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Public Wi-Fi is convenient but comes at the expense of security. When you’re answering emails at a local coffee shop or absent-mindedly scrolling through social media at the airport, someone may be tracking your online activity.
Using a VPN protects your data while you are on other networks, hiding your browsing history, banking information, account passwords and more from ill-intentioned internet strangers
While connected to your home Wi-Fi, you are less likely to be attacked by strangers than on a public connection. However, your data is still vulnerable.
Your internet service provider (ISP) – BT, Sky, Virgin Media or other company which you pay for Wi-Fi each month – can access all your internet data. Your ISP can see when, where and how you browse.
This data can be collected and sold to advertisers, even if you’re using the “private” browsing function, and it can be dangerous in the wrong hands in the case of a data breach. A VPN can help by obscuring your ISP address from your own ISP.
Your ISP isn’t the only potential security weak spot. Many of our favorite apps and internet services – most notably Facebook- have been called out for the way they’ve used the data of their users.
A VPN will prevent apps and websites from attributing your behavior to your computer’s ISP address. It can also limit the collection of your location and browser history.
While a TV streaming service such as Netflix may frown upon your use of a VPN to access the latest blockbuster film or series in a country where the content isn’t offered, this VPN usage is not illegal (in the UK and in most countries), and it helps provide a useful workaround to content restrictions.
VPNs spoof your location, making it seem as if you are browsing from another place. That means you can get your boxset fix even if it’s not available locally.
One benefit of a VPN is its data encryption features. Encryption, or putting data into a coded format so its meaning is obscured, allows you to keep confidential information safe.
If you are an individual thinking about investing in a VPN for your company, one benefit is that workers can connect to your office network and look at sensitive materials on their own devices while away from the office. As remote work seems a possibility even after the pandemic ends, a VPN is a helpful investment to keep confidential material safe off-site.
While we’d all love to add more security to our lives, some security devices and processes seem like more effort than they are worth for those who are tech adverse. VPNs, however, are easy to use.
Several providers have created intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that make installation and use available to non-techies.
While many of us may first try a VPN on a company-loaned laptop, many VPN services also protect other smart devices such as your phones, tablets and desktop computers.
Each VPN company may offer slightly different protection plans and have different capacities to protect different devices, but many providers offer plans that help keep you safe on multiple devices.
If you are willing to put in a little research, a VPN can help you save money via its location spoofing capabilities. Many types of businesses, such as subscription services and airlines, offer the same amenities or products for different prices in different places.
If you change the appearance of your location to a place where services are offered cheaper, you can end up with big savings.
While a VPN is a great tool to help separate your location (and in many ways, you) from your data, it doesn’t obscure everything about you. If you take a Facebook quiz or like a post on Instagram, the app you are using while connected to the VPN is still able to use your behaviour to tailor in-app ads and content.
They might not know where you are browsing from, but they will still know what you are doing on their apps.
Similarly, if cookies are enabled on your computer, companies can follow you while you are on their site and afterwards.
Your full data isn’t obscured with a VPN alone. For that you would need an additional open-source tool that allows you to browse the web anonymously
VPNs aren’t perfect tools. Like any computer program, they are susceptible to malware and online attacks. If infected, a VPN’s security benefits are nullified
The likelihood of attacks and security breaches is increased by using a free VPN service. To recoup their business costs, “free” VPN services may sell user data or run ads that could be infected with malware. If your goal is to increase your data privacy, then investing in a paid VPN is better
Beyond questions of security are questions of legality. If you happen to be based in or visiting a wide list of countries including Russia and China, VPNs are banned or highly regulated.
It’s important to know the laws of your country and any country you are visiting before using a VPN, and you need to understand whether your VPN usage is being monitored by a government, thus nullifying its privacy benefits.
If you are at all concerned with your data privacy, VPNs are an easy-to-use, reasonably priced security measure that gives you a base level of internet protection. While it may seem silly to protect your data when you aren’t doing anything “wrong” on the internet, even the most innocent among us do have data secrets online, such as sensitive passwords and financial information.
A VPN’s encryption and identity protection services are like a lock on a door, or in other words, a basic security measure that everyone should have.
19 yo medical student😄 I share interesting and sciency articles! 🇬🇧🇧🇩 MBTI: INTJ-T
I never understood why everyone used a VPN when joining school's public WiFi, and what the actual benefit of it was. Hence I decided to look it up and learn for myself!
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