Why do I need a VPN?
As we see more and more articles about online security and consumption of online content grows, we are becoming aware of online restrictions and Wi-Fi or data vulnerabilities. Traditionally VPN’s or Virtual Private Networks has only been used by businesses to enable their employees to access a company’s internal network securely. Nowadays people are using them for personal privacy and watching TV.
What can a VPN be used for?
The services were originally designed to improve security for large organisations and this requirement has now widened to the general public. Virtual Private Networks offer security by tunnelling your internet connection between your computer and the server (via your internet provider). However, this tunnel is highly encrypted, meaning only you and the VPN provider have the key to code and decode the information (not even your ISP can read your files, emails or internet history).
VPNs, therefore, help protect all your data across all devices, especially when via a public Wi-Fi, as these can easily be hacked, which leaves all your data open and can put your devices at risk of infection.
Online shoppers have also started using VPNs to purchase geo-restricted content such as BBC iPlayer and SkyGo. However savvy online shoppers have also been using VPNs to avoid local taxes in their home country. For example, you could access services to avoid GST, or use a Virtual Private Network to stream content not available in your market.
Using a VPN restricts a hackers ability to view or collect files you may consider personal. This does not necessarily mean illegal; it could be something as simple as an embarrassing photo or a private email. What’s more, geo-blocked content restricts a users ability to watch online content, content that you might have bought. Imagine, you’re on a business trip and you want to check the latest football highlights, which might be restricted. However, with a VPN, accessing your favourite team’s website is unrestricted and seamless.
Do I want a cheap VPN?
Signing up for a cheap VPN or free VPN can have dangerous consequences. The cost of running a secure network is not cheap and companies that offer these services at a discounted rate or for free are often getting their profits from a third party… either by generating adware that will track the sites you visit or by selling your data online. Don’t be fooled into a cheap or free service, it’s counterintuitive and puts your internet freedom at risk. However some providers do offer a trial or free service with limited bandwidth, as a means for you to test the network – For a completely free VPN service try TunnelBear, otherwise, try VyprVPN for a risk-free 3-day trial.
How to choose the best VPN
Selecting the right provider isn’t easy (that’s why we are here to help), but it mostly falls down to two questions. Are you mostly concerned about privacy or are you looking to gain access to potentially restricted content online?
Security – Most VPN’s will provide a strong security package that protects you from the most common forms of hacking and fraud. However, if you’re interested in high-security services, then It’s important to know where your provider is based. In recent years some countries have got together to exchange information freely (know at the 14 eyes collective – named after 14 countries that are part of the alliance), nominally in a bid to enhance everyone’s security. However, this could also be a cover to reduce internet freedom and improve state surveillance.
Content Streaming – If you’re looking to stream content freely from geo-restricted countries via a VPN, then most services will provide adequate access to the most common websites. However be careful to ensure your provider doesn’t require ‘add-on’ services to unblock the most popular websites. This is a common tactic and it can increase the monthly cost of your provider.
What is the ’14 Eyes’ collective?
The 14 Eye Collective is a collection of 14 countries that openly collect, analyse and share information with each other. The original Five Eyes has grown to include a total of 14 countries, these countries were added over time, and now include Denmark, France, Holland, Norway, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Spain. If your provider is based in a country that is part of the 14 Eyes, it can be asked to share data of its customers and will legally have to comply.
VPN in China
It’s well known that China is not a fan of VPN’s, as its seen as a way to counter the Great Firewall and China has been cracking down on these services to an even great degree over recent months. However, there are still some VPN options available in China, including NordVPN, but users should expect some level of disruption as providers compete to keep up with China’s developments.
VPN versus TOR
A Virtual Private Network and the TOR Network will ensure you are almost 100 percent protected when using the internet. However, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. The TOR Network is arguably the more powerful form of encryption. However, the TOR network is unpractical and cumbersome for daily usage. Therefore it’s far easier and more practical to simply tunnel your data requests via an encrypted VPN and stream Netflix easily and effortlessly.