When you purchase access to the internet, you do not have automatic protection of your privacy. Even if whatever you do on the web seems to be hidden in your computer, your online moves are recorded by your browser and your internet service provider (ISP). Although you may not need to worry that your online activities are known by others, you have no control over how they will interpret them. When you look at a website that sells cars, a third party may not know your real intention for doing so, but it may still decide to target you with ads of cars for sale.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more people have used the internet to take care of vital needs, which they used to deal with offline. These people, possibly you included, spend more of their time online and share more information about themselves, including private information, such as their medical conditions. However, you have no guarantee how your internet service provider manages all your online records. While you might have had the option to keep some aspects of your life offline in the past, you now have less of a choice with the challenges caused by COVID-19.
Also, you probably would like to enjoy surfing the web instead of constantly worrying about how others could understand your choice of websites you visit. While your internet service provider may ignore most of what you do online, it saves everything and that information is retrievable if needed; you may not have the option to ask your provider to delete your online record nor the option to rectify how third parties interpret your online activities.
Nowadays, learning how to protect your data privacy can be tricky. Buying a subscription to a virtual private network (VPN) service, can be handy if you would like to steer away from the troubles arising from disclosure of online records. In what follows, you will find out some of the reasons you need to purchase access to and how to get a VPN. Besides keeping your online visits private, you will soon know some of the additional benefits of using a VPN; some of these benefits are access to your favorite websites even if they are blocked overseas, protection of your data when using a public Wi-Fi, and protection of your devices against malware.
What happens without a VPN
Your web history can be used by marketers to bombard you with ads.
When you visit the web, your internet service provider has a record of all the websites you have visited. Whether it be this pair of shoes, this car, or these videos you have looked at, your internet service provider has all this stored. Marketers love this trove of data because they can use it to show you ads you may be interested in. Ever wonder why you kept seeing ads of cars when you visit websites? You have probably looked at cars online, so marketers figured that you might be interested in buying one. Knowing how to hide your IP address while surfing the web can take some time, and your internet service provider may not want to assist you with doing that.
A VPN service provider has a strict no-log policy, so your web history is not stored nor shared with anyone. While you are using a VPN, your internet service provider knows nothing about your online whereabouts but the fact that you are using a VPN. Some of the best VPN providers for PCs and mobile phones have a no-log policy.
Your web history can be accessed without your consent.
According to an article in the New York Times, the U.S. has collected the web histories of many of its citizens without their consent. It has also collected logs of their phone calls.
According to Slate, Mauritius has enacted laws that would allow the government to divert its citizens’ web traffic to its servers so that it can identify the source of the traffic and block messages deemed unsuitable to be published.
The Guardian also mentions in this article that two internet service providers have secretly tracked and collected websites that its customers visited; they have recorded the websites, when their customers visited them, and how much data they downloaded.
If you go online on Google or Safari Incognito Mode, neither prevents your internet service providers from tracking your online activities. That feature instead stops your computer from saving your online activities, such as your browsing history. You can find out more in this article.
When you use a VPN to access the internet, your ISP does not have a record of your online visits. Also, a VPN service assigns a different IP address to your computer, so your online visits cannot be tracked to the IP address that your ISP assigns to your computer. If you have been thinking about how to hide your IP address, you get something close with a VPN.
What you get with a VPN
You can access your favorite TV shows when abroad.
If you travel around the world and would like to watch your favorite TV shows while abroad, you may unfortunately be unable to do so because of geo-blocking. Some shows can be aired in some geographic locations while being blocked in others.
For example, during the Paralympics (August 24th – September 5th , 2021) in Tokyo, New Zealanders were blocked from watching the events on YouTube, but Television New Zealand waived its geo-blocking right to give New Zealanders access to the games.
In January 2021, the European Commission has fined the online game company Valve and five publishers because of geo-blocking practices, which violate regulations about the single market within the European Union.
Hulu is a company that provides access to streaming videos, such as TV shows and movies. Its subscription offers are available only to households in the US. Its Live TV subscription is available only to people from the continental US. If you are outside of the US, you won’t be able to subscribe to Hulu nor access your favorite TV shows.
Many virtual private network (VPN) service providers include the feature in their products that allow you to change your IP address to countries of your liking, so you can still enjoy shows from your home country while you are away traveling around the world.
You can use a VPN for gaming.
Being able to use a VPN for gaming is one more perk. If you play multiplayer games with people all over the world, you can use a private network that all players can use.
You can access online content even if it is blocked from where you live.
If you travel around the world for business or leisure, you may want to inform yourself on your favorite news websites or stay in touch with friends and family by messaging them or sharing pictures and videos of some of the places you have visited. In some countries, many websites, including social media and other sharing platforms, are blocked.
