The term VPN is often used today when referring to all of the different ways you can protect your privacy while surfing the internet.
There are an increasing number of VPN providers available to you. This leads to many of us asking, how much protection does a VPN really provide?
Ted’s Lab took a stab at answering that question for us. The good news is that since most of us are not the subject of federal investigations, a VPN provides us sufficient privacy.
What is a VPN?
A virtual private network (VPN) gives you a private, secure connection to the internet. If you use a public WiFi, it can keep other people from seeing what you’re doing online.
A VPN is a great way to protect your privacy when using the internet on a public computer or connection. VPNs also offer other benefits also.
With a VPN, you can use a server in a country other than the one in which you’re located. Which means that no one can see where you’re located while you’re online.
There can also be some downsides to a VPN.
A VPN creates a connection, often referred to as a tunnel, for your information to travel from your device to the available VPN server.
This connection is encrypted, so the information that travels through the VPN is hidden. You appear to be located where the VPN server to which you have connected is located. Your true location remains hidden, so no one knows exactly where you are.
Some countries, like China, prevent people from browsing certain websites. A VPN allows you to browse the internet without worrying about those country-specific limitations.
When you use a VPN, you can change your location to a country that does not have the same restrictions.
Is it Safe to Use a VPN?
Yes, a VPN is safe, but there are some parameters you need to be aware of.
You should ensure that your VPN has high quality service. There are hundreds of VPNs from which you can choose and many of them are free.
Remember, you often get what you pay for and the free ones tend to have bugs and problems. Those known problems are explained below.
When you are using a product to protect your identity and information, you do not want something with flaws. Free VPNs often give you some other things for which you did not ask. Things such as:
- They track you, but hide it inside the app.
- They allow third parties access to your information.
- They are known to leak IP addresses.
- They have problems with identity theft and fraud.
- Some free VPNs embed malware in their apps.
- You run the risk of having your browser hijacked.
You should also pay special attention to VPNs that offer lifetime subscriptions. Remember, they are offering you a service. If the service seems cheap, then you may not be getting the highest quality features.
There are VPN scams where they claim features they cannot really provide. Some VPNs have been known to post false reviews.
What Should You Avoid When Looking For a VPN?
You need to do significant research before using a VPN that is free. You should also avoid VPNs that offer a lifetime subscription for a really low price.
Keep in mind that all of the features that a reliable VPN is offering and those protections are not cheap.
One reliable server costs about $100 per month and a good VPN has hundreds of servers. Doing that math alone, you can see that just maintaining those servers costs thousands of dollars per month.
Servers also have a limit on the amount of data that can move through them at any given time. When that limit is exceeded, the VPN company must pay more money.
It is easy to see how the cost goes up for a VPN and if they are offering the service for really low rates to you, how are those costs being paid?
It seems more logical that the VPN may not be providing the services as they claim.
There are some potential leaks of which you should be aware. There are some VPNs that have had problems with the internet protocol (IP) address leaking from the encrypted tunnel.
One of the known problems is with IPv6 addresses because some VPN cannot support them properly. Some VPNs have had leaks of browsing histories.
Your browsing history and your location could potentially be leaked out of your secure connection.
You should do some research before selecting a VPN. Make sure you find a reliable one.
When researching, you should look for VPNs that have:
- Independent sources that audit their products and provide reports you can review
- Positive, authentic reviews
- 30 day money back guarantees so you can test the VPN for yourself
- A reliable history. Stay away from VPNs you have not heard of.
- A no log policy to ensure they are not keeping records of your data use
- The latest technology for encryption
A VPN can be a great way to protect your location and your personal information, as long as the VPN you use is credible.
As with anything, there is always someone trying to make quick money by scamming others. Protect yourself by doing some research and finding out as much as you can about the VPN before you use it.
We would love to hear your thoughts about how a VPN has helped protect your privacy while surfing the web. Please leave us comments and let us know how it has worked for you.