Living in a world becoming increasingly connected to the Internet, we become more and more exposed to the different aspects of it, whether good or bad. With most of our daily activities today involve the use of Internet, many people and organizations with evil intents are encroaching faster and subtler, using the Internet to commit illegal or harmful things to you. From advertising agencies who seek to optimize their targeted advertisements to governments spying on our daily affairs, privacy is becoming a scarce resource when we use the Internet.
This is where VPN comes in. Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a service, typically provided for a fee, that can keep browsing activities secure and private. VPN is highly effective in public spaces, where multiple users share a common network. A public Wi-Fi, for instance, allows any person with a device capable of connecting to the network, to enter and see all the people using the network. This is dangerous as it allows hackers to gain access to your details and data by viewing your activities in the public Wi-Fi. Sensitive data like banking details and personal data stolen and used without your knowledge and consent.
The VPN circumvents this by providing a secure ‘tunnel’ or a connection that no other than the VPN server provider and the website can see what you are doing. A VPN also allows you to mask your real location as websites you visit will log your VPN server’s location as yours. An example would be using a VPN server in Ukraine but your real location is in the United Kingdom. Therefore, the website you visit registers you as a user from Ukraine and not from the United Kingdom. This is useful when content is unavailable to your country such as a movie not available in your region but is available in other regions.
However, a VPN is far from a “one-size-fits-all” tool that will keep all your internet activities private. Governments, especially authoritarian regimes, have access to more advanced surveillance tools that can still watch your activities. Countries where the Internet is heavily regulated may still spot an individual using VPN to get around government censorship through installed spyware in your devices or through other means. You need extreme care and understanding of using a VPN to know the capabilities and limits of this service.
As most VPN require payment for their services to continue running, it is important to pick your preferred VPN through proper judgement and decision especially under a tight budget. A priority in choosing a VPN provider is on how they handle the service, specifically how your data is handled. Knowing what their usage policies are and how they may affect you is important. Questions like “Does my VPN keep records of my use of their service?” and “Can they sell or give my information to external parties?” are important as they will show how much your VPN provider can actually do in terms of securing your privacy. With so many choices for your VPN, it is best to keep a checklist that you can run through every VPN provider since not only your money is on the line, but your privacy as well.