AirCard: What Are VPN vs WLAN?

AirCard is a hotspot designed for the aviation industry. It is a combination of Wi-Fi and satellite connection, which allows airlines and leisure pilots to charge up and browse the web while on the ground. The AirCard app works with both Android and iOS, so users can stay connected even when they are off-duty. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at VPN vs WLAN

What Is A VPN?

VPNs, or VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. They were first introduced in the 2000s and were designed to help users stay connected while traveling abroad. VPNs encrypt all the data that you transfer over a network, be that wired or wireless, ensuring that only the people you intend to share it with can see it. This is especially useful if you are traveling or working abroad, as you don’t want your personal information to be easily accessible by hackers or other nefarious individuals. Most VPNs also have a kill switch, which automatically shuts down all the connections when the device is turned off. While VPNs originally worked over wired connections, there are also several options for wireless VPNs. Some of the better-known VPN providers are ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and PureVPN. You may also want to check out our best VPNs for 2020 article, as it features several high-quality VPNs that meet our criteria for being the best in the industry.

What Is WLAN?

WLAN, or WLAN stands for Wireless Local Area Network. Basically, WLANs are any type of wireless technology that can be used to create a local network, typically within a limited area. Simply put, it allows for wireless communication between devices such as laptops, tablets, and cell phones, etc. Depending on the network standards, speed, and range, WLANs can operate anywhere from a few hundred megabits per second up to one gigabit per second and can cover a limited area, such as a home or small office, with the help of a Wi-Fi router. One of the best things about WLANs is that they do not require a direct line of sight between devices, which makes them suitable for use in any type of setting, including aviation. This is especially beneficial for leisure and commercial pilots who may want to use their laptops or cell phones while off-duty.

Which One Should You Use?

It is important to keep in mind that not all VPNs are created equal. Some VPNs, commonly known as “free” VPNs, are actually just a web-based front end for a mostly automated VPN service. While functional, these types of VPNs are usually just a waste of resources. It is also important to research any VPN you might choose to use, particularly if you are planning on using it for commercial purposes. We have curated a list of the best VPNs for aviation, whether you’re an individual pilot or corporate officer flying in business class.

  • KeepSolid VPN (formerly SaferVPN): (recommended) – KeepSolid has been around for a while and has gained a good reputation for secure and privacy-friendly VPNs. Its clients trust KeepSolid because it uses advanced encryption technologies to ensure everything you share stays private.
  • NordVPN: (highly recommended) – We recommend NordVPN because of its fast speed, dedicated servers, and reliable customer support. It has also been around for a while and has established itself as a reliable and secure provider of VPNs. Many of NordVPN’s clients are either based in the U.S. or Canada, providing extra safety and security for those users.
  • Mullvad (formerly Max-VPN): (highly recommended) – We recommend Mullvad because of its ultra-fast speed, dedicated servers, and robust server infrastructure. It is also one of the few providers that support Bitcoin, which allows for anonymous transactions. If you’re looking for a VPN that is both fast and private, Mullvad is the option for you.
  • PureVPN (formerly TunnelBear): (highly recommended) – PureVPN is another fast and secure VPN option with dedicated servers and advanced encryptions that ensure your data isn’t accessible by hackers. Because it is a paid service, you should expect to pay a little more for PureVPN, but you will get what you pay for in terms of speed and security.
  • Private Internet Access (formerly Hotspot Shield): (highly recommended) – Private Internet Access is an extremely popular free VPN that has been around for a while and has established itself as a reliable option for casual users and newcomers to the world of VPNs. Its biggest selling point is its ultra-simple to use interface. All you need to do is create a free account and then download and install the app on your device. With Private Internet Access, you don’t have to worry about finding the right server to connect to or worrying about logging in every time you use the service.
  • Surfeasy (formerly SurfEasy): (highly recommended) – SurfEasy isn’t really a VPN per se but rather offers a service that acts as a VPN. Essentially, it allows you to access the content and websites you want, when you want, via a VPN. SurfEasy has an extremely easy to use and understand user interface which makes it ideal for beginners and non-tech savvy users.

Why Use A VPN While Flying?

If you’re traveling or off-duty, you may want to consider using a VPN. In this scenario, you’re obviously on the move, so you may not have access to the WiFi at all places that you visit. Even when you do have WiFi, it is often unreliable, especially if you are abroad. If you want to avoid having your personal information plastered all over the web, you should use a VPN, especially if you are visiting countries where your personal information is considered a bit more precious than usual. VPNs also allow for anonymity, preventing the sites you visit from connecting your personal information to other sites you visit. This is especially useful if you don’t want others to know what sites you’re visiting or what you’re doing on social media while traveling.

When Should You Use A VPN?

Depending on your situation, you may want to use a VPN at certain times, rather than at others. For example, if you’re on vacation and you don’t want to mess with setting up your VPN each time you use it, you can always turn it on “on-demand” via an app or web browser extension. Another example would be if you’re on duty and need to be constantly aware of your surroundings. If you’re in a place with restricted or no access to other networks, such as an aircraft, you may want to consider using a VPN to keep your personal information secure. If you want to use a VPN while traveling, it is advisable to use a reputable one, with strong customer support and fast speeds.

How Do You Connect To A VPN?

Once you have your VPN set up, all you need to do is connect to it. This can be done in several ways. First, you can always use your smartphone or laptop to connect to a VPN via a dedicated app. Alternatively, you can use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) proxy, which acts as a middleman between your device and the internet, allowing you to bypass any firewalls and security restrictions that might be in place. Some VPNs, such as Mullvad and NordVPN, offer both options for users.

What About The Secure Element?

Included in all of these VPNs is a “secure element”, which is a special piece of hardware, usually integrated into the device’s motherboard, that keeps your personal information secure. Most VPNs will use something called a “shared key” to protect all the data on the server. This key is basically a security code that must be entered on the VPN’s end before any data is shared. The shared key is then “locked” to your device, preventing anyone else from accessing your information, regardless of whether they are on the same network or not. This key is then stored in the secure element, ensuring that it cannot be accessed by anyone, including hackers. The secure element is also why these devices are called “fully managed” VPNs, as you cannot access or control the security features of these products without specific tools provided by the manufacturers. Most fully-managed VPNs also have a “dual-mode” setting, which allows for some customization via the web or app, in addition to locking and unlocking the device’s security features via a dedicated button on the device itself.

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