A virtual private network (or VPN) is one of the biggest recent security measures, and for a good reason. However, a lot of people still do not understand what a VPN is, much less exactly what a VPN can do to enhance your security, as well as the kinds of pitfalls you may face when using a VPN.
In order to clear up any confusion, we are going to discuss what a VPN does, as well as the benefits and downsides of using one.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a tool that provides you a private network to prevent greedy or bad actors from getting access to information you don’t want them to have.
The VPN masks your IP address, making your Internet usage virtually undetectable. The network also ensures that you have a secured and encrypted connection, increasing your privacy. It also ensures that someone is not able to track your location.
What is the benefit of having a VPN?
The benefit of having a VPN is ultimately going to depend on certain factors. In general, a VPN provides a heightened level of security for your devices. Your data is encrypted, ensuring that you cannot be so easily tracked.
Whether your information may be tracked by government agencies, bad actors, or corporations, there is a high degree of likelihood that you do not have to worry about it falling into their hands.
Social media websites have also had a number of serious controversies with respect to selling their users’ data, most notably in the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, where Facebook provided the data of many millions of its users to Cambridge Analytica without these users’ consent.
You can also use a VPN while your device is connected to public Wi-Fi to ensure that people who are also connected cannot do something untoward to you.
Another benefit of a VPN is that you are not restricted by your geographic location. This not only allows you to mask your location, but it also helps you get access to content that is not normally accessible in your location.
For example, the streaming website Netflix has different content depending on the location. If there is a show that is not available in US Netflix, but it is available in a different region, you can switch your location to watch it that way.
Many businesses these days have to work online, and as such, security risks become that much more significant for them. A VPN can ensure that data from your company is safely transmitted without prying eyes getting access to it.
Are there any downsides to having a VPN?
While a VPN is a helpful service, there are inherently going to be disadvantages that you need to consider. The most obvious of these disadvantages is the fact that, in order to get a good VPN, you are going to have to pay money for it.
This is obviously to be expected, but you need to be able to figure out if you can make it work with your budget. A VPN is going to be more beneficial for some people than others, so make sure that the benefits of a VPN are appealing to you.
Another issue that one faces with a VPN is that a VPN inherently will tax your Internet to some degree, as it is that one extra process connecting to your Internet connection. VPN security is also something to be mindful of; VPNs have been compromised in the past. Having a secure VPN is important, and some are less secure than others, especially ones that are free.
A VPN may also be leaking your VPN without your knowledge. There are ways you can test to see if your VPN is leaking your IP, so make sure to try those out when you use a VPN. There are also some fake VPNs that you have to keep an eye out for.
This issue is best detected if, while using your VPN and masking your geolocation, a website you visit is still able to detect your actual location. Before downloading any VPN, make sure that you double and triple check how good the VPN’s reputation is. Otherwise, this security measure may prove to make you less secure than you were without it.
Is a VPN worth it?
Determining worth, as mentioned above, will ultimately depend on your needs. Anyone using the Internet benefits from increased security, but some, such as a business owner, need it that much more. Furthermore, additional features, such as geolocation masking, are not as beneficial if you have no need to mask it.
If you do decide to go with a VPN, make sure that you are careful with your selection. Free VPNs are very much a “you get what you pay for” situation. Even with some actually good paid VPNs available, one VPN may be a better choice for you than another.