Having a Virtual Private Network (VPN) configured, running, and regularly using it are all musts if you’re serious about security. By ensuring that your personal data is always scrambled as it leaves and enters your device, a VPN can protect you from both online and offline attacks. And considering that most VPNs are based in the United Kingdom, it’s probably no coincidence that the country has some of the best cyber security laws and regulations. In this blog post, we’ll run down everything you need to know about why you should use a VPN and how it can protect you.
Why Use A VPN?
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short, is a type of security software that creates a secure connection between your computer or mobile device and an external server. Once your connection is established, your device’s traffic is rerouted through a secure connection and can’t be easily eavesdropped on, monitored, or tampered with by third parties. Essentially, using a VPN means your data always leaves the device as it was. There’s no risk of being hacked, because everything is encrypted as it leaves and enters the device. This is also why many businesses turn to VPNs to protect their trade secrets when working online. Letting their IT department handle company-wide network security is also common while companies get on board with the convenient and discreet security offered by VPNs.
VPNs are also extremely useful for people who live in countries with less-than-solid privacy rules. For example, in Germany you cannot totally rely on the government not snooping on your every move. But with a VPN you can rest assured that even if they are listening, they will still have no idea what you’re up to. This is because everything you do online through a VPN is scrambled as it leaves and enters the device, meaning even if they have your login credentials they won’t be able to easily retrieve your personal information. So in short, VPNs protect you from cybercriminals, hackers, unauthorized governments, and even yourself if you’re careless with your personal data.
Security Versus Privacy
When people choose to use a VPN, they are usually doing so for the security and privacy benefits alone. But sometimes this can be a hard line to toe. There’s an important distinction to be made here between security and privacy. While both are important, it’s good practice to weigh which one is more important to you and act accordingly.
When you connect to a VPN, all your web traffic, including your personal data, is rerouted through a secure connection to a remote server. This ensures your data is always protected, but it also means your personal information is no longer private, as it is being monitored and stored by the server’s owners. This, in turn, means you need to be extra careful whenever you use a VPN, as there’s always the possibility you could be found out. Remember, your VPN’s logs are also kept on servers, which means anyone who has access to these logs can track your movements and interactions on the internet. Unless you want your personal information to be available to everyone, you should probably avoid using a VPN.
On the flip side, the security benefits of using a VPN are great. By ensuring that all your internet traffic is scrambled as it leaves and enters your device, you’re stopping cybercriminals, hackers, and even the government from snooping on your personal data, or using it against you. It’s always a trade-off though, because while the security benefits are great, the privacy implications could be devastating. For example, if you’re connecting to a VPN in Germany (where data privacy is of paramount concern), make sure you’re not putting yourself in a situation where you could get found out.
Managed Vs. DIY VPNs
As an additional point to bear in mind when choosing a VPN, make sure you’re getting a managed product. Using a managed VPN ensures your security and privacy are always prioritized, because the developers, administrators, and support staff of the product are the ones responsible for securing your data and ensuring your privacy is always protected. With a DIY VPN, you’re trusting these people, but there’s also the possibility you could get hacked, or your personal information could be compromised. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your personal data.
When it comes to choosing a VPN, there are four things you must consider:
This is the most important factor to consider, as you’re basically choosing a product that is going to be storing and analyzing your personal data. Ensure the company you’re considering using is well-known for its good security practices, and make sure their security policies and procedures are in line with international standards for data protection (especially in EU countries).
Consider also what security measures the company takes to ensure your data is always protected. For example, does the product come with a kill switch that will terminate your connection if their servers are knocked out of commission for any reason? Does it have a firewall that stops unauthorised internet connections from harming your device or data? Is there an encrypted data storage facility with a key that is only accessible by you? These are all important questions to ask, because as we’ve established, your data is always at risk of being hacked or stolen, so you must ensure it is always protected.
The speed at which your internet connection can handle data is another important consideration, as you’re choosing a product that is going to be analyzing and storing your personal data. There are various tests and benchmarks you can use to compare the speed of different VPNs, so make sure the one you’re considering using is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Remember, the faster your internet connection, the better, as it will minimize the amount of time your data is being stored and analysed. A good rule of thumb is to choose a VPN that provides you with the best overall experience, including security and speed, compared to your current one.
This is a bit of a weird one, as it has more to do with where you’re connecting from than where you’re going to. When choosing a VPN, make sure you’re connecting from a country where you have complete control over the location of your internet connection. This means no VPNs that are restricted by law to specific locations, such as China or certain parts of South Africa. When connecting from one of these restricted locations, you could find yourself in a bit of a pickle if the government decides to investigate you.
If you’re connecting from a country you’re legally required to be in, then the location selection process is a little more complicated, because you’re limited by the laws of that country when it comes to where you can connect. For example, if you’re connecting from the UK but are restricted from accessing certain websites due to legislation, then you’ll only be able to connect from specific locations in the United Kingdom. This is usually done for your own protection at the end of a police investigation, when they are checking to see if you’re complying with internet restrictions placed on you due to a court order. So in these situations, it’s usually better to use a VPN with an unblockable proxy to get around content restrictions (as we’ll explain in a bit).
When choosing a VPN, make sure you’re getting one that is reputable and has an excellent reputation for both security and privacy. Look into their terms and conditions, as these are often the first place fraudulent businesses attempt to hide their true nature and the circumstances under which they will and won’t keep your personal data. Make sure to read the terms and conditions thoroughly, as they can vary from product to product, but are always a good place to start.
Avoid using free VPNs and those that are offered under “promotional” conditions. These are the types of VPNs that are most at risk of being fraudulent, as the owners and operators of these products have no motivation to safeguard your data or provide you with a good experience, as it’s quite the opposite. Make sure to avoid these types of VPNs altogether, as you’re putting yourself in a compromised position by doing so. Always try to go for a paid VPN, as these are the safest and most reputable ones around.
Hopefully, this article has helped you realize why you should use a VPN, and how it can protect you. If you’re still wondering whether or not to use one, then perhaps the best decision you can make is to use a VPN and find out for yourself how much safer and more private life on the internet feels when everything is encrypted.