Virtual Private Network or a VPN offers an extra layer of security and privacy, in case you are working with a public network and need to get away from prying eyes, a VPN can prove to be incredibly useful.
How a VPN works?
Before understanding what is VPN? you need to understand how a VPN works. A VPN basically establishes a secure and encrypted connection between your devices and private servers, resulting in your traffic being hidden over the network. A VPN acts as a secure tunnel between your device and the various sections of Internet you visit. For instance, your PC gets connected to a VPN server based somewhere in the USA. Your traffic then begins passing through that server. As a result, your geographical location as it appears on the internet gets changed and the websites detect your location as that of USA, even if you are connecting from some other part of the world.
The Privacy aspect of a VPN
Once you are connected to a VPN’s secure tunnel, it becomes very difficult for someone to spy on your browsing activities. The only party aware of your browsing activity, is the website or online service you happen to be visiting.
A major consequence of using a VPN is that, when you are using a public WI-FI at an airport or café, where you risk your login credentials being stolen, the hackers or data stealers will have an incredibly hard time doing so.
Who needs to use a VPN?
VPNs can especially come in handy for the frequent travelers who need to connect on public networks in café’s, airports and terminals because someone on the same network can easily intercept their information if it’s not encrypted. VPNs can also prove to be an extremely important tool for the political activists who need to circumvent government restrictions in the regions they are reporting from.
Apart from the aspect of security, you get to unblock many regionally blocked websites through a VPN. For instance, you can easily access BBC’s iPlayer, Netflix’s American version by changing your location. Your privacy remains intact while you also stay safe while doing something that may be considered illegal as per some laws.
How to select a VPN provider in 2020
There are plenty of VPN services offering many features, which presents a major challenge – which VPN service to choose among a huge list of services that seem good enough. However, it is not recommended to use a free VPN service in any case since they are a very poor alternate to the paid ones. Free services offer a very limited amount of bandwidth and happen to be significantly slower. Moreover, they use ad-supported models to sustain themselves and are suspected to use their user’s data to sell as marketing insights to advertisers. Therefore, it is not a good idea to get free VPNs as they are usually not worth it and do not present a good deal.
Features to look for in a VPN in 2020
There are several factors to consider when you set out for VPN shopping. For instance, whether the VPN keeps any information about your activities i.e. is your data being logged by a VPN? Moreover, what kind of encryption is being provided by the VPN? Is it the military grade, highly advanced AES 256 – bit encryption or a lower form of encryption?
Another feature to look out for is, how many servers the VPN service is operating, because the more the merrier. If you have a good number of servers to choose from, it means you can connect from anywhere around the world and enhance your security. It is also important to consider, the number of devices you can connect with a VPN at a time. Some VPNs let you connect 5 devices, while others have a small limit.
Finally, it is also important to consider if the VPN service offers its own application that you can download and install. The VPN app must be simple to use and not require technical know-how of an advanced nature.
Can a VPN be blocked?
Oftentimes, streaming services tend to block certain VPN servers and so do many other streaming services which is a major reason why you can’t always expect a VPN to run in all conditions and across any websites that you may be visiting. Therefore, it is advisable that you get a robust VPN that has a good number of servers so that you can switch to another location if that happens.
Can a VPN service be trusted?
If you are willing to use a service to route all your internet traffic, you need to be able to trust its provider. In that case, it’s better to trust companies that have been around for a while rather than unknown ones, because many VPN providers have been up to no good when it comes to their user’s privacy.
You must prefer VPN providers that support OpenVPN since this standard is well known for its speed and reliability. It is also important to consider which part of the world; the company is operating out of. Many VPN companies operate from overseas territories such as Singapore or Panama which is why the data retention laws don’t apply to them and they don’t have to keep any data and provide it to any government.
The most trustable and legitimate VPN services clearly lay out what kind of information they are collecting (if any) and how they protect their user’s privacy. Some explain how they intend to use that information while upholding the standards of transparency while some do not.
Scott O’Connor is a cyber-security professional. He’s been writing in the internet privacy niche for a while now and has churned a variety of informational pieces to educate his audience.