Just an Illusion? Why You Should Think Before Using a VPN Service You think you should be using a VPN. After all, virtual private networks enhance your security, right? Well, yes... and no. VPNs aren't as secure as you think. Read More .

Do you use a VPN? If so, which? Are you concerned about the points raised here? Do you believe you should always be using a VPN? Let us know the comments.

Image Credit: antb via Shutterstock.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Paul in NJ
    September 6, 2017 at 11:58 pm

    What is your opinion of a hardware VPN appliance versus an app? Would that (help to) address the slowed-performance issue? I know that some home routers come with VPNs, but I am primarily thinking of a 'travel router' for my on-the-road laptop.

    • James Frew
      September 8, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      I wouldn't choose to use one. You would need to be completely sure that you could trust the VPN provider AND the hardware manufacturer. It also adds in another layer of complexity and cost that adds little benefit. If you want to have the VPN permanently on while using a travel router it would probably be best to choose a VPN provider that allows for manual configurations on routers. That way you get the benefit that all devices connected to the router are covered by the VPN - including any that aren't yours - but without having to surrender control of the router itself. Adding the VPN to the router also overcomes the challenge of using Chromecasts or other remotely controlled devices while using VPNs.

  2. Clifford Salmon
    August 30, 2017 at 2:37 am

    Interesting article! In digital age, excellent information management protocols must be established and utilized fully. There many computer professionals who use their talents for personal enrichment through the unauthorized procurement of user data. VPN's provide an extra level of security. It is better to increase the difficulty level of accessing personal data than to be victimized because of easy data acquisition done illegally or by ISP-friendly legislation. Would you leave your home or apartment door open while you are sleeping or bathing? Considering the times we are living in, I wouldn't .

    • James Frew
      August 30, 2017 at 10:19 am

      Spot on!

  3. Stephen Russell
    August 30, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Need more Education on VPNs alone for use, A-Z, College, workplace etc.
    Must have more Info & best VPN sources.
    Or like fake security sites that decrease security

    • James Frew
      August 30, 2017 at 10:16 am

      We do have a range of VPN articles which we are looking to expand upon. Thanks for suggestions!

  4. S.K.
    August 29, 2017 at 6:47 pm

    I use a VPN, but I have noticed that several websites don't play nice with VPNs even after getting past the captchas. Some sites will not work at all and pages won't load.

    • James Frew
      August 29, 2017 at 9:54 pm

      Could also be the connection with the VPN - but you are right that some sites don't appreciate you connecting with a VPN.

  5. Theodore
    August 27, 2017 at 6:52 am

    Yes, a VPN can protect your privacy. However, most of the time - even with quality providers, they are sooooo slow I am reminded my 9600 Baud modem from the early 1990’s . I think it all depends on what is more important to you.

    • James Frew
      August 27, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Which providers have you tried? Most of the ones I have used now and in the past have relatively good performance, especially when connecting to local servers.

  6. ReadandShare
    August 23, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Never go online without using a VPN? Really??

    1. Billions of us do not fear censorship, surveillance, restrictions or tracking.

    2. On desktop, pretty much ALL email, social, financial, medical, insurance, government, etc., etc. sites that require user log in will utilize encryption (HTTPS).

    3. On devices, email, banking, etc. have their own apps that are encrypt communications as well.

    I don't friggin' care if my ISP (or whoever's snooping) finds out that I visit sites like MUO or CNN.

    Sure, use a VPN if you wish. But in a "free" country, you don't really need to bother (worry more about ensuring that your computer/devices don't contain keylogging and other malware). And in a "restrictive" country, a VPN by itself is actually grossly insufficient protection.

    Don't care for this shrill of an article at all.

    • James Frew
      August 24, 2017 at 8:35 am

      1. Many people do not fear censorship but that doesn't mean that it isn't important. Just like politics, it doesn't impact our day-to-day lives which is why its easy not to worry about it. In the longer term this will be an issue. See Glenn Greenwald's TED talk on the matter (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcSlowAhvUk).

      2. HTTPS is a method of security. It ensures that criminals are unable to view your data in transit. It says nothing of what happens to your credit card, and other personal information once it is unencrypted by the website.

      3. As above, the encryption that most apps use is not end to end, by rather something similar to HTTPS. This means the same issues apply as above.

      With respect to your last point - you say that no one in a "free" country needs to worry about privacy related issues. However, eroding privacy, free thought, and freedom of expression is exactly how repressive, dictatorial leaders get into power - creating a country that is less-than-free.

      • RK
        August 29, 2017 at 10:58 pm

        "2. HTTPS is a method of security. It ensures that criminals are unable to view your data in transit. It says nothing of what happens to your credit card, and other personal information once it is unencrypted by the website."

        How does a vpn protect you from this? I'm genuinely curious.

