We’re all aware of the threats that public Wi-Fi can pose in terms of cyber hacking. VPNs are well-known for their ability to prevent prying eyes from accessing your personal data when you’re accessing a public connection, but what about when you’re at home or at work? Should you still use a VPN? This article will take a closer look at VPNs, their optimal use, and when it’s best to use them.
Do I need a VPN? Why do I need one?
VPN stands short for Virtual Private Network. The name itself reveals a bit about what a VPN does. A VPN turns a public, unprotected network into a private and unmonitored connection. The way that it does this is by encrypting your personal data by creating a tunnel through which your data gets filtered, and only once it gets filtered it reaches the online destination. ExpressVPN help you understand the process in this video;
Learning about encryption, protocols, and tunneling is fun and all, but what does that mean for you exactly, you ask? In simple terms, here’s why you need a VPN:
- Enhanced network security
- Safe torrent downloading
The network you’re connected to, whether it is at home or at a coffee place, needs to be protected. Leaving your network unattended exposes your personal information like email, passwords, credit card information and other sensitive data to hackers and other malicious users. A VPN will encrypt your data, reroute your connection, and filter your information packages before they hit the online destination. In other words, the VPN serves as the middleperson between your device and the online destination, all the while protecting your data.
Do I need a VPN? When do I need one?
Now that we’ve made it clear that a VPN should be considered a necessity, let’s see when you would be needing a VPN to protect your network:
- At home: You may think that it’s okay to feel safe at your own home network, but when it comes to cyber attacks, it doesn’t really matter where you are. Personal data like your bank account, email, passwords, and other relevant information can easily be breached by a savvy hacker.
- Public Wi-Fi: While the danger of getting hacked exists at all times, hackers usually target public networks as they’re easy to breach. The chances of getting hacked at a public network are considerably bigger than at home. A recent study by Kaspersky showed that at least 21.96% of public Wi-Fi uses no encryption at all.
- When traveling: When you’re abroad, your Internet access to certain websites may be limited. Not only will a VPN provide you with a boost of online security, but it will also help you bypass geographic restrictions.
- Bypass content restrictions: Your country may not allow you to access websites such as Netflix or Hulu because of your geographic location. VPNs allow you to bypass these content restrictions by providing you with an alternate set of personal online information known as an IP address.
These are some of the main reasons to use a VPN. The benefits of VPNs are undoubtedly vast, and it’s clear that you’re far more secure online with a VPN than without a VPN. If you’re still skeptical about VPNs and aren’t sure whether to use them or not, the following section will clear things out for you and you’ll learn just what VPNs do to protect you from outside attacks.
Do I need a VPN? How VPNs protect you
There are many online protection tools and software out there, but none come close to the level of security generated by VPNs. The way VPNs work is very simple in theory. Below, we discuss the processes that are undertaken in a single VPN connection:
- Encryption: Quality VPNs, those who really care about your safety, use strong encryption methods like AES 256-bit. By encrypting your data, your connection gets filtered and the VPN provides you with a new IP address and location that originates from the location of the VPN server. Even if someone were to try and trace your online data, the farthest they could trace you back is to the VPN client.
- Rerouted connection: When you connect to your VPN client, your connection is routed through a VPN server. This server can be located anywhere in the world, and you will take your IP address from this server. With that done, your data is sent to your desired online destination. This means that your computer will look as if it is in the country of the server you connect to for any web entities you visit. This allows you to get around geo-restricted content.
- P2P networking: Unlike proxies or other online protection tools that only partially protect your Internet connection, a VPN will protect you even when you’re indulging into P2P networking (downloading torrent files). A VPN will protect your privacy while you share and download torrent files.
In other words, VPNs will protect your online activity no matter what you do. On the plus side, you’ll be able to unlock popular websites like Netflix, Hulu, or YouTube, wherever you may be.
Do I need a VPN? Are all VPNs the same?
As it is with any software, there is a big difference from one VPN provider to another. The quality of different VPN services varies. A good rule of thumb to remember is that in the VPN industry, you get what you pay for:
- Paid vs free VPN: There are a lot of VPN providers in the industry. Some are paid, others are free. When you choose a VPN to protect you whether you’re at home or at work, it’s best to choose a paid solution. Free VPNs often cut deals with third-parties and sell your personal data for marketing purposes. If I were you, I wouldn’t risk my own online security to a free VPN that may or may not sell my data, or that may have poor encryption. Worst of all, they’re tracking your website visits and recording them when that’s the opposite of what you want a VPN to do.
- How to choose a quality VPN: Choosing a VPN is highly dependent on your needs. Different VPNs specialize in different kinds of tasks. For example, a VPN that is great at geo-unblocking may not be so good at supporting P2P torrent file sharing, and vice versa. Learn what it is that you’re looking for in a VPN before you make a decision.
All VPNs are not the same, and that’s a fact. If you use a low-quality VPN, your personal data may be sold, the speed of your connection may be burdened, and leaks of your data may potentially occur. This is one of the main reasons why you should be extremely careful when you choose a VPN whether it is for your home network or at work.
What to look for in a good VPN provider?
Your online privacy is a matter that you should take very seriously. The VPN you choose will be the VPN that guards your personal data and prevents you from falling into legal trouble. As we mentioned before, the features you should look for in a good VPN provider are highly dependent on your needs. After you assess your own needs you will learn how to choose the perfect VPN for you.
Nevertheless, there is a set of general features that every self-proclaimed top VPN should offer:
- A sizeable server network spanning across different countries.
- An integrated kill-switch feature which prevents leaks.
- Strong encryption method, like the AES 256-bit.
- A string no-logging policy which provides total privacy
- Decent speed levels
- Solid customer support
- Unlimited bandwidth
It’s really important that you do your own research before deciding on a certain VPN. You must realize what’s important to you before you make any decision. Don’t forget that there are some distinct features, like the one we mentioned above, that every top VPN provider should offer. These two providers certainly offer them as they are our top two recommended overall:
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