Like many Internet users, you’re probably concerned about the increasing level of privacy threats online. From advertisers to your ex-partner to marketers to the state, it seems like everyone is interested in what you do.
Going cold turkey is not an option. We’re more dependent than ever on social media platforms, ecommerce solutions, news websites, video streaming services to consume news and entertainment, work, and relax, especially when going out may still be unsafe.
Our heavy reliance on technology amidst growing privacy concerns may be why we’re turning to Virtual Private Network (VPN) technology in more significant numbers. For example, Statista notes that VPN usage has risen in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Russia, and other nations worldwide.
How Do I Use a VPN?
People who hesitate to use VPNs are pleasantly surprised by their user-friendliness. All you need to do is subscribe to a good VPN service, download their client, and use their client to connect to their server. A few minutes later, you’re online with a shield around your security and privacy. To learn more about how simple it is to use VPNs, visit the website of a cybersecurity expert for information on VPN Basics and much more.
How Exactly Does a VPN Secure My Data?
When you use a VPN client to connect to a VPN server, your data passes through an encrypted VPN tunnel. The quality of encryption depends on the nature of the VPN encryption protocol. For example, the best VPN services use the WireGuard protocol, which has 256-bit encryption.
Experts say that even the most powerful computer in the world would take many lifetimes to crack 256-bit encryption technology. WireGuard is not the only protocol that uses such robust encryption. For example, OpenVPN is also known for security.
However, WireGuard is newer and better technology than OpenVPN. Not only is WireGuard secure, but it’s also faster than OpenVPN.
How Exactly Does a VPN Protect My Data?
Every device of yours that connects to the Internet, including your computer, smartphone, tablet, or Smart TV, is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Your IP address is a numerical label that may look something like this: 185.10.288.1
When you connect to the Internet away from home, your device receives another IP address. For example, you’ll have a different IP address if you’re going online from the shopping mall, airport, or café.
Your IP address is like your digital signature. Here are a few things someone can do with your IP address:
- Tracking: Anyone with your IP address and some tech skills can use it to find your physical location. Theoretically, a thief could use your IP address to find your home and rob you, a troll could use your IP address to send police to your home with a false report of a crime, or a hacker could use it to frame you.
- Hacking: A hacker with your IP address can launch a brute-force connection attack and hijack your device or devices. With control of your computer, they can commit financial crimes, identity theft, blackmail, or steal your private pictures and data.
- Scams: Many cybercriminals use IP addresses to run various scams. For example, they may use it to launch a tech support scam. Here, you’ll notice a pop-up on your screen that asks you to hand over control remotely of your computer to a “technician” to remove a virus. When you call the fraudster, they may use information acquired from your IP address to gain your confidence.
A good VPN service safeguards your privacy by concealing your actual IP address. You connect to the Internet with a VPN server’s IP address instead of yours. And the best VPN providers offer dozens of IP addresses to choose from across the globe.
A side benefit to masking your IP address is that you can also circumvent geo-blocking technology. Websites like Netflix, Hulu, and more, use geo-blocking to stop visitors from certain countries. With a good VPN that can bypass security protocols, you can watch TV shows and movies restricted in your geographical location. Likewise, you can visit news pages or access social media platforms limited in your area.
Why Shouldn’t I Use a Free VPN?
Most top VPN services are available for the nominal price of a few cups of coffee a month. They also offer trial runs, so you can check them out before you subscribe. Many experts agree that the cost of a decent VPN subscription is worth securing your data and protecting yourself from people with malicious intent.
However, some users still want to use free VPNs because they don’t cost a cent. Well, while you may not pay for it with money, you may pay in other ways. For example, many owners of free VPNs are known to spy on their users.
Moreover, several free popular VPN services are secretly run by companies in countries with weak security and privacy laws. It’s not unusual for such countries to request confidential user data from tech companies.
While claiming to protect user privacy, many popular free VPNs have been caught logging user information and selling data to third parties.
Other free VPN services, like Hola, face backlash for selling user bandwidth to third parties, allowing it to be repurposed for nefarious reasons. When you use a service that opens the door for others to use your IP address for anything, you put yourself at serious risk.
Even if a free VPN isn’t run by an untrustworthy business, it probably doesn’t use the latest VPN protocol. Not only are outdated VPNs easier to hack, but they can be frustratingly slow. With an unpaid service, you either open yourself up to security and privacy breaches, or you wait a long time for websites and videos to load.
Take the time to find a good VPN service that’s secured by WireGuard, fast, offers many servers worldwide, and pledges to never spy on you. With the right technology, you can protect your confidential information, location data and consume news and entertainment the way stress-free.