Internet security is no joke; losing your information to poor security or hackers can cause you lasting problems. Whether you’re accessing an unsecure network or conducting business with sensitive information, you need to be wary. The best way to do that is by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.
These services secure your connection and provide a degree of anonymity by the use of a remote server. Why exactly do you need or want a service like that? Several possibilities exist, all equally valid depending on your individual situation.
Here are a few reasons you should really have a VPN.
Once a given on the internet, anonymity has allowed the internet to blossom into a venue of freely traded information and ideas. But an increasingly modern web threatens that privilege with countless new hurdles. Because web traffic is monitored much more closely for reasons ranging from business to national security, your computer and mobile devices are increasingly more visible to a range of parties.
A VPN allows you to bypass much of this by providing a buffer between you and the rest of the net. Whenever you access a webpage, that webpage needs to know who is accessing it. While you’re connected to a VPN, it’s the VPN, and not you, who is identified by that website. As countless other individuals connect from the same location, it becomes impossible to identify who is actually issuing the website request.
Another benefit exists from the very same avenue that offers the user anonymity.
If you’re traveling abroad or just trying to access a service not native to your own country, you may find yourself in a fix without a VPN. Some providers restrict access to their content based on the recipient’s physical location when connecting. A common example would be Hulu, a predominantly US based service. If you’re outside of the US, you may be out of luck.
That is, unless you’re connected to a remote server on your VPN that’s located in the US. Whether you’re in the Netherlands or Russia, it won’t matter: Hulu and other providers will detect your IP based on your VPN’s location, allowing you to bypass geo-blocked content without so much as a thought. It’s just one way you can retain freedom of access on the net.
This also works for countries that have a built-in block. In places such as China, certain web content may be restricted. These restrictions range in type, but a VPN allows you to continue unabated in spite of them.
- Public WiFi
If you’re using a laptop or some type of smart technology, you’re bound to access public WiFi at some point. Whether it’s to avoid data charges or just to sustain a more reliable connection, WiFi can have some major benefits in a public space. Unfortunately, most of those connections are unsecured, leaving you vulnerable to malicious hackers hoping to steal your information.
It’s not unusual to access your bank or other personal services while on the go, and if you happen to be on one of these public WiFi networks, you could end up in a heap of trouble. But, if you’re connected with a VPN, you can avoid this kind of risk. A VPN does more than just hide your location or allow you to bypass regional restrictions. It also encrypts your connection.
An encryption means that even if someone local is somehow intercepting your data, that data will be unreadable without the encryption key. Sure they could try to break the encryption, but doing so forcefully could take months, if not years. Unless you’re someone really high profile, it’s not likely worth a hacker’s time when there are more vulnerable targets.
- Malware Prevention
You’re likely using some kind of anti-virus and/or firewall (we hope!) on your computer and mobile devices, but did you know a VPN may be more effective than either? Consider that virtually all malware, be it viruses or otherwise, comes from the internet. In the same way that being on an encrypted connection protects you from hackers, it also protects you from malware.
On an unencrypted connection, hackers can literally insert bad code into the information you receive from the internet because that information is easily accessible and readable otherwise. That means that in spite of your efforts to avoid clicking on bad links or downloading questionable programs, you can still end up with malware if your connection isn’t protected. Malware can lead to a slew of problems, including data and identity theft, which can be costly not only for you, but for your business if you deal with any kind of customer data digitally.
- Downloading and Torrenting
While services such as Apple’s App Store have seriously cut down on the number of outside downloads, there are still plenty of media only available through traditional downloads or torrents. Some issues involving malware can be handled after the fact with anti-virus software, but not everything is so simple.
With companies (particularly in Hollywood) increasingly on a witch hunt for pirates or other so-called internet criminals, it’s quite possible to be lumped into some absurd lawsuit just because you accessed a torrent website or downloaded software and someone else decided that means you’re a pirate. By concealing your identity, you can avoid worrying about similar problems.
Just be sure the VPN you choose has a good policy regarding traffic logs; it won’t do you much good if the VPN keeps track of what you do and turns it over to companies or the government whenever requested.
We hear it all the time, every day. As society becomes more advanced, criminals find new and creative ways to deprive innocent people of their safety and their money. Every year, we spend millions of dollars on different types of security, from locks on our houses to alarms and firearms.
Companies hire guards and security services, and we rely on police to watch the roads. Stealing from a mailbox is such a serious offense that getting caught results in a felony charge. Why then should we treat our digital information any differently?
If you value your security and your identity, a VPN is an absolute necessity. Whether you’re using the internet all the time or just on occasion, it’s important to protect yourself from criminals and scammers. A few dollars a month (any genuinely good VPN isn’t going to be free) is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
The next time you connect to the net, make sure you’re using a VPN. It’s one of many security investments you won’t soon regret.