You have likely heard of the term Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you regularly use the internet. Advertisements for VPNs pop up all over social media and other websites, each offering to protect your identity and data for a monthly fee. But what exactly is a VPN, and why should you use one whenever you access the internet? You are about to find out.
A VPN is a piece of software that creates a protected network connection when you access the internet. The software is complicated but essentially hides your IP address – the unique string of numbers of your computer and internet connection – by letting the network redirect through the VPN host’s remote server. In layman’s terms, a VPN hides your identity and the data you view and observe from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Access Websites You Could Not Ordinarily Access
Spoofing your location is another key feature of the best VPNs. Using a VPN makes it possible for the website you visit to think you are in a different part of the world entirely. You may be physically located in the United States, but a VPN can make it seem like you are in Canada, Germany, or anywhere on the planet where the VPN provider has servers. If you have ever wondered where and how to bet with Bitcoin, a VPN will be handy for you. Many of those sites are only accessible in certain countries. Fire up a VPN, and it can look like you are in one of those countries.
VPNs are extremely useful if you travel. Some countries block specific websites, such as the Chinese government blocking Google and Facebook. These blocks can be circumnavigated by using a VPN. Obviously, it goes without saying that you should never break the law by using a VPN because there can be stiff financial penalties and even custodial sentences imposed in the strictest countries.
You do not even need to be an avid traveler to make use of a VPN’s location services. VPN users have the ability to view content not currently available in their country. For example, Netflix may have a new series that is only broadcasting in the United States, but you live in the United Kingdom. Simply set your VPN to the USA, log into your Netflix account, and view the previously inaccessible program. Other streaming sites such as the popular BBC iPlayer can also be fooled by using a VPN.
Protect Your Data From Prying Eyes
We live in a world where we are constantly connected to the internet. We access our emails on our smartphones and laptops while using public networks and log into our bank accounts too. Some people do not realize that these public networks, like those found in your local coffee shop, often have poorly configured security. This makes them a target for unscrupulous people who are looking to access information that is not there and even go as far as stealing someone’s identity.
Furthermore, it is worthwhile to use a VPN whenever you access work documents. Many of us spend more time working from home following the recent COVID-19 pandemic, which means we are accessing potentially confidential documents from our homes or while on the move. Would your workplace be happy knowing you were sending important emails and documents to clients and potential clients without having water-tight security? You should get into the habit of using a VPN to encrypt your data whenever you access the internet.
Lastly, you may want to use a VPN to protect your privacy even if you do not access banking or important files on the internet. Your Internet Service Provider does monitor the traffic on your network; you may not want them to know what you are browsing. In addition, using a VPN can stop unwanted tracking cookies from being installed on your computer.
There are many positives to using a VPN and very few negatives. Just make sure you avoid the free services and go with a provider that has plenty of good reviews.