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7 common VPN myths debunked

Sep 15, 2020 · 5 min read

7 common VPN myths debunked

VPNs aren’t understood nearly as well as they should be, especially given the growing prevalence of cybersecurity threats and massive corporate data breaches. There are certain VPN myths that are far too common, which is why it’s time to set the record straight.

VPN facts vs myths

1. Why should I pay for a VPN? I’ll just get a free one!

As VPN myths go, this one is particularly dangerous to the average user. What you must always remember is this: when a for-profit company provides you with a service for free, that’s because they are using you to make money. You are the product, not the customer.

Don’t forget this rule if you’re weighing the benefits of a free VPN against a paid one. How a free VPN makes money depends on their sense of ethics, but none of the methods they use bode well for your online security.

The most common methods involve carefully logging your traffic and then injecting ads into whatever you do online or simply selling that data to third parties. Less scrupulous free VPNs have even sold their users’ bandwidth to corporations and hackers or used their access to deliver malware.

Free VPNs also offer fewer features and don’t work as well as premium VPNs. They usually employ fewer people and can’t release frequent updates to stay on top of the latest cybersecurity trends. Premium paid VPNs answer to customers, not advertisers, so they have a stronger motivation to deliver a product that works.

Are all paid VPNs 100% safe? Of course not. Some will log your data, have weak encryption protocols, and DNS leaks. Like with everything else, you have to choose carefully and do your research before picking the best VPN provider.

2. A VPN will make my internet too slow to use.

It’s true that a VPN can slow down your internet speed, but it doesn’t have to. The severity of the slowdown also depends on the settings you choose and your VPN speed, but it will usually be too small to notice if you’re just browsing online.

When you’re on a VPN, all your internet traffic travels through a VPN server, where it gets encrypted before heading to its destination. Naturally, this process will have a small impact on your internet speed. But, depending on the country you choose to connect to, you may not notice any difference at all. If you proxy your traffic through a country on the other side of the world, your latency will definitely take a hit. However, if you select your own country, the slowdown should barely be noticeable.

There are also a few scenarios in which you might experience a speedup. To throttle data, ISPs have to see your actual traffic, which they can’t do when it’s encrypted. If they’re prevented from throttling, you get higher internet speeds.

3. There’s no such thing as an easy-to-use VPN. Only tech geeks care about them.

The technology behind VPNs may seem arcane to some, but NordVPN’s intuitive interface and 24/7 customer support make it one of the simplest-to-use VPNs out there! Use the Quick Connect button when you need quick and easy security, or tinker with the settings and browse the servers’ list to customize your VPN connection.

You don’t need to have an extensive technological background and cram a bunch of VPN facts to be able to use one. After all, you probably can’t explain the technology behind the computer or smartphone you’re reading this post from either. But that doesn’t stop you from using it.

4. I don’t need a VPN because I have nothing to hide.

The benefits of a VPN are clear to people in repressive censorship states or someone dealing with highly sensitive information. But what about the average law-abiding citizen? If you have nothing to hide from the government or your ISP, do you really need a VPN?

VPNs aren’t just for privacy — they provide security as well. We all want to hide our traffic from cybercriminals looking for any opportunity to get at our data and potentially ruin our lives. If you use online banking, send emails with sensitive personal information, or store important files on your devices, a VPN will help you stay secure. As the Securus hacking incident proves, you should never assume that the government will use people’s data safely and responsibly.

This is true whether you’re talking about privacy or security. Surveillance is a slippery slope that can lead to other greater violations, so it should never be completely tolerated. Privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide.

5. Only criminals and hackers use VPNs.

This is one of the most widespread VPN myths. Criminals and hackers do use VPNs, but they’re far from the only ones who benefit from online security and privacy. Here are a few other groups of people who regularly benefit from VPNs:

  • Frequent travelers who protect themselves when using public Wi-Fi.
  • Citizens of repressive states who use VPNs to evade censorship and exchange information.
  • Foreign students and employees who have to spend long periods abroad and might miss geo-restricted sites and services they enjoyed back home.
  • Journalists who want to search for information securely without fear of reprisal.
  • Professionals who work with sensitive data or trade secrets that must stay confidential.
  • Anyone who values their security and privacy online.

6. VPNs are illegal.

As with the previous myth, this is only partially true. VPNs are indeed illegal in countries with heavy censorship and online surveillance. Since a reliable VPN allows users to avoid them altogether, government agencies in these countries forbid using them.

There’s a common misconception that only hackers and criminals use VPNs, as they want to hide their crimes from the law, but this is far from the truth. Millions of people use VPNs to browse the internet safely and privately, research sensitive topics, and protect their online data while traveling, among many other things.

7. A VPN will keep me 100% secure and private whenever I use the internet.

VPNs certainly are powerful tools for security and privacy, but even they can’t do everything. For near-complete online protection, you will need to combine your VPN with other security tools and a bit of internet know-how. Here’s how a VPN can and can’t protect you:

  • A VPN won’t protect you if the service you’re accessing has been compromised. Not all web services and admins follow the best data security practices, so be careful who you give your data to. They may not be capable of managing and storing it securely.
  • A VPN won’t protect you from social engineering. Scams are a popular way to steal users’ information because they can bypass most security measures you might have in place. If you trust the scammer, they’ll get past your VPN, your firewall, and your antivirus – all because you’ll let them.
  • A VPN will not secure your information if you give it away yourself. Data collection practices adopted by online giants like Facebook and Google are done with their users’ consent. We’ve written plenty of articles on how to restrict the flow of data to their servers, but there’s only one solution if you really want to minimize your online footprint – stop using those services.
  • Not all VPNs protect you from malware. If you click on a malicious link and download a virus to your device, a VPN can’t really do much to stop it from wreaking havoc. However, there are VPNs that do offer some security. NordVPN, for example, has CyberSec, which blocks websites that are known to contain malware. It will do a great deal to keep you safe, but for the best protection possible, combine NordVPN with a piece of dedicated antivirus software.

Anna Rasmussen
Anna Rasmussen successVerified author

Anna is a content writer at NordVPN. As a young tech enthusiast, she helps readers explore what makes the internet run and how to stay safe.

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