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VPNs divert your web traffic through an encrypted tunnel to a server controlled by the VPN company. From there, it exits onto the web as normal. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN. It’s the equivalent from walking down the street in broad daylight where everyone can see you, to suddenly disappearing down a hidden path that only you can see.
When your VPN is on, other users on the same network won’t be able to see what you’re doing (including those who control the network!). Public Wi-Fi networks at hotspots for cybercriminals looking to compromise your personal information. Fake public Wi-Fi networks can also be created to lure in unsuspecting victims.
An additional perk to VPNs, is the masking of your true IP address behind the IP address of the VPN server. That way interested third parties can no longer track your browsing as your data is mixed in with everyone else using the same VPN server.
While fantastic in many ways, VPNs don’t protect against every threat and it’s hugely recommended to also use a local antivirus software, enable two-factor authentication when available, and use a password manager.
You also may have limits on how anonymous you can be. Advertisers use many tactics to track your movements such as online trackers to browser fingerprinting. It’s worthwhile using a privacy-focused web browser like Firefox, and using dedicated tracker blockers like the EFF’s Privacy Badger.
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The main areas to consider are:
Known more commonly as buffering, there can be nothing more annoying when you’re trying to watch a movie. Throttling is a common tactic used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to lower bandwidth congestion and better handle the network traffic.
VPNs let you skip the bandwidth throttling and enjoy a more consistent connection speeds; your usage is encrypted, so it can no longer be seen or controlled by your ISP.
Due to copyright agreements, certain movies and TV shows are unavailable in certain countries. If you’re abroad and are missing your favourite shows back home, with a VPN, you can access any country’s content by switching your IP address. It’s also applicable for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other streaming services.
If you want to indulge in P2P activities safely and without your ISP monitoring or slowing you down, or other third parties seeing your IP address, a VPN is your best bet. It’ll conceal your IP address and encrypt your traffic so that nobody can intercept or see it.
You like to think you’re secure when you’re calling people online but unless you have VPN, that’s not a guarantee! VoIP has indeed become more secure over the years but can still be at risk by hackers – just look at all the extra security Zoom had to put in place when their app took off during lockdown!
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are very convenient, but the risk is in the name, i.e. they’re accessible by everyone which makes them very attractive to hackers and cybercriminals. Online hacking tools like packet sniffers can be used by cybercriminals to capture your traffic and access your personal information. Because VPN encrypts your traffic, you can connect to public Wi-Fi networks much more safely.
Many countries have censorship measures in place on the internet to prevent their citizens from accessing inflammatory information, e.g. China’s Great Firewall. VPN helps to get around this censorship, just connect to a server in a country with more liberal media rights and you can get a hold of the content you want with your new IP address.
Tourism and hospitality websites often use your location to set prices depending on whether or not you’re based in an affluent country vs a developing country. Because VPNs hide your location, you may be able to access lower booking rates and take advantage of discounts that are only open to other regions.
We make a checklist of the following:
In the simplest cases all you need to do is download the app for your device, install, and launch. The top services have intuitive interfaces that are easy to operate.
If you’re new to VPN but like what you hear and want to dig deeper, we have a VPN guide full of VPN facts, applications, and benefits.
Not at all! It’s a legitimate way to add security to the data you are transmitting and receiving, however it also depends on what you’re doing online! Downloading copyrighted material remains illegal even you use a VPN. Location-specific streaming services, such as Netflix, can also have clauses that prohibit the use of VPN for accessing content and the provider has the right to terminate your subscription if you get caught
Some countries like China and the UAE have laws against VPN use, but due to their widespread use in business it’s impractical to ban them outright. If you live in a country that restricts VPN use it’s worthwhile double checking on what the allowable uses are
The top three factors are speed, privacy and ease of use. Your speed will depend a lot on whether or not the VPN servers are well maintained and the number of servers available.
If you don’t mind getting bombarded with ads now and then, free services can be very useful if you don’t want to keep your VPN on all the time and just activate it now and then when you’re connecting on a public network to stay safe.
There are downsides however – free services, although convenient, tend to have a limited number of servers in a limited number of locations. There are also limits on the number of devices you can connect with as well as the amount of data you can use per month through the service.
If you want to use the VPN for big data downloads like streaming, or keep your VPN on all the time, a free VPN just isn’t going to cut
Yes, basically you should have it on every internet-enabled device you use as they are all at risk from hacking, surveillance, and tracking.
Many providers also have custom VPNs for different devices so you can find a wide variety to suit your needs.
The biggest disadvantage is a slower connection because of the additional encryption and decryption steps that occur. However, the best providers will also have strategies in place to ensure you get the fastest speed possible despite this.
If you really can’t deal with how slow your VPN is, there are a few things you can do such as:
Most insurers will allow a refund of the insurance amount on a prorated basis but it’s best to double check the policy documentation for exact details.
Early cancellation will first require:
Depends on what you want to use it for and how concerned you are about the privacy and security of your data. Generally for maximum protection it’s best to leave it on the majority of your time to ensure you are being protected continuously from ISPs, hackers, and the occasional government agency!
Most common operating systems have built-in support for at least one of these protocols, so you can use the protocol without specifically installing the client software. Providers often have instructions on how to do this, as well as how to set up your router to connect directly to their services.