What is VPN and why do I need it?

VPN is a short form of a virtual private network. It offers users online discretion and anonymity by creating forming a private network from a public wireless connection. This tool masks your internet protocol (IP) address so that whatever you are doing online cannot be traced, and even importantly, VPNs establish secure and encrypted connections to offer greater privacy than a secured Wi-Fi hotspot could.

Why you need a VPN

With a fast-growing online crime theft rate, surfing the web on an unsecured network may be a wise move, as you could be revealing your private information as well as browsing habits. That is where VPNs come in. This tool is a must-have if you are concerned about your online privacy and security.

Think about all the time you have surfed the internet while in a public place such as a coffee shop or hospital. Unless you were using a private Wi-Fi network protected by a password, any data conveyed during your online session could be susceptible to snooping by strangers who were also using the same network.

But with the use of VPN, your online activities are hidden and your browsing will also stay anonymous.

How to test VPN

How do know your VPN is working properly? You run a simple test VPN to see if it is leaking your IP address so that you can make the necessary changes.

Below are some of the most common VPN testing steps:

  • DNS leaks
  • WebRTC leaks
  • IP address leaks (IPv4 and IPv6)

The above steps include using a website to identify a problem.

How to test VPN leaks

The first step is to connect to a VPN server and find the test site. This method allows you t check how the VPN performs when your device is connected to a strong internet.

You can test VPN using below websites:

  • net (allows you to check IPv6, IPv4, DNS, and WebRTC)
  • Perfect Privacy test tools
  • ExpressVPN leak test
  • BrowserLeaks WebRTC Test

Things VPN hides

A VPN can conceal a lot of your information and enhance your online privacy. Here are some of the main data a good VPN should hide.

Your browsing history

When you surf the web, your web browser, as well as an internet service provider, can track almost everything you do. Some websites can also keep a history of places you have visited and the actions you took.

It is important to keep your browsing history private to avoid being target by marketers with ads. Or sometimes you may be sent high prices for items while the cheapest ones are hidden.

Your location and IP address

If someone captures your IP address, they can easily access what you have been searching online, as well as where you are located when you visited the web.

Your IP address is like a return address you put on your letter, so it can direct strangers back to your device if someone can capture it.

VPN uses a private IP address rather than your IP address, allowing you to keep your online privacy and surf the web anonymously.

Your search history is also protected and therefore the websites you visit will not collect, view, or sell your data.

You location

A good VPN can help hide your location and prevent strangers from eavesdropping on your online activities on your laptop, computer, smartphone, and tablet. Your gadget can be targeted by cybercriminals if you access the internet that is protected.

Your web activity

There are many surveillance activities going on today, and unscrupulous people may take advantage of you not using a VPN to spy on you. Most case of online surveillance is usually performed by the government. But with a VPN, you will be protected in case the government asks your internet service provider to avail of your internet activities.

How to choose a good VPN

As we have established, a great way to stay secured when using unprotected Wi-Fi is to use a VPN tool. However, there are lots of providers out there, which can be confusing to you when you won't choose a solution for your online protection.  Here are questions you should ask yourself when choosing a VPN solution provider.

  1. Are they ethical? Just because you’re protected by a VPN does not mean your information cannot be captured by the VPN provider. So make sure you choose respects the privacy of their client. A good VPN provider should have a no-log policy, which prevents them from tracking or logging your online sessions.
  2. Do they use updated protocol? Just so you know OpenVPN offers the strongest security compared to other protocols like PPTP. For this reason, you should go for a VPN provider that uses this protocol or any other that is current.
  3. Do they have data limits? Bandwidth should be the main deciding factor when choosing a VPN provider. Depending on your internet usage, make sure the VPN provider you choose matches your needs. You can establish this by checking if you get full, unmetered, bandwidth with no restrictions.

Though VPN has loads of benefits, it also has some drawbacks. Below are disadvantages of VPN:

  • Slows down the internet connection
  • Sites like Netflix usually blocks VPN services
  • The provider can sell your internet information to a third party
  • Connection breaks
  • It is hard to establish how strong the encryption offered by your VPN is.
  • Free VPNs are not effective
  • Illegal use of VPNs
  • Unjustified sense of online immunity

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