What Is A VPN?
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network that encrypts web activity and device IP addresses. Using an encrypted tunnel, VPNs act as intermediaries between devices and public networks, protecting the user’s web activity from the network’s Internet Service Provider.
Why Do You Need A VPN?
There are a number of reasons why someone would want a VPN in the first place; the biggest reasons are general security and privacy. But aside from those concerns, VPNs can also provide access to content you wouldn’t be able to see otherwise.
With security breaches, hackings and surveillance, more and more people are concerned about privacy. VPNs greatly increase your privacy as long as they’re premium and trustworthy VPNs that doesn’t log your data themselves.
Whether you’re in a country where your favorite streaming service is blocked or you simply want to see what’s up on Netflix U.S, VPNs let you replace your IP address with that of another country’s server.
What VPNs Hide
The primary purpose of VPNs is to hide:
- Browsing history: From the websites you’ve visited to when you went on them, VPNs should completely hide all of your online activity.
- IP address: Aside from hiding the IP addresses of the websites you’ve entered, the best VPNs also hide your devices’ private IP addresses by replacing your IP address with one of their own.
- Location: By connecting to another location’s server, your geo-location will be hidden from your ISP.
If you’re on a public Wi-Fi network, hacking into your computer is easy if your device IP address isn’t protected. But by replacing your IP address with one of their own, you can effectively avoid hackers, even when you’re just checking your bank account in line for coffee.
Once hackers gain access to your device, they will most likely scour it for your credentials, which they could use to steal your identity. Most common problem is having accounts of your Facebook, Instagram, Wechat hacked and hackers using your accounts to scam your friends. But by protecting your web traffic, you can reduce your chances of having your identity stolen.
Tracking and Targeted Ads
We’ve all had the creepy experience of talking or emailing about a product and then seeing it follow you around the internet for days on end. But by switching your IP address, you can confuse these cookies and avoid your data being used for targeted ads.
Pros & Cons of using a VPN
|More privacy: By hiding your web activity in an encrypted tunnel, your traffic will be safe from your Internet Service Provider.
|Can cost money: While there are many free VPNs and VPNs with free trials, they typically have limits on things like data usage, servers available, or simultaneous connections. Most likely, you’ll have to cough up some money to use a VPN, typically anywhere from $5 to $10 a month.
|Access to restricted sites: Especially if you live in a country with high levels of internet censorship like Russia, a VPN can be one of the only ways you can actually roam the internet freely.
|Streaming services may not work: Many streaming services like Netflix block VPNs’ IP addresses, although there are a number of VPNs that are still compatible. However, if you want to stream, make sure that the VPN you choose works with the service or services that you use.
|Streaming on other countries’ servers: Another reason people use VPNs is to unlock streaming services from other countries, like using Prime Video U.K when you’re hanging out in Texas. Different countries have different licensing agreements with streaming services, so you could access content you wouldn’t be able to access otherwise.
|Other websites may block shared IP addresses: Unfortunately, streaming services aren’t the only type of website to block the IP addresses of VPNs. Some other websites may also dislike shared IP addresses, like email services. If that’s the case, you may need to pay extra for a dedicated IP address, meaning you’re the only one who’s on it.
|Prevents hacking: Again, nothing can 100 percent guarantee that you won’t be hacked, but hiding your web activity and IP addresses is a great start, especially if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network.
|Slowdowns: Anytime you’re adding on extra internet protocols and encryption methods, a certain amount of slowdown is inevitable.
|Protects against tracking/ targeted ads: Data privacy has become a huge issue, especially in the 2020 presidential election. While we won’t be paid for our data just yet, using a VPN can prevent it from being logged in the first place.
|May be illegal depending on the country: Not all countries allow VPNs. Belarus, China, Iran and other countries have banned usage of VPN so if you use a VPN while in those countries, you could risk getting arrested.