Most people use VPNs to keep their personal and business data secure while online. However, there is more than one type of VPN and not all of them are made equal.”As everyone knows, not all VPNs are created equal,” said Michael Hart, head of marketing at VPN provider UltraSurf. “And that goes for both the service and the type of security it provides.”
Hart went on to explain that the main differentiator between the various VPNs is the amount of security they offer. Some perform better than others when it comes to keeping your personal data secure while on the move, especially if you use a public Wi-Fi network while abroad. And in some cases, the level of security a VPN provides can actually vary by country. For example, according to Hart, while logging into a VPN to visit the British Library website is generally safe and secure, accessing the same site while in China is often not. Why? In China, your activity online is closely watched by the government, and websites such as the British Library are often blocked by the Great Firewall. Without proper controls in place to protect your personal information, there’s a real risk you could end up compromising yours and your family’s privacy.
To avoid this, you should use a VPN that offers military-grade encryption and tight restrictions on where it can be accessed. With this level of security, even your internet service provider (ISP), which is the company that provides you with internet access, will have a tough time reading your personal information. That way, you can be sure that your personal data will never fall into the wrong hands.
Why Use a VPN?
Even if you trust your ISP with your personal information, you shouldn’t, and most likely, you don’t. After all, online security breaches are very common and you would be surprised how many of them are committed by smaller, personal ISPs rather than the large, well-known ones. According to a 2017 report from the security research group PenTestLab, at least 70% of malware and 40% of all ransomware infections globally are linked to online privacy issues.
In the worst cases, an unscrupulous ISP can sell your personal data to political organizations, marketers, or even criminals who want to target you with a virus or steal your money. Although, these kinds of offenses are usually carried out by hackers, who then leak or sell your personal data, there is also malware that can steal your personal information without you even knowing.
To protect yourself from such abuse, you should use a VPN. And for a number of reasons.
Encryption And Privacy
If you think that an unsecured internet connection is safe and private, then you would be wrong. If an attacker wants to steal your personal data, all they need to do is steal your login credentials, which are often easily accessible in plain sight. Even then, the data itself won’t necessarily be secure because most people use the same username and password for all their internet-connected accounts, which leaves their personal data vulnerable. Not to mention, if your ISP is compromised, your personal data is definitely at risk.
On the other hand, a VPN can secure your data even if your internet connection is unsecured. That is because most VPNs use military-grade encryption, which provides data protection even if your ISP is compromised. This encryption prevents anyone, including your ISP, from reading your personal information, whether it is stored in text, email, or database form. The only people who can read your data are those who you consent to share it with.
Additionally, because most VPNs use a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt all your data before it is sent to and from your device, your information stays encrypted even when traveling. This prevents your data from being intercepted by third parties along the way, whether it is a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or a hacker hiding on a remote server.
Freedom To Access Content Legally
If you live in certain countries, such as the U.S., certain websites, such as Netflix, can be inaccessible to you due to complex licensing agreements. For example, in the U.S., Netflix is only available to paying subscribers and most likely, the company has tied this service with another one that they heavily invest in, namely, HBo globally. So, even if you have a working Netflix account and you access it via VPN, you will still need to pay for the service. It would be best to avoid using public Wi-Fi networks while abroad, not only because they often hide their connection logs, but to also keep your personal data secure.
However, what if you need to access a website that is not available in your country, but it is protected by the great firewall of China? Or what if you are traveling to a country where your ISP doesn’t offer a service? For those situations, a VPN becomes a necessity to allow you to access content legally.
To Avoid Detection While Using A Public Wi-Fi Network
If you’re using a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop, hotel, or airport, it’s not just other people’s personal data that you could be compromising; so is the security of your device. This is because most often, these networks are unsecured, meaning anyone could access and potentially tamper with your data. To avoid this, use a VPN to secure and anonymize your activity while online. Doing so won’t just keep your personal data private, but it could potentially protect you from online security threats.
For example, if a hacker were to gain access to your personal information while you are using a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop, they could potentially use your details to set up a new account on the site under the guise of security. Then, they could download and install malware on your device, which would allow them to access your information, such as emails, photos, and other such things. So, if you’re going to be using a public Wi-Fi network while overseas, it’s advisable to use a VPN to secure all your data before you begin using the network.
Avoiding Geographic Restrictions
One of the other reasons why you might want to use a VPN is to avoid any geographic restrictions. For example, if you live in the U.S., but you want to watch a specific show that is only available in Australia, you can’t simply download it to watch later. Instead, you would need to either find a way to watch it live, or, if that is not an option, wait for it to be released in the U.S.
However, not all sites and services are available worldwide. For those that aren’t, depending on your location, you could be risking your security by trying to access the site. For example, if you live in Germany and you try to access a U.S. bank website from the desktop computer in your office, you will be blocked due to data privacy laws. So, to avoid security threats and allow yourself to access the content you want, it is advisable to use a VPN when traveling.
Increased Privacy On Social Media
In today’s world, almost all of our personal information is shared online. Name, address, email, phone number, and even social media accounts are public and easily accessible. And while it’s not always easy to determine who has access to your information, it is most often the case that it is the person or organization you are connected to in some way. For example, if you and another person are both connected to a mutual friend on Facebook, that friend will have access to your personal information and can see your activity on the site, even if you have hidden your account.
However, if you use a VPN, this data will remain private, and no one will ever know you accessed the site. Or, at least, not without your permission.
In some cases, using a VPN is completely anonymous. That is because most VPNs hide their own IP addresses, which are the unique numbers that identify your computer or device when you are online. So, even though you and the website you are visiting might know that you are in Germany, your IP address will identify you as a unique individual and not as part of a collective.
Improved Security For Mobile Devices
Even though most people use desktop and laptop computers to access the internet, the trend today is moving towards mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. These devices are more convenient to use while traveling or even when stationary, as they don’t need an internet connection to work. That being said, security for mobile devices is still a bit flimsy, meaning it is not as safe or private as you would get with a VPN.