Security and privacy constantly come up as the top 2 concerns among people who use the internet. And yet, many people choose convenience over these concerns.
But what if there was a way to stay safe online without much extra effort? Something that hides your identity and online activities without getting in the way of your online experience? Well, there actually is. It’s called a VPN.
The Problem with Internet Servers
When you use your laptop or mobile device to go online, data is transferred between your device and the website you’re visiting. The problem is, these servers aren’t necessarily secure. With the right tools, anyone can see your online activity and gain access to your private data.
Hackers and other cyber criminals are obviously the main danger. But even private companies and your internet service provider (ISP) can track your online activities and gather personal information without your permission.
So, How Does a VPN Keep Me Safe?
Well, it’s all in the name Virtual Private Network. Instead of using public servers, a VPN routes your data through a private server you can only use if you subscribe with a VPN provider.
Top VPN providers such as PureVPN and ExpressVPN own hundreds of these private servers. This allows them to handle your data transfers with an almost unnoticeable impact on the quality and speed of your internet connection. But that’s only one piece of the puzzle.
A VPN also takes two extra precautions to make it even harder—if not impossible—for anyone to access your data: 1) they encrypt your information; and 2) they transfer it through a private server using a tunneling protocol.
This is a double-whammy for hackers and snoopers. And here’s why:
Encryption makes your private data incomprehensible
Encryption essentially converts your information into a format that’s impossible to understand unless you have a key. In other words, even if someone were to gain access to this information, they wouldn’t be able to make any sense of it.
The gold standard for VPN encryption is Secure Socket Layer (SSL) 256-bit technology. In simple terms, this process scrambles your data in such a way that you’d need to go through 2,256 different combinations to find the right one. Now, that’s a lot of combinations. 2 multiplied by 2 for 256 times, to be precise. This is more than enough to give even the fastest computers a very hard time. Unsurprisingly, it’s the encryption method preferred by banks, government agencies and the military to keep their top secret information safe.
Tunnelling protocols guard your data until it reaches its destination
Once your data is encrypted, it’s transferred to the VPN server securely through a tunnelling protocol. This protects your data while in transit and makes it harder to intercept it. Put another way, it’s the online equivalent of being escorted by an armed guard. There are several tunnelling protocols, each with different characteristics. They all handle data transfers a bit differently; and some are more secure than others.
OpenVPN is widely regarded as the best and most secure tunneling protocol, because it’s strong, reliable, and open source. With that being said, OpenVPN may require some manual tweaking and may not be compatible with older devices.
In this case IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2) and SSTP (secure socket tunneling protocol) can be a good alternative. At the other end of the spectrum, PPTP (point to point tunneling protocol), was developed way back in the 1990s. It’s quite flexible and comes as standard on most VPNs. Unfortunately, it’s also it’s widely regarded as not being very secure.
When Should I Use a VPN?
There’s no reason why you shouldn’t use a VPN every time you go online. Most VPNs have apps that are really easy to install. You simply log in with your username and password, connect to a server, and the VPN will do the rest. Staying connected to your VPN at all times keeps your information encrypted and far from unsafe connections. In other words, it’s private and secure.
No one will be able to monitor your online activity—not even your ISP. More to the point, encryption and VPN tunneling add an additional layer of security. This is especially helpful if you use the internet for shopping, banking or carrying out other financial transactions, because it prevents anyone from getting their hands on your bank details or credit card information.
Always Use a VPN on Public WiFi
If you’re on public WiFi, a VPN is definitely a must. Since anyone can access public WiFi hotspots, they’re much more vulnerable to viruses, malware, and other attempts at gaining access to your personal data. One hacking technique even involves creating a fake WiFi hotspot. Once you’ve been tricked into connecting to it, your security is automatically compromised.
Here again, a VPN comes to the rescue. No-one can steal your information if they can’t even make sense of it. And why should you take chances, when encrypting and securing your online data is just a click away?
Now that you know how a VPN keeps you safe and secure, it’s time to choose the right one for your needs. Check out our extensive collection of in-depth VPN reviews.