What Does a VPN Do for My Personal Privacy? Everything You Need to Know
An outstanding form of cybersecurity, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help protect your personal privacy as you navigate the online world.
For better or for worse, we have become dependent on the Internet. Bills are paid, secrets are shared, and business is conducted within the confines of this virtual world. In addition to globalizing our society, this trend has also opened the door to criminal activity that you need to protect against. That's where a personal VPN comes in.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a network that allows you to privately communicate via a secure, encrypted connection. They are ideal for using in public locations with free Wi-Fi such as coffee shops, airports, and hotels, as well as to prevent data breaches on your home network.
Essentially, what a VPN does is create a virtual tunnel within the wild expanse of the Internet for you to send and receive information through. This tunnel prevents Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and cybercriminals alike from accessing your downloads, browsing history, instant messages, financial information, or anything else you transmit over a public or private network.
How Does a VPN Work?
The virtual encrypted tunnel created between a VPN server and your device utilizes encryption technologies such as:
- Transport Layer Security (TLS)
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL)
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
- IP security (IPSec)
Once your device is connected to the Internet through this encrypted tunnel, your traffic emerges with no sign of from whom or where it originated. Moreover, snoops of any kind are prevented from seeing where you're going online and what you're doing while you're there. In this way, a VPN masks your identity from tracking and interception.
In essence, when using a VPN, you're using a proxy server to make requests for you online. By making your connection to this proxy encrypted, the VPN makes it virtually impossible for somebody to snoop on your online traffic, making every website as secure as a bank site.
Other Uses of a VPN
In addition to protecting your personal privacy while online, a VPN can also provide access to content you would otherwise be unable to see. For example, some countries don't allow their citizens to view material that they believe undermines their government’s agenda. This is seen often in dictatorial countries where talk of freedom and equality threaten the current regime.
In these areas, the use of a VPN can allow access to these materials and protect the user from the government's prying eyes.
How Do I Choose a Reliable VPN?
While VPNs can shield you from totalitarian governments, cybercriminals, and intrusive ISPs, they are in the perfect position to cause all the same security concerns you are trying to protect against. They can access and track all of your movements and activities while online and sell that information to the highest bidder or use it for other nefarious purposes.
For a VPN to be effective, it needs to be completely trustworthy. While that can be a difficult thing to confirm, there are a few ways to improve your odds of landing a well-meaning and safe VPN. There are several independent assessments out there to help you choose the right VPN for your needs, or you can go it on your own.
Choosing a VPN that charges a fee is one of the simplest ways to weed out the competition. While free VPN services aren't inherently bad, all services need to make money to stay in operation. That may mean that the free VPN isn't as secure as you would like or may even be shopping for information that they can sell.
Furthermore, free VPN services have less money to spend on their systems. That may lead to flaws and weaknesses in the configuration and setup of these VPNs that leaves your data vulnerable to a leak.
Wrapping It Up
The final choice as to whether or not a VPN is right for you comes down to your personal needs. However, with a trustworthy VPN on your side, criminals and snoops will have less chance of invading your personal online privacy. It's one extra step in your online security suite.