In this era, where privacy is very difficult to maintain, any computer user must at least make some effort to maintain it where possible. The most common choice for maintaining it on the Internet is through a VPN i.e. a Virtual Private Network.
A VPN usually comes at a cost; a membership or a paid service, which secures your internet privacy on private and public connections both. It may be free too, but then there are usually advertisements associated with it too.
Using VPNs might also be beneficial in that case if you were to access some website which is blocked by your government. Moreover, sites which allow visitors from only certain geographical areas can be viewed too easily.
The working behind it
Just imagine a VPN as a safeguard passage between a computer to any destinations you go to on the internet. Typically, the computer first connects to a VPN server which is usually located in the US or another country in the United Kingdom or France, Sweden, or Thailand.
So, whatever you surf the internet, the data is sent and received through that very server. This essentially disguises you on the internet by tricking the website into believing your host country to be that of the server.
Getting back to our “safeguard passage”, it is really tough for someone to track your browsing habits, once you are inside. Therefore, only the website you are visiting, or the VPN service provider are the only ones who know what you are actually doing. If you don’t want your VPN service provider to know such even, then you can use an HTTPS connection to reduce this information somehow.
This essentially means that it would get really difficult for a hacker to get their hands on your credentials or cause common website redirections if you are using a VPN on a public Wi-Fi hotspot. Furthermore, your ISP or anyone who wants to keep an eye on you, won’t be able to know much about what you are up to.
This location spoofing has its own benefits added to it as well. Through this, you would receive targeted website for the specific country you are faking to be from. This comes in handy with the Government Restricted websites, since it essentially enables you to access those sites by spoofing your country to be the one where it isn’t blocked.
Moreover, you are also able to access services which normally don’t offer access to your country by the same method, or have different levels of access.
There are limitations to VPN as well
Yes, they tremendously help protect your privacy on the internet, but then with every technology, there are workarounds, right? Such is the case with some government restricted websites. If you are using VPN for unblocking common sites, such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, then chances are it won’t be a problem. This largely depends on your government too if they just stick to basic blocking.
But, if you think by masking yourself behind a VPN, you can go completely unnoticed doing a mission-critical activity, then you are in the wrong. You would be tracked far too easily if you are using just a VPN for such stuff.
You might be questioning yourself on how is possible even if you trick your own government into thinking you are accessing a website from elsewhere. Well, it might be possible, that the government might be monitoring your browsing habits through a malware installed.
Furthermore, what if the VPN service provider actually logs what you do, and then sell or must forcefully share this with the government. Moreover, it is also entirely possible that the VPN you so eagerly turned on might not be efficient enough to prevent data leakages or might have security loopholes.
Gone are the days when there was a thing like anonymity on the internet. You can, however, limit passive surveillance such as bulk data connection through the use of a good VPN. But if you think advertisers wouldn’t keep track of you, then I am afraid to see, there isn’t much a VPN can do. This is because the website still knows what you are doing on it, and therefore advertisers on that website would get to know your preferences.
Therefore, to avoid this, you would have to opt for your common browser extensions like Ghostery, Privacy Badger, and HTTPS Everywhere.
Choosing the right VPN service
Gone are the days when a computer user had to tweak built-in VPN client or universal open-source solutions such as OpenVPN. Nowadays, usually, most of the VPN service providers have a one-click solution to get up and running. Furthermore, it isn’t just restricted to a PC but you can also secure your iOS or Android device, through VPN mobile apps available on the Appstore and Google Play store respectively.
Now that that’s established, the problem comes in choosing one VPN amongst a plethora of ones. If you want to hook up to a good VPN take a look at the PC world’s Best VPNs article. But usually, something really good, comes at a price.
There are many VPN services out there for free, but compared to a paid VPN service, their performance is relatively less. The problems being the limited bandwidth associated with Free VPN services or a slower speed.
For instance, Tunnel Bear, a free VPN service, offers just 500 MB of free bandwidth per month, which is quite less.
Moreover, the internet access speed on the free version of CyberGhost is much less compared to the paid service it offers.
Yes, there are good free VPNs too but then usually they model themselves by targeting ads. This really might disturb you by showing you an advertisement when you are in the middle of something important. Furthermore, it might also be possible that such Free services, might just be harvesting your passive data, and then selling it in the market for potential buyers.
A VPN is a must-have feature for you while you are browsing on the internet, therefore do opt for a paid one, since it doesn’t really cost that much. A good paid VPN service starts off at $5 per month which is a trade-off for protecting your privacy out there in the wilderness of the Internet.