Why would you need a VPN for your privacy?
A VPN is a powerful tool to boost your online privacy because it spoofs your geolocation and encrypts online traffic. A VPN creates an encrypted tunnel for your data to travel to a VPN server, which afterward reroutes that data to the endpoint – a website, for instance.
Rerouting your internet traffic through a VPN server allows you to roam the internet safely as if connecting through a private network. Using a VPN over public Wi-Fi is especially useful because the online traffic between your device and a VPN server becomes encrypted. Encryption reduces the risk of unauthorized interception, such as a man-in-the-middle attack, and data theft, because it can stop hackers from eavesdropping on unencrypted traffic to steal sensitive information.
A VPN can also help to hide your online activity from your internet service provider (ISP). ISPs can collect your data from the websites and online services you use and later sell it for advertising purposes.
IP spoofing is another notable feature of a VPN that can make you more private online. When your internet traffic is routed through a VPN server, it gains the server’s IP address and sends data as if you were at that server’s location. It disguises your virtual location from websites and online service providers, making you less traceable. It’s important to note, though, that a VPN cannot make you anonymous online.
The ways a VPN can boost your online privacy
Many VPN providers offer much more than routing your traffic through its servers. An array of features delivered by reliable VPN service providers can bring your security online to the next level. Here are some of the most popular VPN features you can benefit from:
- Kill switch. Meant to protect your data in transit from accidental exposure, Kill Switch disconnects you from the internet in the unlikely event of a VPN connection dropping.
- Multi-hop connection. It reroutes your internet traffic through several VPN servers, whereas typically, it’s routed through one server. This feature re-encrypts your data several times, lowering the chances of unauthorized intrusion and data theft.
- DNS leak protection. A domain name system (DNS) translates human-friendly domain names (such as nordvpn.com) into IP addresses. Protecting the DNS against possible leaks means routing DNS queries through a VPN server instead of your ISP to avoid potential tracing.
- Obfuscated servers. These servers disguise VPN traffic so that it looks like regular HTTPS traffic. It helps bypass VPN restrictions and reach a server located in your home country when you are traveling in countries with severe internet censorship.
- Split tunneling. This feature lets you use your local networks for specific activities, at the same time allowing you to choose which apps or services should use the VPN connection.
- MFA. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) introduces an additional layer of security by requiring the user to verify their identity with more factors than simply providing their password. These additional verification prompts may include fingerprints, one-time passcode (OTP), or other authentication methods.
Is a VPN safe to use for privacy protection?
Generally, a VPN is a safe tool to use and considered an important asset to protect your privacy online. However, like many things in real life, there are some exceptions. To receive a reliable VPN service, choosing a trustworthy VPN provider is vital. Though plenty of free VPN services are offered online, they usually make their money by selling user data to third parties. These later use the collected data to serve targeted ads or set trackers on users.
You should also make sure to choose a service that offers robust VPN encryption standards. One of the top-tier encryption at the moment is an AES with a 256-bit key, used by government entities, such as the NSA and the military. Reputable VPN providers have also implemented a strict no-logs policy, which means they don’t store any records of your online activity. It allows you to remain private even before their eyes, and if your provider gets hacked at any point, threat actors won’t be able to steal your sensitive data as there’ll be no data stored to steal.
The amount of privacy you can gain by using a VPN also depends on where your VPN service provider is located. Retention laws in some countries require IT companies to preserve user data for a certain period of time. Knowing where your VPN service provider is registered may help to evaluate the risks of your sensitive information being stored. It’s also worth noting that a VPN is illegal or restricted in some countries, usually the ones under authoritarian regimes. You should always be aware of the local regulations to avoid legal issues.
How can NordVPN protect your privacy?
One of the most reputable providers in the market, NordVPN offers an array of features to boost your online privacy. It uses an AES-256 bit encryption for safe data transfer and offers all the aforementioned features to its users. Nord Security, the company that provides NordVPN, is registered in Panama, a country outside of any intelligence-sharing alliances. As a result, your data is handled with the utmost privacy.
To stay competitive in the market, NordVPN also offers some additional features for its users:
- Onion over VPN. It allows users to easily access the Tor network without a Tor browser. For those unfamiliar with Tor, it’s a network that encrypts your data in layers and sends it through several randomly chosen servers. Rerouting your data traffic through random nodes can provide you with more disguise roaming the internet.
- Threat Protection. In response to the growing number of cyber threats and new malware variants, NordVPN introduced a Threat Protection feature that detects malware and blocks it before it reaches your device. It’s also designed to block intrusive ads and trackers to make you less targeted online.
- Meshnet. It’s a free feature offered for all, including those who are not yet NordVPN clients. Meshnet allows safe access between the devices and works like the local area network (LAN) by connecting devices directly. It’s a feature designed for activities requiring high speeds and low latency, such as file sharing, work collaborations, or LAN gaming.
NordVPN is keen on keeping up with the changes in the cybersecurity market and attempts to provide services of the highest quality to its users.
The limitations of a VPN
A VPN can bring your online security to the next level, but it’s not a cure for all possible cyber threats, as sweet as this myth about a VPN may sound. Users can only avoid some risks online if they cultivate their awareness of possible cyber malice. Let’s take a look into the most common situations when only your own judgment can help you avoid falling victim to malicious schemes:
- Social engineering and phishing attacks. The success of both social engineering and phishing campaigns depends largely on how gullible the targets are. It’s important to always stay alert and aware of cyber fraud when using the internet. Never click on any suspicious-looking links or download unrecognized files attached to unsolicited emails. The general rule is if it sounds too good – it probably is.
- Data breaches. A VPN cannot help against data breaches that are usually conducted against large enterprises. In many cases, even the most reputable companies can become data breach victims. That’s why it’s crucial for you to share only the most necessary information about yourself when registering for websites. You should also create strong passwords to your accounts that are no less than eight characters long, including upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Never use the same password for a couple of accounts: If the one is breached, the hacker can easily get into all the accounts safeguarded by the same password.
- Malware. Using a VPN doesn’t protect you from malware because it usually finds its way to your device either by exploiting software vulnerabilities or tricking you into downloading them through infected links or downloads. It’s vital to always keep your devices up to date and never press on any suspicious-looking link.