Most of us have been there. We think we’re being clever by using incognito mode in a private browsing session or turning off our phones’ data packages, but then we discover that our laptops have racked up hundreds of megabytes of travel plans, thousands of emails, or simply scanned all our books. The truth is, our data is always with us, whether we want it or not, and it’s all linked to our Amazon, eBay, and PayPal accounts. It’s time to decide: do we want to continue using the services we know and love, or do we want to take control of our data and protect ourselves?
PIA VPN (Personal Identity and Security Infrastructure for Virtual Reality) is a free, open-source VPN for your desktop or mobile device that was built with privacy and security in mind. You may know the app from its colorful, cartoon interface or from using it during the pandemic when it was one of the only ways to securely connect to the web while avoiding government eavesdropping. Let’s dive into how to monitor and control the data you’re using with PIA VPN so you can continue enjoying the services without fear of someone else snatching your precious information. And if you don’t want to read the whole article, you can access the table of contents here.
Using the Chrome Extension
If you’re using Chrome, you can easily download and install the PIA VPN extension. All you need to do is visit the chrome store and type [pia vpn] into the search bar to search for the extension. You then click the Install button to download the extension to your computer. Once installed, the Chrome extension will appear in your Chrome Menu as VPN (Virtual Private Network).
A few clickable items will then appear in the menu. From there, you can connect to private networks (LetsEncrypt), configure virtual replays for multiplayer gaming, and even disconnect from the internet if you decide to.
When you use the VPN chrome extension, you’re automatically connecting to a VPN server. This is important because it means that all of your internet data—including your Chrome history and securely password-protected sensitive information—is encrypted before it even goes over the wire. This is a huge security boost, albeit a bit of a worry if you wish to monitor your internet data while out and about. However, if you want to keep track of your sensitive information such as credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, and bank account numbers, you can do so via a separate app called Keeper.
Using the PIA Mobile App
For users on Android, you can download and install the PIA Mobile App. To do this, visit the Google Play Store and search for PIA Mobile. Once downloaded, launch the app and follow the prompts to connect to a WiFi network and then to the VPN server you just connected to through the chrome extension. When you successfully connect to the VPN server, a green light will appear in the upper-right corner of the screen. To learn more, visit this website which explains how to use your Android device as a secure WiFi hotspot for free.
Using Other Apps
If you use other applications like iMessage, Snapchat, or Facebook Messenger, you can easily find the VPN settings in your browser’s settings or via your app’s help menu. In these cases, you’ll be asked to input your VPN username and password before you can access the internet. Once connected, your internet data (including your Chrome history) will be encrypted and securely transmitted to the VPN server. You can then restore your internet connection as needed by clicking the connection icon in the status bar at the top of the screen.
How Much Data Am I Using?
You can monitor how much data you’re using with any of the methods discussed so far by clicking the three circled icons in the upper-right corner of the screen. When you click the first icon (green light), you’ll see a graph showing your data usage over the previous three months.
The second icon prevents the use of certain technologies like cookies which improve our web browsing experience by tailoring content based on your previous surfing habits. Turning this off will most likely result in you needing to log in to a website or app more often because the website or app is not recognizing you as a return visitor. If you turn off HTTPS scanning (the third icon), all of your visits to websites that use HTTPS will be recorded and you’ll notice a difference in terms of privacy when using those websites.
How Can I Securely Connect to a VPN Without Them Logging Me In?
If you want to connect to a VPN server without first being logged in, you can do so via the PIA VPN chrome extension. Simply visit the VPN settings page and scroll down to the Login section. Here you can setup a new login and password, or you can connect to an existing account if you have one. Once logged in, you’ll be able to access all of the VPN functions and settings as usual.
What About Security?
You don’t need to worry about your security when using a VPN. All of your internet data is encrypting and travelling to a remote location, which is extremely difficult to access for anyone with a computer and internet connection. While this may not seem like a security boost, it’s a crucial step in the right direction if you want to keep your personal information private.
If you use one of the methods discussed here to monitor and/or control the data you’re using with PIA VPN, you’ll be able to keep track of your data usage in the upper-right corner of the screen. This shows a graphical representation of your data usage over the previous three months. To learn more, click the information icon in the upper-right corner of the screen and learn more about PIA VPN.