Online Safety and Privacy With A VPN
In recent months, we have heard increasing news about special internet providers that can guarantee better and safer navigation, especially since our daily time spent on the internet has constantly increased over the years. These tools are now known globally as “VPN connections”. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, reroutes the data your device sends while browsing the internet and sends it to an external server (somewhere miles from where you actually are). This process is quite useful because it masks your location, which is something you might need, especially when you are travelling the globe and you find yourself in a country that applies blocks on connections and websites (e.g. China usually imposes heavy censorship and blocks numerous social networks, as also the downloading and uploading of a lot of contents). All these features add an extra level of privacy to your online life.
What makes using a VPN really secure is that they encrypt the data your device sends out over the world wide web. This way, all your personal data becomes basically unreadable to potential cybercriminals. Thanks to the encryption, VPNs can hide your browsing history, browsing habits, and your IP address from any intrusive third parties or prying eyes. The IP (which stands for – Internet Protocol) address is especially crucial since it allows all your activity to be tracked and checked, which means that anyone can get access to your data. Of course, none of us surfing the internet on a daily basis has the intention of committing crimes or visiting pages that contain dangerous material, so this is not a reason to want a secure connection. The point is actually another: we are increasingly providing our personal data – such as an address, bank account credentials, credit card numbers and all the other personal details we definitely want to keep hidden – while we make purchases on e-commerces or maybe when we fill some administrative requests. In these cases, we have all the rights to want our connection to be private and invisible to any third party.
To be clear, a VPN is not the same as opening a private browsing tab on your device. Private tabs only prevent websites from collecting user data to send to third-party websites. They do not encrypt your data and, therefore, do not block others from potentially seeing your information.
Different kind of purposes
As we mentioned above, outside of general safety and privacy, VPNs have several other uses. For example, also business activities have all the interest in keeping their data safe. For this reason, many companies are using VPNs to safely connect their employees to the main server where the information will always be kept private. It’s a kind of need which has grown especially strong these days since remote working is gaining increased importance. From this point of view, VPNs can connect workers to a company’s private software, which might include email or scheduling apps. A company VPN will require a specific authorisation – information only given out to employees. Once an employee is authorised, they can connect to the company server and, just like a personal VPN, data is encrypted so that all company information is safe.
Since VPNs hide your location, you may also be able to get through blocks on streaming and social network services while you are travelling. It depends on the provider, but if yours has external servers, you can use them to access – for example – the Netflix catalogue and watch the series you like wherever you are (or any other content which is blocked in the country you are visiting). This basically means that you can continue to use your home country’s streaming services that you’re familiar with, in any part of the world.
Surfing safely on open networks
VPNs can also protect you while downloading online. They allow you to download anonymously, which is especially useful when downloading anything from sketchy torrent sites that may have third parties lurking for your information. While downloading anonymously with a VPN, any malicious entities will not be able to see what kind of activity you are doing. Not all VPN providers allow torrent downloading or downloading through P2P (peer-to-peer) networks, though, so make sure yours does that if you want to download in a completely safe way.
The need for security becomes even more important when on an open network. There are many cases when this happens: for example when we are in an airport in another country, or in a new city, or even when we are on business and we connect to the hotel’s wifi. All these situations expose our devices to leaks because we don’t know who else is connected to the same network and therefore we can’t be sure that our personal data is safe. Again, in these cases, a VPN comes in help, since it works as a “mirror” between our devices and possible breaches coming from other people connected to the same service.