Unfortunately, the internet has turned out to be the liberating utopia that some early developers and adopters had envisioned. While it is a wonderful resource, the internet is also festering with malware, cookies, hackers, state-wide censorship and high-level cybercrime. A little extra online security is therefore a welcome addition.
VPNs offer a great solution to solve or improve multiple problems that internet users encounter today. These have to do with security, privacy, and online freedom.
This article will take you through the added benefits of a quality VPN service.
What can you do with a VPN? A summary of the benefits of a VPN
Using a VPN has a number of advantages. A quick summary:
- The user’s ‘real’ IP address is hidden and the user becomes more anonymous
- Data traffic is encrypted, which allows you to safely connect to public wifi hotspots
- Extra protection from ad-trackers and phishing attacks
- The ability to bypass geographical restrictions
- Users can download information safely and anonymously
- The ability to bypass government censorship
- It is possible to save money while shopping online
- Online gaming is improved through expanded access and increased protection
- Online throttling by your ISP is less likely to occur
- Using multiple servers on multiple devices with just one account
- Getting anonymous and safe access to the TOR network
1. Your real IP address is hidden
- Very easy to use VPN
- Perfect for anonymous browsing, downloading, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)
- 3000+ servers in 94 countries
The VPN fakes your location and thus partly anonymizes you on the web. This is because the IP address is a unique code which allows people to identify us on the internet, and allows them to track our online behavior step-by-step. With the use of a new, “incognito” IP address, it is no longer possible for governments, hackers and the websites that we visit to link us to our real-life identity. The observed IP address (the address of the VPN server), after all, is not linked to us, because it’s not our “real”, static IP address.
2. Data traffic becomes encrypted
A VPN encrypts your data traffic. This prevents hackers and other malicious parties from getting a hold of our important data (or at least, from being able to decipher it). This also allows the user to safely connect to, otherwise insecure, public wifi hotspots.
3. Bypass geographic restrictions
With a VPN it is possible to connect to a server in a different country and to therefore allow all of your data traffic to pass through this other country. This often allows certain blocked websites, streaming services, VoIP-services and social media to become accessible. For example, with a VPN server in Great Britain, non-British people are suddenly able to watch the BBC iPlayer.
To do so it is necessary to connect to a VPN server in a country in which the content you wish to access is not restricted. Fortunately, many modern VPN services have a great number of services in many different countries and regions.
4. Users are able to download safely and anonymously
Because the IP address is hidden and the connection is encrypted, third parties will no longer be able to figure out what exactly is being downloaded or by whom. Because of the encrypted VPN tunnel, they cannot register what is being downloaded through the secure VPN-connection. When you’re downloading sensitive and/or important files (say for work), nobody can intercept and view this information. Privacy and anonymity are guaranteed, or at the very least greatly improved.
5. Bypass Government censorship
In countries where the government controls and regulates the internet, such as China, Iran, or Eritrea, not all websites are available. This is how totalitarian regimes make a habit of silencing media outlets skeptical of said regime by blocking them in the country. This is also the reason why certain whistleblowers choose to publish or share private information on the dark web. This type of censorship can be bypassed, like all other geographical restrictions, using a VPN. A VPN is therefore an important tool in the battle for press freedom.
6. Shopping online for less
Prices for shopping online can sometimes differ based on the country someone is shopping from. When visiting an online webshop from an internet connection within England e.g., products can sometimes be drastically more expensive than when shopping from another country, like say, India. A VPN connection allows the user to connect to VPN servers from around the world. This causes websites to register users as visitors from the country where the VPN server is located, thus allowing the user to profit from the best international rates.
7. VPNs improve online gaming with better access and improved security
Because all of your internet traffic is encrypted when you use a VPN, your exact location is manipulated. Just like this can give you access to certain sites, it will also allow to play online games that may be restricted in your home country. Or perhaps the game you want to play is scheduled for a later release date. With a VPN you don’t have to wait anymore. Just choose a server in the country of origin and you can join in on the fun. An additional benefit is that if you are unfairly getting booted off the server, you can join by quick IP address change.
