If you consider yourself an average citizen without the need of a VPN service for your internet activities, it is time to reconsider. There was a time when VPNs were only used by teenagers to access sites restricted by their parents and corporate employees so their bosses couldn’t catch them skiving on company intranets. But those times are long gone. The March 2017 U.S. legislation move to remove privacy protection for internet users in order to allow telecommunication companies to sell their customer’s browsing data leaves even you, defenseless regarding online privacy. The question is, can you protect yourself from such a scenario?
Ensuring that you only visit HTTPS encrypted sites provides some level of private browsing by protecting the data you exchange with a site. Unfortunately, your Internet Service Provider will still know which URLs you’re visiting. Complete private browsing calls for more stringent measures such as VPN technology.
What is a VPN?
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is typically a secure connection of computers networked together. The network refers merely to the web, and Private implies that digital security keys are only sent between two computers. Simply put, private means the data is encrypted.
How a VPN enhance privacy and security?
When you use a VPN, data sent or received from your device to the private network on the other end is encrypted. Each packet of data is put inside another packet to make sure no other device can access the contents of the packet of data. Some VPNs use IPSec, PPTP or SSL (Commonly used by secure websites) for encryption. In the end, a VPN achieves two technical outcomes:
- The VPN encrypts and cloaks your signal, making your browsing activity illegible to anyone snooping around.
- The VPN manipulates your IP address, making your online activity appear to be from a different device and in a different location/country.
Why do you need a VPN?
With seemingly regular news about cybercrimes and the congress vote last year (2017) to repeal broadband privacy news, it makes sense to turn to VPNs such as Surfshark to boost your online privacy. Here’s an overview of the ten reasons you need to use a VPN.
1. Browse securely on a public network
You’re out shopping, stopping for coffee in your favorite café, or you’ve just arrived at the airport. You realize that there is free Wi-Fi. The typical reaction is to fish out your smartphone, tablet or laptop and quickly get online and start checking your email. The truth is that people love free stuff, and people will rarely hesitate to connect to such networks. But, did you know public Wi-Fi hotspots are not safe for confidential logins and browsing? Since a public network does not offer encryption security to users, it becomes hazardous to access public Wi-Fi without a VPN.
2. Privately download and upload P2P files
Let us start by accepting that many people make use of BitTorrent for downloading purposes. While some users use Bittorrent P2P (peer-to-peer) networking for movie, music, games and software piracy, some internet users use it for sharing legal content. A majority of ISPs don’t support P@P file sharing. Many copyright organizations and governments detest torrent downloading and will come after you. Using a VPN helps you avert such situations and share P2P files with privacy and security.
3. Bypass restrictions in college/university/office
As a student or an employee, you will likely be subject to an acceptable use policy while using the internet at school or in the office. An acceptable use policy will usually vary from one organization to another. However, what they all have one thing in common; there will be some form of restriction. Most will block access to social media platforms, torrent connections or even instant messaging. Sometimes in the course of your work or studies, you might need to break out of a restrictive network, a VPN makes it possible.
4. Cloak your VOIP phone calls
Voice-over-IP is a cheap and convenient way to make internet phone calls. Sadly, VOIP calls are susceptible to hacks and hackers can eavesdrop on your phone calls. If you are a regular user of Voice-over-IP calls like Lync and Skype, then a VPN will help secure your calls.
5. Beat location-based restrictions
Where are you in the world? Want to catch up with local news, favorite streaming TV, video feeds or sports? Perhaps you’re in Iceland and want to catch real-time streamed releases on the U.S. version of Hulu, Netflix or Amazon? Location-based restrictions prevent all the above from broadcasting their catalog outside the United States. Use a VPN to beat location-based limitations and unlock tons of content even when you’re away from home.
6. Prevent location-based price targeting
While it’s incredible that you can enjoy better prices due to location-based price targeting, it can be frustrating to have to pay more simply because you changed your location. Some online business display/quote different prices for their goods and services depending on the location you’re browsing from. With a VPN, you can switch servers until you find the lowest price.
7. Bypass government surveillance
Now that the ISP companies can sell your browsing data, what’s preventing them from selling the same data to the government? Some countries don’t believe in providing open and free internet. And some that do spy on their citizens. Use a VPN for private and secure browsing without worrying about government surveillance.
8. Stop search engines from tracking you
Like it or not, Bing, Google and other search engines catalog all your searches on the web. Search engines attach your internet search choices to your IP and use that information to customize ads and future searches. Don’t let search engines store your searches which can sometimes cause trouble and embarrassment. So how can you search the web without fearing that your search history is being recorded? A VPN will hide your IP and keep your searches private.
9. Avoid traceback after your research
Perhaps you are a reporter, celebrity, whistleblower or in a scenario where you can’t afford to surf the internet without anonymity. Several types of research that qualify as sensitive include:
- Market research of the competition.
- A writer or reporter covering topics like abuse of power by government officials, child prostitution, human trafficking or war atrocities.
- A police officer investigating fellow officers.
Since your research might involve looking up classified and censored materials, you’ll want to do your work without attracting attention. By installing and running a VPN, you can manage your IP address, cloak your web searches, and do your research without fear of a traceback.
10. Secure private collaboration
According to a research conducted by Right Scale, among enterprises, 32% of the respondents run workloads in public cloud and 43% in the private cloud. What does this mean? Businesses are now conducting a majority of their workloads on the cloud. Is your business making use of a public or private cloud? If so, then be informed that cybercriminals, copyright thieves, and corporate spies often target group chat tools and cloud drives. It is fortunate, therefore, that you can make use of a VPN to encrypt both personal and corporate communications and protect yourself from these risks.
The VPN market has been experiencing exponential growth. As a result, there are numerous companies providing VPN services. Don’t be overwhelmed by the myriad options available. Here are factors to consider when choosing a VPN:
- Server speeds
- Unlimited devices
- Encryption strength
- Number of Servers available
- Customer support
- Security protocols
- Provided bandwidth
As things stand, the idea that you are not significant to be spied on or hacked should not blind you to the fact that exchanging data is inevitable, and at some point, that information might interest somebody. Remember, privacy is your right. Use a VPN to enhance privacy and security.