Using a VPN is critical for protecting yourself online and maintaining a level of privacy. It might sound technical and intimidating but it is as easy as checking email – and the benefits are significant.
Let’s discuss what you can do and why to stay safe online.
What is a VPN?
A VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. Let’s break down these 3 words:
- Virtual – it extends across the Internet – all you need is existing Internet connection.
- Private – your communications are encrypted and secured from others
- Network – a group of computers all communicating with each other under the same protocols
A VPN is a network inside a network. Data flows encrypted from your device to your VPN provider who then handles the forwarding. Think of it as a tunnel through the internet. Most office workers already use VPN from their employers to access the company network.
Why Should You Use a VPN?
The modern Internet and WWW are massive surveillance machines. Everywhere you go you are being watched, logged, monitored, evaluated, tracked, and stored for 3rd party use.
A VPN encrypts your traffic so that prying eyes cannot see what you are sending.
Your Online Activities Without VPN
Without a VPN everything you send is naked and in the clear. Imagine instead of sending your mail in envelopes it was sent without them. That’s the difference in protection.
Your Online Activities With VPN
There are some great benefits:
- Encrypted communications
- Your location is masked
- The DNS queries are handled by the VPN provider, not your ISP
Other people creeping into your online communications will not know what you are saying (encrypted) and are less certain of who you are and where you live.
You will be protected from your ISP and any MITM. Your location will be spoofed to appear from another region in the world.
You can search in peace because Google won’t know you are searching for personal things. Do you want your queries about depression, divorce, something illegal, or something not generally accepted to be profiled against you and sold to unknown third parties?
I thought not. VPN is super easy to use! Let’s see how it works.
How to Use a VPN
If you can surf the web and do basic things like manage email then you have all the technical competence you need to setup a VPN.
Simply download the app to your desktop, laptop, iPhone, Android phone, tablet, etc. There will be a button to turn on and log in. You only need to login once every blue moon. From there you can pick a region (or let auto region handle it) to appear from and continue with your online activities with security and some additional level of privacy.
Setting up a VPN could not be easier!
Who Should Absolutely Use a VPN
Anyone conducting any kind of business online should use a VPN. However, there are some people who are at a higher risk and need to use a VPN.
- Travelers – any time you travel you need a VPN to protect you at the airport, hotel, and on site wherever you are
- Do you like to sit in Starbucks and drink $9 coffee drinks and use their WIFI? If so you should know there is absolutely no protection offered to you. Anyone in range of that network can actively see your data!
- People wanting reduced levels of marketing coming at them from all angles.
- Avoid location detection – this is more important than it sounds. Read my recent post about the power of location services if you are not convinced.
- Anyone who wants to keep their digital communications safe from tampering and confidential – only share with who you want to share
- Anytime you connect to anything sensitive: bank, work, health records, etc.
- Are you researching something private or embarrassing could be used against you? VPN will protect you.
As you can see, there are ample use cases for the regular online consumer to use a VPN.
Who Should Really, Really, For Real, Use VPN
However, there are some additional, more serious, fringe cases where using a VPN is a must!
- Are you a dissident? Do you have controversial views you fear to attach to your name?
- Do you live in an oppressed regime? Has your country nationalized the ISPs (either in fact or de facto)?
- Are you suffering under content restrictions from Netflix or other local media providers? VPN can help you get around that.
- Do you trust your ISP? Do you trust your neighbors who may have compromised your home network?
- Are you the victim of censorship? VPN can allow you to see and say what you want.
- Are you a high value private citizen?
- Do you work in government?
If you fall into any of the above situations then, you are a prime candidate to use VPN. At this level it is a need rather than a want.
What VPNs Cannot Do
VPNs are great for security and some additional privacy; however, you are not completely anonymous.
If a VPN provider keeps logs they could turn over your online activities to law enforcement or third parties to profit from! Additionally, you can still be targeted for ads.
Remember that using a VPN does not protect your identify when you log in to a site (like Gmail or your bank). They will know who you are and be able to track your session data while you stay connected.
Essentially, choosing a VPN provider is about trust
There are extreme cases like what was listed above where you need more than VPN. For really bad situations you need to use Tor over a secure Linux distro e.g. Whonix, Qubes, or Tails.
Recommended VPN Providers
Don’t go with a free VPN service! The performance is bad and you are not as private and secure. They will log your trafffic to serve you ads and sell your browsing habits to third parties. There is no customer service.
Free VPN providers are slow and not trustworthy.
Most good paid VPNs offer trials so you can give it a test drive. The costs might be way less than you think.
My favorite VPN provider is Private Internet Access.
Private Internet Access (PIA) VPN
I have been a proud PIA customer for years. I use it on all my devices: desktop, laptop, phones, tablets for both me and my family. PIA is such a great choice to get your first taste of VPN. It will gently hold your hand until you are strong enough to fend for yourself.
PIA is awesome and has plenty of things going for itself.
- Based in the US
- Strict no logging policy
- Can pay in Bitcoin for additional anonymity from them
- allows multiple devices
- Has 3,000+ servers located in 33 countries around the world!
How much can you expect to pay? You can buy a 1 year or 2 year plan for $35 – $40 a year!
Totally affordable – you get a lot of bang for the buck!
If you are looking for a strong and well respected VPN provider then consider NordVPN.
There are some strong reasons why you should choose NordVPN:
- Based in Panama – this is important if you don’t want a US based provider. Panama has no data retention laws – there is nothing to give away.
- No logging
- Allows multiple devices
- Has 5,000+ servers spread across 62 countries!
NordVPN costs only $36 for 3 years of service – very reasonable!
One Last Thing – Do Me a Favor
If you are considering buying or getting a free trial, please click on my affiliate links. Your purchase will be associated with me and I will receive a small amount of money from the provider. This will help pay some web hosting costs.
I won’t be able to retire early but I want to keep you safe online!
Buy or try a free trial by clicking below!
Stay safe – get a VPN today!
If you liked this post then you might also like: Location Services and Your Privacy – Hide Yo Kids Hide Yo Wife.