Many people know about VPN (Virtual Private Network) services and how they can change your location and remove geographical restrictions. However, the cybersecurity perks of these programs usually aren’t the main attraction for the average consumer. Instead, most buyers search for providers that can expand their streaming service libraries.
That’s why we believe it’s vital to inform people about the inner workings of VPN technology and how it improves your cybersecurity. After all, the modern world is primarily digital, meaning many aspects of your life depend on online security.
How a VPN works?
The basic principle of virtual private networks is surprisingly simple. Without a VPN, you connect directly to the servers of your ISP (Internet Service Provider) to access the world wide web. While standard practice, this does have some drawbacks.
For starters, your ISP (and, by extension, the government) can monitor all of your online activities. Additionally, it can restrict access to certain websites, thus limiting your web-surfing potential. And if you’re in a region that doesn’t respect freedom of information, clicking on the wrong link can land you in hot water with the authorities.
On the flip side, a virtual private network acts as an intermediary between you and your ISP. The VPN app redirects your online traffic through remote encrypted servers before continuing through your ISP’s servers. This detour makes it appear that you’re connecting from the location of the VPN server. Furthermore, encryption makes your activities entirely unreadable to your ISP.
Unsurprisingly, adding an extra destination between you and the internet will inevitably slow down your connection. However, the degree of this slowdown depends on a wide range of factors. The most obvious one is the distance between you and the server, but you should also pay attention to tunneling protocols and the number of servers in the region.
While the process of using a VPN appears straightforward, there are loads of differences between service providers, which can significantly affect your performance and experience. Therefore, it’s important to note what differentiates the best VPN services from the rest.
How to pick a VPN service that fits your needs
It can be challenging to determine the top VPNs because there are so many aspects to consider. For example, comparing NordVPN vs ExpressVPN, two leaders in the VPN industry, shows us vastly different approaches to achieving excellent results.
As such, we recommend picking a primary reason for getting a VPN and then checking what the provider offers in that area. Here are some considerations for specific use cases.
- Speed. Make sure the provider supports modern tunneling protocols, such as WireGuard. Plus, many servers will keep traffic congestion between users low.
- Security. A standard VPN connection improves security tremendously by default. However, you should look for extra tools against ads and trackers if you want to go the extra cybersecurity mile.
- Privacy. Anonymity enthusiasts should look for providers with verified zero-logs policies and excellent data retention practices.
- Content unblocking. Have a look at the country variety and server numbers if you want the best results when unlocking geo-blocked content.
How a VPN protects you?
Now, it’s finally time to overview the specific cybersecurity benefits a well-performing VPN brings.
- Hides your IP and location. A VPN prevents others from tracking your online activities by obfuscating your current IP address and whereabouts.
- Prevents mass surveillance and censorship. Encryption makes it impossible for ISPs and other nefarious onlookers to monitor your activities and affect your browsing experience.
- Blocks ads, trackers, phishing malware. Cybercriminals have many tools at their disposal for disrupting your digital life. Thankfully, the best VPN services are equipped with various tools for blocking every possible threat.
- Protects you on public networks. Publicly available Wi-Fi networks are a common hunting ground for hackers. Therefore, you should enable a VPN on the go to keep your data secure and impenetrable to outsiders.
Is a free VPN good enough for online protection?
There are hundreds of VPN services available, many of which are of sub-par quality. In fact, the most common sign of inadequate security is the absence of a paid subscription. After all, it’s unrealistic to expect top-notch quality from a service without a constant revenue stream.
Furthermore, some of the worst free VPNs make ends meet by collecting user data and bombarding them with malicious ads. Meanwhile, trustworthy freemium services impose debilitating restrictions, such as data caps and ultra-slow connection speeds.
Naturally, they also reserve the best security features for paying customers. That means you must invest in a paid provider if you want to stay protected against the latest cybersecurity threats.
VPNs can be described as simple tools that change your location and unblock region-exclusive content. However, under the hood, they are reasonably complex and provide much-needed protection by encrypting your traffic.
Moreover, top industry players defend customers against exceptionally-dangerous threats, although only some need such security. Ultimately, it’s up to you to figure out your threat model and the necessary security tools, but you’ll likely need a VPN anyway.