A virtual private network (VPN) service gives you the option to change your IP address to a country where these websites are accessible. If you need to use some of the best VPNs for your PC and mobile phone, check to see if the provider offers that feature.
In China, many websites are blocked from internet users. This blocking infrastructure is called the Great Firewall of China. Some of the blocking mechanisms used are:
- IP blocking
- Packet filtering
- DNS injection
- IP address denials based on keywords
Some of the websites blocked by the Great Firewall of China are Google, YouTube, and Facebook.
Russia has been experimenting with an internet infrastructure called RuNet that could block internet users in Russia from visiting websites hosted outside of Russia.
The Guardian reported in February 2021 that the Myanmar’s army had ordered Facebook to be blocked in the country on the charge that the people in Myanmar had been using Facebook to cause trouble.
Following unrest in Cuba, the government has blocked access to Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and others.
According to this report, many websites are blocked in Iran, some of which are
Your credentials cannot be leaked even if you are using a public network.
Have you used the public Wi-Fi at coffee shops or other venues? If you have and do not know how to protect your data privacy, you may regret it. When you use a public Wi-Fi, your traffic can be seen by anyone who knows how to look, whether it be the websites you have visited or credentials you have used, such as credential information (e.g. username and password) for banking or email checking. There are other risks when using a public Wi-Fi, such as your computer being injected with malware. Eric Geier, from PCWorld, showed how easily accessible tools can be used to see websites people visit and log-in credentials they use while using a public Wi-Fi.
When you use a virtual private network (VPN) your traffic past the VPN is encrypted, so snoopers cannot see what you are doing, although they may know that you are using a VPN.
You can use a virtual private network with several types of devices, such as desktops, mobile phones, and tablets.
You probably use your mobile phone to access the web just as much or maybe even more than using your computer. If so, you are just as vulnerable when using your computer as when using your mobile phone. The good news is that you can also use a virtual private network on your mobile phone. If you use an iPhone, it is as simple as searching your VPN provider in the App Store and downloading the app. You can also use the VPN on your tablet, such as an iPad.
Many VPN services include protection from malware.
If you spend a long time on the web, you will eventually know how vulnerable your devices can be from malware infections. Whether it be clicking on a link from a phishing email, opening a search result, or just visiting a website, there is always a risk that your devices may be infected by malware. And if this happens, the damages may be irreparable, some of which can be identity theft, encryption of your computer files, and leak of your personal information.
Besides encrypting your web traffic, companies that provide some of the best VPN service for PCs and mobile phones offer a feature in your subscription package that protects your devices from malware.
Free versus paid VPN
Free subscriptions do not offer the same protection as paid subscriptions.
Although using a virtual private network (VPN) for free seems beneficial, you need to think twice before jumping onto the bandwagon. When you pay to use a VPN, the provider has an interest to offer high-quality features and to keep you satisfied. However, a free version of the service may not have enough features to suit your needs or may be just a scam that may cost you more than just money. That is why paying to use a VPN may be a much better investment. Here are some of the reasons you need to avoid free VPN services:
Free VPN services have fewer features than paid ones. For example, ProtonVPN offers a free option that works in only 3 countries and with 1 device while its paid version works in 55 countries and with 10 devices. Hotspot Shield offers only encryption for its free VPN option while it offers several other features for the paid version, such as unlimited bandwidth, no ads, more than 3,200 servers in more than 70 countries, and 24/7 tech support.
A free VPN service may not even encrypt your online activities. ZDNet has reported that the VPN provider Hola offers a free version that does not encrypt the app users’ web traffic and asks those users to relinquish some of their devices’ computing resources, which Hola monetizes.
According to the same report, many of these providers that offer free VPN services have ignored their customers’ requests for assistance.
By now, you know some of the reasons why you need to buy a subscription to a virtual private network (VPN). If you are wondering how to get a VPN, the service provider you choose will help you sign up once you are on its website.
Using a VPN can help solve the problem of how to hide your IP address while surfing the web. What also makes a VPN useful is that you can still access and enjoy your favorite online content while being abroad, which would be very difficult if you could not change your IP address to a region where such content is available; some of the best VPNs for PCs and mobile phones have that feature. On top of that, you may be able to use the VPN with several devices, such as your computer, mobile phone, and tablet.
Also, the fact that you can use a public Wi-Fi without any worries when using a VPN is phenomenal, worries such that your bank account being emptied or your email account being accessed by hackers; you can enjoy all what a city has to offer, including its free Wi-Fi.
Another perk you get from purchasing a subscription to a VPN from some providers is malware protection. Constantly being vigilant online can take away all the fun of browsing the web, and hackers exploit as many vulnerabilities as possible to attack people’s devices, including internet users not being too cautious.
Be careful of free VPN options since you may not have the protection you need.
If you have questions about the provider you are interested in, you can visit its website to see if your questions have been answered. Otherwise, you can contact the provider to ask your questions.