Posted on December 13, 2019 at 6:49 AM
VPNs are not just for paranoid people, nor are they just do for people looking to engage in nefarious activities. There are a number of legitimate reasons why you may want to consider a VPN to protect your security.
Just think for a moment about the amount of information your ISP, or internet service provider, is able to collect about you. Everything you search on the internet, whether it is something that is benign or salacious, is being recorded. Every time you do a search about a health condition you have, a product you want to purchase, a movie that you like, or a politician you are considering supporting, your ISP has this information. This information can be used to create a profile about you that can be shared with advertisers and others.
In recent years, there have been enough high profile cases that show the truthfulness of these concerns. In addition to your ISP, there are nefarious individuals who want to bug or hack your internet for their own financial gain. A virtual private network can help to protect your privacy from all of the above-mentioned privacy concerns.
How Does a VPN Work?
Imagine that you live on a private piece of secure of property that is all your own. The common form of transportation between everyone’s properties is public roads using a public bus. While traveling on the bus, you have no privacy. Its public nature means that everyone can see what you do.
In this scenario, the private piece of secure property is your local area network. The public roads are the internet. Traveling by bus could be compared to connecting to a web server or connecting to another device using the internet.
In the same way you would have no control over who was on the bus with you, you have no control over the routers or wires that are used to transmit your information on the internet. There are multiple security issues that can arise.
Now, let’s say that you have the ability to create train tracks and a private car that goes directly from your property to the property of those you choose to visit. Only you and those you invite can travel on these train tracks and in the private car. Those on the outside cannot see into the car nor can they diverge its trajectory.
This roughly explains what happens when you use a VPN. A VPN creates a direct tunnel that is secured and encrypted between you and the sites that you are visiting. Hackers, government agencies, and your own ISP will not be able to intercept the information that you are sending. Everything is private.
Why Would You Need a VPN?
In countries where the media has not been restricted by the government and where freedom of press still exists, one of the primary reasons why people want a VPN is to get around geo restrictions for their favorite streaming services. For example, Netflix is available in most countries. However, it does not offer the same programming around the world.
A person traveling from the United States to Europe, or vice a versa, may be in the middle of watching their favorite television series. They hop online only to find that Netflix does not stream the same program to the country they are in. With a VPN, they can mask their actual location, making streaming services believe that they are in an area where the program that they want to watch is being streamed from.
A second reason for wanting to use a VPN is to protect yourself from snooping if you are using an untrustworthy Wi-Fi hotspot. Free Wi-Fi usually comes at a price. The network is open for snooping, so nefarious individuals can use that network to gain access to your computer and your private information.
Some networks block torrent users. A VPN may help you get around that blocking so that you can use torrents with ease.
How to Choose the Right VPN
The right VPN will vary depending on your needs. For example, you may need a VPN you can use for work, or you may opt to create a VPN server yourself. However, in most cases people are simply looking for something that they can use to protect themselves when they are watching media online. It is unlikely that you want to go through the complication of creating your own VPN server. You simply want to be able to click an icon and know that you are protected.
To that end, we say stay away from free VPNs. Nothing in this world is free and that is is especially true when talking about software. The reason why a VPN company is offering you their software for free is because they are going to sell your information to others or find some other way of making money off of you. Free services have poor infrastructure and that puts you at risk for a number of security issues. Free VPNs should be out of the question. When it comes time to select a VPN, we recommend that you do your due diligence.
A little bit of research can go a long way. For example, if you are thinking of using Avast VPN, you can check out this detailed review of NordVPN to understand what the VPN offers and what you should expect from it.
Do you use a VPN for work or for play? If so, which VPN do you use? Why do you use it? Tell us about it in the comments sections below.