Not sure why should you use a VPN? Well, let me tell you the reasons why you should start using a VPN right now.
We will start our discussion on why should you use a VPN, followed by the featured & limitations and end with some of the best VPN options available online.
Why use a VPN?
First of all, let's consider the two different scenarios; actually the two network types that exist:
- Public Network
- Private Network
If you are on a Public Network, say a Public Wi-Fi in a café or hotel, a lot of things can go wrong. Café/Hotel owner can see what you are browsing, hackers on the same network can easy hack your computer and above all the Internet Service Provider can track your browsing habits. If this is isn't all, the websites you visit can track you location by using your exact IP and show ads based on your behavior.
Just Google for "What is My IP?" without using a VPN and see what kind of information one can extract from just one hit.
My website anonymizes your IP while sending the visitor data to Google Analytics — making sure that Google doesn't know which town or city are you browsing for. But there are still 99% websites that share your exact IP with their analytics providers.
This doesn't only hold true for public networks but also for private networks. Both types of networks cannot hide the IP address, cannot hide browsing history from ISP and cannot unblock blocked sites.
Let's talk about private networks in detail.
These are the internet connections that you use in home or office and only you and your family/colleagues have access to these.
Here's what you risk of if you are not using a VPN:
- Exposing your IP (shared with the websites you visit)
- Sharing your Browsing History (shared with Internet Service Provider and Ad services)
- Losing your favorite websites (Local ISPs block certain websites as per government regulations)
- Getting caught into your government's Spy-Eyes
The chances of getting hacked on a private network is a little less as compared to public networks but there is still a chance. By using a VPN app you can create a tunnel that will be hard for a hacker to cross and steal your data.
How VPN works?
VPN or Virtual private network is a client-based service that appears as if a device’s traffic is coming from a different IP address. VPN uses a system that routes traffic through remote servers before sending it on to its intended destination.
When a VPN is turned on, it encrypts data as it’s sent over the network connection then sends the traffic through a secure server. Encryption is what secures the connection and prevents others from rifling through someone’s internet traffic. VPNs make use of different connection protocols – each brings different benefits and downsides to the table.
The server acts as the replacement IP address for the connection and decrypts the data before sending it on. VPN services usually have servers in multiple locations across the globe, and their clients can connect to a server in the location of their choice.
VPNs catch a device’s traffic at the operating system level – which means everything is routed through the VPN. That includes traffic sent through a web browser, application, and even the OS itself.
Security and Privacy Features of a VPN
Security on public Wi-Fi
Although public Wi-Fi is convenient to use, it is not especially secure. While you are calmly going through your social media feed or latest emails at a local store or the airport, someone could possibly be tracking your online activity.
By using a VPN, you can protect your data from such unwanted access when you are using public internet services. It conceals your banking information, browsing history, account passwords, and other sensitive information from potential hackers.
Protecting your data from your ISP
Your internet service provider or ISP is the company who you pay for Wi-Fi every month, such as Verizon, Spectrum, Comcast, Airtel etc. Although your home Wi-Fi is much more secure than public networks, your data remains vulnerable. This is because your ISP can readily access your internet data and view your browsing history with impunity.
After that, they can collect this data and sell it to advertisers even if you are using the "private browsing" function. In the wrong hands, this data can be potentially disastrous. Thankfully, you can conceal your IP address from your own ISP using a VPN.
Protecting your data from the apps and services you use
Apart from your ISP, many popular apps and internet services like Facebook have gained notoriety for misusing the data of their users. Using a VPN, you can prevent apps and websites from associating your online activity to your computer’s IP address. You can also use it to prevent these apps and websites from collecting your location and browser history.
Safeguarding data from your government
Most apps, ISPs, and internet data hubs commonly claim that they don’t sell your browsing data to governments. However, even in the US, your data has an uncanny tendency to reach their hands anyway.
Back in 2013, Edward Snowden first revealed that Verizon had been selling users’ phone and internet data to the NSA. This led to numerous laws coming up to tackle government surveillance. Ever since, Americans have become more vigilant regarding the different ways with which the government monitors and collects their data.
In January 2021, the New York Times reported that the Defense Intelligence Agency bypassed a law that mandated government agencies to put forth warrants before compelling phone companies for their user data. For this purpose, they were supposed to pay third-party data brokers for the data in question.