Finally, VPNs also provide a safer online game experience. Worrying about DDoS attacks are a thing of the past. The encryption from the VPN provides for an extra layer of security.
8. VPNs will prevent your ISP from throttling your internet connection
Bandwidth throttling is the deliberate limiting of your bandwidth by your internet service provider. This essentially decreases your online speed. Some ISPs do this often, some do it sometimes, some don’t do it at all. This is usually done to decrease the traffic on overloaded servers. Sometimes this is done just to get you to buy a more expensive package. Occasionally, ISPs will not like the fact you are downloading great amounts of data. However, when you encrypt your data with a VPN, internet service providers won’t be able to see what you are doing online. Nor will they be able to cut you off in particular.
9. Using multiple servers on multiple devices with just one account
With just one subscription you will usually get access to at least with connections for the price of one. This means that, for example, you can encrypt the connection of your desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet, and another work laptop. More generous VPN providers will offer you up to ten connections with just one subscription. As such, with just one product you can increase the privacy and security of multiple devices in one fell swoop.
10. Getting anonymous and safe access to the Tor network
Although this is not for everyone, some people like to go on the Tor network for extra privacy and anonymity. This is also the network you have to connect to if you wish to access the dark web.
The Tor browser encrypts your data tunnels you through several locations, or “relays”. This means you are virtually undetectable to anyone who wants to track you. However, these Tor servers are limited and also publicly listed. This means that if you are on one, your ISP, network administrator, government agencies, hackers, websites, or anyone else who might look at your IP address will know that, at leaset, you are connected to the Tor network.
If however, you use Tor together with a VPN, this will at least hide the fact you connected to the Tor network from your original ISP. This is desirable because there the Tor network is associated with the dark web, which is then associated with cybercrime. Hypothetically, if you a government agency wants an internet provider to pass on information about which of its users have ever connected to the Tor network, it would not prove any illegality, but it can make you appear more suspicious.
11. Extra protection from ad-trackers and phishing attacks
Some of the bigger and more quality VPN providers provide extra security. For example, NordVPN offers a number of extra protection features with its software.
Cybersec: Avoid ads and protect your security from malware, phishing, and other threats.
Invisibility on LAN: Your computer will be invisible to others on a local area network (LAN)
Internet kill switch: Should your connection to the VPN server suddenly get dropped, an internet kill switch will immediately shut off the entire internet. This is to make sure that your data isn’t suddenly being transferred in a non-encrypted way. (technically, it is not decrypted because this would be data that has not been encrypted to begin with).
Other VPN providers sometimes offer different protections with its software.
A VPN offers a lot of all-around great benefits. It will
- provide you with more freedom on the internet through bypassing national barriers
- give you more security through encrypting your internet traffic
- provide you with some anonymity by hiding your IP address
These features will enable you to
- Browse the internet more freely
- Feel secure while you browse you are not being spied on
- Have more security as you log into public wifi-networks
- Download files more safely and anonymously
- Evade government censorship for journalistic or whistleblower purposes
- Get around national barriers for entertainment
- Protect you from the more tenacious ad-trackers and phishing operations
- Access the Tor network without your ISP knowing about it
- Make cheaper purchases online such as airplane tickets
- Get to play online for games that are banned in your country
- Prevent your ISP from throttling your connection
And to top it off you can do all of this on multiple devices, using multiple servers with just one account.
Nevertheless, VPNs will not keep you completely anonymous or safe online. It is still possible to download malicious software. You can still be hacked. You can still let your identity slip up by logging into sites that have your personal data on it. And there is still the problem of browser fingerprinting.
All in all, VPN is not a cure-all for the internet. But it gives you a much better shot of enjoying the internet in a free, anonymous, and safe way.