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6 common VPN myths debunked

May 18, 2018 · 5 min read

6 common VPN myths debunked

VPNs aren’t understood nearly as well as they should be, 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 I’d like to set the record straight!

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

If Google’s growing data empire and the huge Cambridge Analytica scandal at Facebook haven’t given you a clue, let me spell it out for you: 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 vs. a paid one. How a free VPN makes money depends on their sense of ethics, but none of the potential solutions 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 usually offer fewer features and don’t work as well as premium VPNs do. They usually support less staff 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.

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 on your VPN speed, but it will usually be too small to notice if you’re just browsing online. It’s natural for a VPN to reduce the speed of your internet access by some small amount, since your traffic has to be encrypted and then decrypted before it gets anywhere. Another source of additional latency will be the server your traffic has to visit to be decrypted, but depending on the country you choose, 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. If you select your own country, however, the slowdown will probably 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, that means higher internet speeds for you. In rare cases, your VPN might actually take your traffic on a more efficient route than your ISP would – especially if your ISP is sending your traffic somewhere it shouldn’t be sending it.

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 function when all you need is quick and easy security or browse the settings and server list to customize your VPN for your needs. After all, you’re probably reading this blog post on a computer, smartphone, or other device. Unless you’re a technically advanced user, you probably can’t explain the technology behind it – 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 for people in repressive censorship states or who deal 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? First of all, 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, access private or sensitive online services, store important files on your devices, or use the internet in any way at all, a VPN will definitely 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. That’s true whether you’re talking about privacy or security. Surveillance is a slippery slope that can lead to other greater violations down the road, so it should never be completely tolerated. Privacy matters even if you have nothing to hide.

5. Only criminals and hackers use VPNs

Criminals and hackers do use VPNs, but they’re far from the only people who benefit from online security and relative anonymity. Here are a few other groups that regularly benefit from VPNs:

  • Frequent flyers who secure themselves when using public WiFi.
  • Citizens of repressive states who use VPNs to evade censorship and exchange information.
  • Foreign students and employees who have to spent longer 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 secured.
  • Anyone who values their security and privacy online.

6. A VPN will keep me 100% secure and anonymous whenever I use the Internet.

VPNs certainly are powerful tools for security and anonymity, but even they can’t do everything. For near-complete online protection, you will need to combine your VPN with other security tools and with a little bit of internet know-how. Learn how a VPN protects you and then find out how it doesn’t:

  • A VPN won’t protect you if the server you’re accessing has been compromised. Once your data leaves the encrypted tunnel created by your VPN, it’s no longer in your (or our) hands. 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 holding onto it securely.
  • A VPN won’t protect you from social engineering. Scams are a popular way to steal user information because they can bypass a majority of the security measures you might have in place. If you trust the scammer, they’ll get past your VPN, your firewall, and your antivirus – because you’ll let them.
  • A VPN will not secure your privacy if you give it away. The data collection practices of 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 completely eliminate your data footprint – stop using those services.
  • Not all VPNs protect you from malware. You can think of a VPN as a steel pipe that your internet traffic travels through, where the steel sides represent cutting-edge encryption. Nothing can get in through the sides, but if a virus gets in at the source, it can make it all the way to the other end and wreak havoc. To continue with this analogy, antivirus software would represent a filter on the pipe that keeps out anything you don’t want. Some VPNs, however, do offer some security. NordVPN, for example, offers the CyberSec feature, which prevents you from accessing known malicious sites. This tool will do a great deal to keep you safe, but for the best protection possible, combine your NordVPN with a piece of dedicated antivirus software.

Daniel Markuson
Daniel Markuson successVerified author

Daniel is a digital privacy enthusiast and an internet security expert. As the blog editor at NordVPN, Daniel is generous with spreading news, stories, and tips through the power of a well-written word.

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