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The net is closing in on digital freedom. Net neutrality has been repealed, your government and ISP are spying on you, and even your email isn’t as secure as you think it is.
In short, THEY want to know everything about you. Where you shop, what car you drive, who you do business with, and what interesting… habits you may have. And at the same time, THEY want to keep their own preferences, deals, and vehicles strictly under wraps.
But there is a way to fight back. All you need is a virtual private network (VPN) account and a few extra dollars a month (although free VPNs are available).
So Many Reasons to Use a VPN
Good, reliable, and secure VPN accounts are available for under $10 a month. But why should you use a virtual private network?
With a VPN client installed on your computer, phone, tablet, or even router, your data is sent via an encrypted connection, enabling you to create a secure connection with your website of choice. This connection is routed via a remote server, increasing your anonymity. Note that logging into the site will reveal who you are, and that your usual location will typically be attached to this information.
We’ve previously examined key reasons to use a VPN. Here, we look at three more.
1. VPNs Protect Net Neutrality
On April 3rd, 2017, President Donald Trump initiated a repeal of the broadband privacy rules that were a cornerstone of net neutrality.
As well as allowing ISPs to sell information about their customers’ browsing habits, it enables the providers of internet services to route data the way they see fit, and potentially even charge for premium content like Facebook or YouTube.
If an ISP can prioritize certain websites over others, these will be the big hitters. And that means that the little guys will suffer. Competition will be stifled.
Fortunately, a VPN can stop this from becoming a problem for you.
Using a VPN means that content will not slow down. The nature of your connection will be unknown, so the data cannot be prioritized or demoted. And if content should be blocked, a VPN client allows you to easily switch to a server in a different country.
2. VPNs Help Keep Your Email Secure and Private
A recent survey showed that people have overwhelming trust in big-name email providers, despite these services not offering any real security or privacy. An astonishing 36 percent of respondents to a survey from NordVPN revealed that they consider Gmail to be the most privacy-focused email service. Meanwhile, Outlook was top-rated by 22 percent and Yahoo Mail by 14 percent.
Clearly, the message isn’t getting through. Only 6.3 percent of respondents were aware of ProtonMail, for instance. As you may know, Yahoo is in trouble — one of its biggest failures of recent years was its leak of 500 million email accounts in 2014. Oh, and the additional 32 million accounts leaked in early 2017.
There are many ways to protect your email accounts, from using two-factor authentication and stronger passwords (and a password manager) to switching to an encrypted email provider, such as ProtonMail, Tutanota, or Countermail.
But you can also employ a VPN to ensure that your email traffic is encrypted between your computer and the VPN server. All that a hacker will be able to observe is that connection. All other information — your username, password, and the message contents — is encrypted.
3. Bypass Government and ISP Surveillance
ISP surveillance with regards to net neutrality is only one problem. In the UK, active surveillance has been mandated thanks to the passing of the Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the “Snooper’s Charter”). This delivers access to 12 months of web history, and live online surveillance, to security services and law enforcement. Useful for fighting crime and terrorism, but considered overkill by many. The systems proposed lack oversight, and could easily be subverted by hackers.
The surveillance laws have been described as being worse than China's, yet is passed incredibly easily. 2016.
— Matt Burgess (@mattburgess1) November 16, 2016
This will affect anyone in the U.K., whether resident or passing through for work or holiday.
And it isn’t just the U.K. where online government surveillance is a privacy issue. States and nations around the world have been tightening their grip on the digital space, overseeing comments, blocking social networks, and stifling dissent.
Three Strong Reasons: Which VPN Should You Choose?
Now that you know why you really need a VPN, the time has come to make a choice. Where should you start? And if you’re already using a VPN, is now the time to switch to a paid solution?
We have spent a lot of time looking at VPN services, collating our favorites in our best VPNs list, for you to reference at any time. But although we’ve been impressed with VPNs from many different providers, the one we currently recommend is ExpressVPN, which has client apps for desktop and mobile (pictured, above).
This doesn’t mean that you should follow us blindly, however. Perhaps our recommendation doesn’t suit your needs. Perhaps the way you use the web makes our choice wrong for you. That’s fine — there are many good options available.
Get a VPN Today: There’s No Excuse!
One of our goals at MakeUseOf is to give you the tools to enjoy life safely and securely, whether you’re looking for productivity tips, Android hacks, or building your own PC. We realize that adding an extra $10 to your monthly internet budget is not ideal, but if you are concerned about the shocking rollback on net neutrality, you need a VPN. Unhappy at the security on Gmail and Outlook? Afraid of the state’s surveillance creep?
Get a VPN.
Perhaps you have one already? What are your thoughts on the net neutrality rollback or ISP surveillance? Tell us in the comments.
Image Credits: Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock