With all the stories of cyber-attacks and Internet spies these days, you’re probably on the lookout for ways to stay secure online. Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to keep your data away from snoops and crooks. Best of all, this technology isn’t any harder to set up than a regular Internet connection.
As soon as you hide your computer or phone behind a VPN, it cloaks your device’s Internet signal by tunneling it through other computers located around the world. This makes it look like your IP address is coming from a different location. If someone looked at your data, then they’d think it’s coming from some other person who might be on the other side of the world than you.
We asked our resident tech gurus why they recommend people start using a VPN when they browse online.
Stop Digital Eavesdroppers
Do you regularly use any kind of Internet telephone app? Whether you use Skype, FaceTime, or any other platform to chat with your friends, people can potentially listen in on what you’re doing. The same goes for pretty much every type of IM program. VPN services provide a special type of encryption, so all your conversations will be secure.
Watch Videos Outside Your Local Region
Have you ever tried to watch a video only to be told that it’s been blocked in your country? Maybe you were trying to stream some anime or watch a British comedy. You might get one of these warnings in that case, which basically tells you that you’re out of luck because you’re on the wrong continent. In some cases, you might get the same thing when trying to watch homegrown stuff too!
You can set your machine’s IP address to be from wherever you’d like with a VPN. That’ll give you the freedom to watch whatever you want wherever you want.
Use Public Wi-Fi Connections without Being Paranoid
Do you really trust public wireless networks to keep you safe? Think about it the next time you hook up your phone or laptop when you’re out having bagels. It’s very easy for even junior crackers to intercept an unencrypted Internet signal. Once you put yourself behind a VPN, you’ll be in a much safer position. This is especially good news if you tend to travel often and have to do business on the road.
Some free Wi-Fi connections have no security features at all. If you ever find yourself using one of these, then your VPN can still help to protect you.
Stop Search Engines from Tracking You
Regardless of whether you use Google, Bing, or another search engine you can bet it’s tracking you. Do you really want your searches to be traced back to you? The problem is even worse if you’re looking for something potentially embarrassing online. Few people want to publicize the fact that they’re on the lookout for an attorney, for instance. Using a VPN is a great way to cloak your IP address so nobody can trace your searches back to the device you’re on.
Break Out of a Restrictive Work Environment
Do you ever use an Internet connection provided by your workplace or the university you go to? These connections often come with really strict acceptable use policies that might make it impossible to do basic tasks like checking email. Techie types who edit these filters can add any site they want to the filter’s search list. An overzealous one can make it hard to do the job you’re supposed to be doing!
Since VPN connections tunnel out of the local network, they’ll let you connect to restricted websites and other services. Your browsing content is scrambled, so the network administrator can’t trace your connection either.
Use BitTorrent Safely
Since P2P file services can be used to stream music and movies illegally, many people have tried to shut them down. There are plenty of reasons you might want to use these services legitimately, though. Have you ever tried to download something from Archive.org or another respectable place only to find you can’t because your connection blocks P2P file sharing?
Even though it will cause your download speeds to plummet, using a VPN enables you to share whatever files you’d like over BitTorrent. You probably don’t want others to see potentially sensitive data anyway. If your ISP or some other authority wants to check in on what you’re sharing, then they won’t be able to.
Due to advances in the way that VPN technology works, you might not even see that much of a reduction in speed. That’s good news for those who download huge batches of files all at once.
Improved Online Game Speeds
Online reviewers normally complain that using a VPN slows down their connection. In some cases, though, it can speed things up! Do you play any kind of MMORPG or other online game? If you do, then your ISP may be dropping your connection speed. Some providers do this to be fair to other customers. Ironically, it’s unfair to gamers.
By starting your VPN up before you log onto your favorite game, you’ll be able to get around these speed reductions. Certain providers will even throttle other types of traffic. A few have gone so far as to throttle down normal web browsing!
If you find yourself dealing with these kinds of issues, then a VPN will boost your speeds back up to where they’re supposed to be.