Online anonymity and security has become an increasingly hot topic in recent years. As hackers work on devising new ways to attack computer users and steal data to use for nefarious purposes, many users have started to look at the options available to help protect themselves against cyber attacks. Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, act as the first line of defense against potential attacks. Let’s take a look at how a VPN works, what benefits they provide and what factors should be considered when deciding on which VPN provider to use.
How a VPN Works
VPN’s act as funnels – they take your internet connection and funnel it through computers located in data centers in various locations throughout the world. By doing so, your IP address and location are masked and protected from hackers and malicious websites.
VPNs also provide another important security benefit – they are able to encrypt data being sent over unencrypted connections. When data is sent through unencrypted data connections, hackers can intercept the data and access it. This is particularly dangerous if usernames and passwords are being sent through the unencrypted connection.
VPNs encrypt all internet data being sent and received through an internet connection, even if an unencrypted internet connection is being used. This means that, if a hacker intercepts any data, they will not be able to access it or use it for their own purposes.
Additional Benefits of VPNs
In addition to increased security, VPNs provide a number of additional benefits to their users. Since the internet connection is being funneled through computers in data centers, internet filters and firewalls are bypassed allowing for blocked websites to be accessed freely. This can be useful in work environments where sites like YouTube are often blocked, as well as in countries like China which have country wide filters in place to block access to websites like Facebook.
VPNs also allow IP location restrictions on websites to be bypassed. By connecting to a VPN in a foreign country, the websites you visit will be tricked into thinking that you are browsing from the country the VPN is located in. For example, if you connect to a UK based VPN, any and all websites you access will be tricked into thinking that you are browsing from the UK. This allows for country specific websites such as the BBC iPlayer to be accessed from foreign soils.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a VPN
There are hundreds of VPN providers to choose from; two of the biggest and the most popular include HideMyAss and IPVanish. Each provider has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages that should be examined before signing up.
Make sure to compare the costs of the service and the quality of the customer service being provided. Many of the cheaper VPNs forgo quality customer service in favor of cheaper prices. It’s also important to compare the ease of use between different VPN providers. Some provide their own custom software to connect to their service while others require tinkering with complicated network settings. If you are not comfortable changing network settings, make sure to sign up to a VPN provider with easy to use software.
The availability of servers in different countries can also vary depending on the provider. Some providers have servers in hundreds of different countries while others may only have servers based in the US. If you will be accessing foreign websites on a regular basis, make sure to sign up to a VPN with servers located in a variety of different countries.
Finally, some VPN providers restrict use of their service to desktop computers while others allow for mobile devices to connect. If you are you planning to use a VPN on mobile devices, make sure to sign up to a VPN that allows you to do so. VPNs provide an easy way to increase security and preserve anonymity online while bypassing internet filters. When choosing which VPN provider to use, make sure to carefully examine their feature set to ensure that they will be able to meet your needs.