When it comes to online privacy, some of us value it more than others. However, online security and privacy should be something every internet user takes very seriously. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a powerful security tool everyone should use, mostly if you work on the go and regularly use public Wi-Fi networks.
A VPN provides anonymity by creating a tunnel or private network within a more extensive public network. The VPN masks your IP address and hides your real location, making you untraceable online. Here is how a VPN works to protect your privacy.
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How VPNs Protect Privacy and IP Address
As mentioned, a VPN creates a tunnel between your device and the World Wide Web. By logging into virtual servers, you can make it appear like you are in one place while you are thousands of miles away in another area. This allows you to stream content that may be otherwise blocked in your region.
Most VPNs use AES-256 military-grade encryption to scramble data you send or receive over the internet, making it unreadable to anyone trying to intercept it. A VPN also helps you keep your online activity hidden from your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Your provider cannot see your IP address but instead views the VPN’s IP address because that is where your traffic passes through.
What a VPN Hides
There are several things that you may want to keep private and that a VPN hides.
1. Browsing History
The minute you log into the internet, your web browser and your ISP can track all your online activities. Most, if not all, websites keep your browsing history, and web browsers can track you by connecting your search history to your IP address.
When you go online looking for an item without using a VPN, you may have also shared the information you are searching for. You start receiving targeted ads selling you that item from different sites. ISP providers can sometimes sell your online browsing data to third parties, and the browsers that claim to be private are not.
2. Your IP Address
If anyone manages to get hold of your IP address, they can access your browsing activity and your location at the time. Your IP address invariably leads back to the device you use to access the internet.
A VPN uses its IP address, which you piggy-back on so that your IP address is hidden. You are assured that no one will mine or sell your browsing data. However, if you use a public computer to go online such as a work or school computer, your browsing activity is public.
3. Streaming Location
If you pay a subscription for streaming services, you cannot access them if you travel outside your region or country. This may be due to terms in the contract or the laws of the country you are going to. For example, if you travel to another country and you live in Malaysia, you can change localization to Malaysia using VPN software and keep streaming as usual.
A VPN provides your devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, PCs, etc., with security against hackers and snoopers. If you access the internet from your local coffee shop or other public Wi-Fi networks without using a VPN, you are at risk. A VPN helps in protecting all your sent and received data, keeping you safe from hackers.
5. Browsing Activity
Anyone could be a target of government agency surveillance. Your ISP cannot see your online activity, so it cannot be ordered by the government to provide the information they do not have in the first place. Always ensure you subscribe to a VPN service provider who does not keep logs of your internet activity.
How to Choose a VPN
When choosing a VPN, there are several things you should consider:
- Strict no-log policy– As mentioned above, your VPN service provider should never keep logs on their clients’ online activities.
- Speed– remember the VPN has to route your data to another server, probably thousands of miles away, so it has to be lightning-fast to ensure you get seamless streaming.
- Ensure they are using the latest protocol such as OpenVPN
- Price:In this context, ensure the VPN service is NOT free. Free VPN service providers tend to sell their clients’ data to third parties and do not provide optimum security.
- Check how many servers they have and in which locations.
In today’s world full of cybercrime, a VPN is a necessary tool. The VPN protects your data by encrypting it, as well as keeping your online activity anonymous and private. Using public internet without a VPN puts you at risk of either being hacked, spied on by government security agencies or ISPs mining, and selling your data.