You may have heard the term Virtual Private Network or even VPN and although you hear a rumour they are a good security tool you’re a little unsure what they actually are and what the benefits are.
Often technical terms and jargon are thrown around and with so many new phrases, names and fads coming and going it can be confusing and even a headache to try and keep abreast of all the latest happenings.
In this article I’m going to look at the handful of major reasons why you should use a VPN and from this you can determine if you really do need one or if they are simply another expense you can live without.
The major feature of a VPN is they increase your privacy. This is not to be confused with thinking that they will make you anonymous because depending on your use and your own actions depends how much privacy they provide.
To clear up the myth that a VPN will make you anonymous consider the personal details you enter on the internet on a daily basis. If you’re accessing social media accounts or logging in and out of anything that is linked to your real world identity then no tool can make you 100% anonymous.
However, a VPN will provide privacy and it does this in a number of ways. Firstly it removes your actions from association with your home internet connection.
Say for example a business, agency or any other organisation opted to log most things that took place via your home connection. After a while they could build up a pretty good profile of your likes and dislikes and what makes you tick. If you’re the only person using that home connection then profiling you is rather easy.
With a VPN your connection is encrypted to a third party location which then accesses the internet. It’s like asking a friend to visit a website and relay the information back to you. The website visited would only see your friend accessing and not know the identity of the end user of the information ie; you.
As information passes back and forth on the internet much of it is sent in what is known as plain text. In essence plain text is human readable content that could be understood by anyone who reads it.
A common case of this is email. So if you send personal details via email they can essentially be read by a nefarious type intercepting the connection between yourself and your email host.
A VPN encrypts this information so as it passes between you and the a VPN server the information is completely jumbled and anyone poking their nose into snoop would be unable to decipher the content. This goes for insecure websites and any other service that isn’t encrypted.
Of course when data passes from the VPN server to the outside service it’s still unencrypted but the data passing is mingled with other users activity making it very difficult to pinpoint specific information and as long as it isn’t personally identifiable then it would be unlikely to be able to attribute it to you.
Even though the world has got smaller because of the internet, borders still exist in the entertainment industry.
Just like region coding of DVDs entertainment services that allow you to stream content online are often also locked down to the country they are intended for.
So if for example you lived in the UK and wanted to watch the service BBC iPlayer while travelling abroad you wouldn’t be able to because the service would see a foreign internet connection accessing it and force a region block.
A VPN allows you to disguise your location and appear as if you’re in a different one which can be a completely different country.
In the case of the UK traveller they would simply connect to their VPN service using a UK VPN server and rather than being restricted the service would think the user was in the UK and stream the services that were requested.
This works worldwide with most entertainment services so whether you want to watch BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Fox Sport, FoxTel Go, Sky Go or most other services from most countries then as long as the VPN provider you use has a VPN server in that country then you’ll be able to unlock the content.
Now you understand the privacy and encryption aspect of a VPN the most critical time to put it into practice is when using public Wi-Fi.
Unlike your home connection other people will be accessing the internet via the same public Wi-Fi connection and with simple tools on their own computer they can snoop on details of what you’re doing at the same time.
A readily available program will even allow another user to access your Facebook account if you’re logged in without them even knowing your password, all from just being on the same public Wi-Fi network as you.
As a VPN encrypts the data from your laptop or other device to a VPN server and then passes it onto the wider internet it means surfing the web on public Wi-Fi becomes a safe environment and no other user will be able to snoop on what you’re doing.
What VPN provider?
Now you know the basics of a VPN you’ll have a better idea of if they’re going to be a worthwhile investment for you. Costing as little as US$6.49 per month they aren’t prices that you’re really going to notice and for the added layer of security they offer it’s a worthwhile investment.
Over the past few years I’ve had the luxury of testing many VPN services and found that the majority are good although there are a few bad eggs that offer a poor experience.
When using a VPN I want it to be doing its job in the background without me noticing. Unfortunately the poor providers are often slow and so doing everyday tasks becomes a chore.
Luckily the decent providers make up for this and I’ve put together a list of my three best VPN services below.
[button-green url=”https://www.vpncompare.co.uk/ipvanish-com” target=”_blank” position=”center”] Protect your internet connection [/button-green]
Feel free to click their names above to visit their websites and consider signing up. With more security leaks making the news it really is time to be considering your online security.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net