You might have heard of a VPN – a virtual private network – from friends, news, Reddit or Quora. An increasing number of people are signing up for VPN services to make themselves virtually invisible online.
Whether you’re a remote worker, traveler, or frequent internet user, a VPN works to encrypt the connection between you and the internet, allowing for more secure data and browsing and for keeping your information safe. Here is what you need to know.
What is a VPN?
This virtual private network technology creates a private network by encrypting a tunnel between the internet and your laptop, desktop or mobile phone, and even your smart TV. A VPN can be installed easily, just like an app.
It also enables you to bypass any possible restricted media in your country and prevents your internet provider from being able to see your browsing activity. It can even appear that you are connecting from a different country.
When is it ideal to use a VPN?
In cases where you’re using a public, unprotected Wi-Fi network, a VPN can come in handy. When you hook up to a Wi-Fi network in public places, such as airports or restaurants, you may notice that it is an “unsecure network.”
These are ideal cases for using your VPN, which routes your internet traffic through a tunnel that masks your identity and location, and hides your true IP address.
If you’re in a public place, you can’t assume that your network is secured just because it’s a well-known spot. If you’re the type of person who does a lot of online shopping or frequently enters credit card information and banking details online, it can be especially beneficial to use a VPN.
Should you use a VPN while traveling internationally?
If you’re an international traveler, it’s likely you’ll need to access the internet on your travels, multiple times or more. Using a VPN can prevent you from being vulnerable to hacking or spying activity, as some cybercriminals prey on tourists.
A VPN conceals your personal information and leaves you much less prone to data theft. It also keeps your online activity private, from your Chrome searches to Facebook messages. So, it helps avoid situations where you think you’re connecting to a public Wi-Fi and it is actually a hacker’s hotspot.
How else can your VPN benefit you?
You can also use your VPN to access streaming services that restrict content based on geolocation. Since your IP address changes with a VPN, you can pick a country where you want to stream a show or series and be routed through that country. Your VPN can also be a money saver, if you’re so adventurous you may search for hotel or flight prices from locations that are typically priced lower. Also, transferring money between accounts is much safer using your VPN.
Are there any disadvantages of a VPN?
While there are some possible disadvantages of using a VPN, there really aren’t many. The main drawbacks are that they can be more of an expense than your budget allows. Also, some VPNs could sell your information, so it makes sure to read the user agreement. Lastly, VPNs can slow down internet speeds, depending on the service.
So, how do you set up a VPN?
If you’ve decided a VPN is right for you, first you’ll need to download a VPN app on your smartphone, laptop or tablet directly from a provider’s website. Double-check that the encryption strength and speed suit your preferences, as well as the subscription terms.
Repeat this process for all of your devices. Follow the instructions for installation and then restart your devices. When you are back online, open the VPN app and connect. It’s as easy as that!
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