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Do I need a VPN? A detailed look at the world’s essential privacy tool

Jul 16, 2020 · 5 min read

Do I need a VPN? A detailed look at the world’s essential privacy tool

Did you know that, without a VPN, your every move online can be recorded and sold by untrustworthy ISPs? Governments, marketing agencies, and even hackers could have access to your downloads and every site you've visited. Learn how to secure your internet and protect your identity with a virtual private network.

Do I need a VPN?

A VPN or virtual private network is a tool designed to secure your browsing and protect you online, but what is a VPN? And how do they protect you?

VPNs protect your data and secure your traffic by encrypting it and redirecting it through secure VPN servers. Now that our data privacy and our ‘right to be forgotten’ are under attack, it's the perfect time to start using one.

How do VPNs work?

A VPN uses encryption to secure your online activity against snoopers, third parties and cybercrime. It transforms your online data into gibberish when it is in transit, making it indecipherable to interceptors. Your online data includes things like your searches, downloads, logins, credit-card information, and the sites you’ve visited are all hidden.

Encryption prevents attackers and monitors from seeing or intercepting what you do, making it extremely difficult to steal your precious information, breach your online accounts or spy on you.

Why should I use a VPN?

A VPN can help protect your data against theft, make public Wi-Fi safe and bypass geo-blocks to give everyone access to free and open information.

ISPs and governments are known to track your online activity for monetary or political gain, while hackers lurk in public Wi-Fi spots and online, ready to steal your passwords and other data. VPNs are an essential internet safety tool, they protect your data from hackers and keep you safe from trackers – but they can’t do everything.

Here are some of their advantages and disadvantages.

1. A VPN can't protect you from yourself.

A VPN won’t compensate for basic security awareness. If you access unsecured sites, accidentally click on malware-loaded pop-up ads or choose a bog-standard VPN with questionable privacy policies – you’ll end up in trouble either way.

It’s important to stay aware of the latest scams and threats online, which you can start doing by following our blog regularly! We love to report on ways internet users can stay safe.

2. VPNs can protect you from virtually untraceable online theft

In this day and age, more than half of your most valuable possessions are digital. Petty thieves have transformed into cybercriminals and your identity and financial details are the hottest commodities.

No one is immune to having their data stolen. From high-profile tech experts like Mark Zuckerberg to the countless people affected by major breaches in 2019 – where 7.9 billion public records were stolen – anyone can be a target. Avalanches of passport numbers, email addresses, bank account details and social security numbers are up for sale every day on the dark web – for a pittance. VPNs protect connections, so attackers attempting to steal information during a transfer will have a tough time getting past a VPN.

Criminals can discover, buy or steal your email address and password and use your card online and hackers can lift your passwords or banking details in a MITM attack without you knowing – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

3. VPNs can help bypass geographical restrictions

VPN providers have servers all over the world for users to connect to as you wish. The websites you visit will see the IP address and location of the server you connect to instead of your own. If you want to stream a US boxing match live from Europe, connect to a US server. Your device will appear as though it’s operating from the US, bypassing your country’s content blocks.

4. VPNs can help bypass firewalls

VPNs can help bypass firewalls – even ones imposed by governments and universities. Since your traffic is routed through encrypted servers, your IP address is replaced with the address of one of the VPN servers – which means no-one can keep tabs on your traffic or what you’re doing online. As a result, your access to online content will no longer be restricted locally.

Some VPNs suffer connection losses. Premium VPNs like NordVPN, however, come with a kill-switch that automatically kills your connection to the internet and reconnects only when your VPN is restored. So your activity remains safe from prying eyes.

5. VPNs can secure your browsing history

The Internet is a messy place where your data passes unpredictably from country to country – inviting snoopers, money-grabbing ISPs, and hackers to spy on it. In 2018 the US Congress overturned a privacy rule which once again allows your browsing history to be sold to the highest bidder – bidders like marketing companies, corporations, research bodies, and governments. A VPN hides your IP and creates a secure encrypted tunnel between you and the Internet. Everything you do online – the websites you visit, or the files you download – can’t be seen by your ISP.

Not all VPNs use strong encryption. Free or lesser known VPNs may cut corners by using weaker encryption protocols which means that your data may not be as safe as you thought.

6. VPNs can anonymize digital sharing

Poorer quality VPNs do not allow P2P file sharing or are so slow you’ll want to give up. VPNs that use powerful encryption protocols and keep a strict zero-log policy will keep your uploads and downloads safe from prying eyes – hiding all identifiable information that may leave your device.

Do I need a VPN at home?

A VPN could be useful at home if your internet is being provided by someone you don’t particularly trust, like a landlord, friend or neighbour. Remember, whoever provides your internet could snoop on the unencrypted parts of your internet connection. A VPN encrypts your connection to the internet at all times, keeping you secure no matter what the situation.

ISPs are also known to track what you do online, selling your data to third-parties and governments without your consent. A VPN stops ISP tracking and gives you and the whole family the gift of total privacy.

Your home Wi-Fi can be hacked from outside your house. Most routers are protected with WPA2 encryption but if you forget to update your router it could develop some serious security holes. In which case use a VPN to permanently secure your Wi-fi connection and protect your precious information.

Do I need a VPN on my phone?

With VPN apps for mobile and Android now skyrocketing you can secure yourself in a single click. If you have Wi-Fi auto connect enabled on your iPhone you should be extra careful about your safety. Public Wi-Fi is hot turf for hackers, as it has no security and your information is as good as out in the open. Fortunately, mobile data is encrypted but if you’re out and you lose 4G connection your phone may auto connect to the nearest public Wi-Fi – revealing your information to anyone out to steal it. If you were always using a VPN on your phone you’d always be secure.

Choosing a VPN

When it comes to choosing a VPN, pick one with no data caps to get the fastest download/sharing speeds. A zero-logs promise and high-grade encryption are essential; otherwise, your data could be leaked by the very people promising to secure it. Another thing to consider are the devices and platforms that a VPN can be used on. You can use NordVPN on up to 6 devices simultaneously across every major platform. You can also download the NordVPN app for Desktop, iOS, and Android. It features a one-click connect button that secures you and your device instantly.

Use a VPN to surf privately and keep your information secure.

Zen Bahar
Zen Bahar successVerified author

Zen likes to use her cybersecurity knowledge to help protect the privacy and freedom of others, otherwise, you can find her playing with paints in her studio in London.

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