Needless to say, all of this is sufficient cause for concern. Thus, you should consider investing in VPN to protect your data from the prying eyes of the government.
Security when you’re working remotely
VPNs usually come with handy data encryption features. Encryption is the process of storing data in a coded format, obscuring it and allowing you to safeguard sensitive material. This feature can prove to be especially useful if you are considering investing in a VPN for your company.
Your workers will be able to connect to your office network and view confidential information on their personal devices outside the office. Because it is quite possible that remote work will continue even after we bid adieu to COVID-19, a VPN is a useful resource to protect your private information offsite.
Other Features that VPNs can provide
Unblocking Websites and Content
The internet offers infinite sources of entertainment and information to everyone. However, these resources are geo-restricted and not accessible for all. For example, some of the popular websites like Crunchyroll, Couchtuner, Stream2Watch, 9Anime Alternatives etc. aren't available in India. By using a VPN, you can go beyond these restrictions and freely access content from any part of the world through its remote servers.
You can use VPNs to spoof your location and make it seem like you are browsing from somewhere else. That somewhere else, of course, happens to be a location where your desired content is available. Thus, you will be able to get your dose of drama even if it’s unavailable locally.
Of course, film and television studios won’t be pleased if you use a VPN to stream your favorite movies or shows in a country where the said content is unavailable. However, using a VPN in this manner isn’t really illegal in most countries including the US. In fact, it serves as a helpful solution to unnecessary content restrictions.
Ease of use
Let’s face it; everybody would like their lives to be more secure and private. Why, then, aren’t more people putting in effort to achieve that optimal level of security? The short answer is that highly efficient security processes and devices appear to demand more effort than they are worth, at least to folks who aren’t tech savvy.
However, VPNs are very easy to use. Many providers have come up with user-friendly and intuitive interfaces that make it very easy to install and use VPNs even if you aren’t well-versed in technology.
Help you make smart savings
As long as you invest time in a bit of research, you can save money using a VPN’s location spoofing abilities as well. Several kinds of businesses like airlines and subscription services offer same products or amenities for different prices. You can save big by changing your location to a place where these services are priced more economically.
What are the limitations of VPNs?
Everything good comes with limitations of some sort. Although a VPN is an invaluable resource to disassociate your location from your data, it doesn’t really conceal everything about you.
For example, if you like a post on Instagram or take a quiz on Facebook, the app you’re using while connected to the VPN can continue to use your behavior to tailor in-app content and ads based on the data provided by VPN providers to Facebook or Instagram.
They may not know your browsing location, but they can certainly monitor your activity on their apps. Likewise, if you have enabled cookies on your computer, companies can track you while you are on your site and even after you exit.
Plus, not all websites and apps run on VPN. Hotstar.com, for example, doesn't allow loading its content on VPN.
A VPN alone isn’t sufficient to obscure your data. If you want optimal security, you should combine a VPN’s protection with other security measures. For example, you can use powerful antivirus software, enable two-factor authentication if available, and use a password manager to produce unique and complicated passwords for all your online accounts.
VPNs themselves are not foolproof, and are vulnerable to malware and hacks like any other piece of software. For example, numerous Android VPNs were hacked in early 2021 and led to millions of users’ data getting compromised. The main reason for this is that these VPN services tracked their users’ data on the first place.
In order to protect yourself from possible data leaks and hacks, you must make sure that your VPN does not collect your data and offers sufficient encryption. Free VPNs, unfortunately, don’t usually offer optimal protection. For that purpose, you will have to invest in a premium paid VPN with the best features.
Best VPN Apps
Here are the best VPN apps that I recommend to my readers:
If you are concerned about your data privacy in any way, VPNs are a simple and economically priced security measure that will provide a certain minimum level of internet protection. You might undoubtedly feel strange protecting your data when you aren’t technically doing anything wrong online. However, realize that everybody using the internet has secrets like sensitive financial information and passwords online. And in the wrong hands, these things can prove to be disastrous.
Using a VPN’s identity protection and encryption services, you can essentially lock your data away from prying eyes. Of course, locks can be broken or picked open. But still, they are a primary security measure that everyone should have. I hope this article helped you understand the benefits of using VPNs and consider investing in one.