        • James Frew
          August 30, 2017 at 10:23 am

          HTTPS is a method of encrypting data between you and the website. The data is scrambled and then decoded once it reaches the websites servers. This prevents people from being able to access the data while it is transit, so it has historically been used when transmitting financial and other personal data. VPNs encrypt all of your traffic so that any data sent via the internet is encrypted. It is then decrypted at the VPN server, before being passed onto its destination. This means that none of your data can be viewed in transit. However, it does mean that you need to trust your VPN provider, as they potentially have access to all your internet traffic,

        • Mark
          August 30, 2017 at 2:56 pm

          Isn't HTTPS offered at the browser level? I use Chrome, added the HTTPS extension, and all of my URL's show HTTPS. Also, I've tried trial VPN's on my home system and it seems the VPN knocks anywhere from 10 - 15 megs from my 20 meg download speed. Too slow! 20 megs is something millions of people like me have to live with. Some areas are worse.

        • James Frew
          August 30, 2017 at 3:17 pm

          Yes, HTTPS is at the browser level, but it requires that the site have an HTTPS certificate in order to use it. I agree that a huge reduction in speed means that a lot of people aren't able to use VPNs. That's why a paid VPN is usually a good idea as they offer a large range of servers so you can choose one that is geographically close. Free VPNs may also have high bandwidth usage or bandwidth caps that slows down the connection.

        • Godel
          August 30, 2017 at 8:50 pm

          A VPN protects from MITM or "Man In The Middle" attacks, where the person thinks that they're talking to their bank but they are actually only talking to the Wi-Fi hotspot or the ISP.

          HTTPS won't protect you in this case as you're only talking securely with your attacker who relays the information between the two legitimate parties, but siphons off login details or credit card numbers, or changes account or payment information on the fly.

          Also while HTTPS might protect the bulk of information sent, it doesn't conceal the identity of the URLs that you are communicating with.

      • RK
        August 30, 2017 at 3:01 pm

        "It says nothing of what happens to your credit card, and other personal information once it is unencrypted by the website."

        If it is a trusted website, https encrypts traffic between you and the website and the original poster was pointing out that you only need vpn to encrypt the unencrypted (non-https) traffic. Most financial institutions and businesses have their website transactions encrypted using ssl certs.

        You implied as if VPN can somehow protect you from shady websites. I was wondering how.

        • James Frew
          August 30, 2017 at 3:29 pm

          I saw the original posters view to be that a VPN would be unnecessary if a site was using HTTPS. Its true that many websites will use HTTPS now, especially with Google forcing them in that direction. Say you were searching on Google, the HTTPS encrypts the data in transit but Google knows exactly where the data came from because its linked to your IP address. Using the VPN means that you get encryption plus the VPN server is the one "sending" the traffic to Google, so the website wouldn't know where the data came from and build a profile of your browsing history/habits. Of course, in this example it would only work if you weren't signed in to Google. But the principle applies across all sites. I think in hindsight I could have phrased my earlier response slightly better as I can see how it appears as though I am implying that the VPN would protect you from a website that obtains your sensitive information.

    • Andrew Wolfe
      August 29, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      The price of freedom is vigilance. But I agree the article does look like a shill.

      • James Frew
        August 29, 2017 at 9:57 pm

        I can assure you both that I am not attempting to sell/trick you into anything. I am genuinely curious why you both believe that I am/this article is a shill.

        I am not attempting to sell you anything - I didn't even give any VPN recommendations. The article lays out four reasons why you should use a VPN. You may disagree or not find each point valid - however, I don't see how that makes the article a "shill" as understood by the definition of "an accomplice of a confidence trickster or swindler who poses as a genuine customer to entice or encourage others."

        • Me
          August 30, 2017 at 1:17 am

          Those that don't fear it clearly have no idea what is going on these days. The censorship has been increasing massively & the end game should frighten you.

        • James Frew
          August 30, 2017 at 10:19 am

          Agreed.

        • Paul in NJ
          September 6, 2017 at 11:35 pm

          I commend you, James, on your restraint. If a commenter was accusing me of -- well, I doubt he can even articulate what he thinks you did -- I'd be a lot less restrained.

          BTW, Andrew, the other poster said the piece sounded "shrill", not 'shill'.

        • James Frew
          September 8, 2017 at 12:34 pm

          Thank you - usually pays to be civil :)

  7. Donald Brown
    August 22, 2017 at 10:52 pm

    I use Svalinn VPN. Small provider, but based on OpenVPN and pretty good.

  8. John
    August 22, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    One of the very first examples you give is completely wrong. Netflix has put a stop (like a year ago or more) to using VPN to get around region locking. That kinda makes the rest of the article not even worth reading. Fact check, fact check, fact check...

    • James Frew
      August 22, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Thanks for your comment. There are other services and website that are Geo-restricted, although Netflix is one notable example. The article you refer to was last updated on August 2nd to include VPNs that do indeed still work with Netflix. Hope that helps to clear things up.

  9. Hank
    August 21, 2017 at 10:49 pm

    I make sure my ExpressVPN app is on every time I connect to public WiFi. Works like a charm. The Mac app also has a killswitch that automatically freezes your network in case internet drops.

    • James Frew
      August 22, 2017 at 9:51 am

      Glad to hear you've had a good experience with ExpressVPN. When there is so much choice for VPN provider, it really helps when they include useful protective features.