Everyone who is security conscious online has probably heard about VPNs. To those who do not know, a VPN is a way to connect two separate networks over the Internet as if they were in the same building. The connection is usually (and should be) encrypted so that third-parties cannot easily snoop on your data.
Other people use VPNs for the purposes of securing their connection / hiding their IP address when they surf online by sending all of their Internet traffic over a company’s VPN server. There are several companies that offer VPNs for a low cost to their users.
In this post, I am just going to talk about VPNs in the context of people using them to secure their connection and/or hide their IP address. I am not recommending any particular VPN service. You must make that decision for yourself.
Online privacy is important to many people. While people can (and do) use VPNs for malicious reasons, there are many people who legitimately use VPNs for privacy.
Good Reasons for VPNs
- VPNs can secure your connection over risky Internet links (e.g., coffee shop, hotels, airports, etc.).
- Access websites that only serve a particular country (e.g., someone in the UK could use a US VPN to access US-only content on a website).
- Prevent websites (and online advertisers) from knowing who is really accessing their content. Please note that browser fingerprinting makes it much harder to prevent websites from knowing who you are, and a VPN will not prevent a website from fingerprinting your web browser.
Bad Reasons for VPNs
- VPNs cannot keep you completely anonymous. All you are doing by using a VPN is making the VPN your “new” ISP. They can potentially mess with your data that you are sending through their servers. Also, someone could be tapping the Internet link that your VPN provider is using. This may compromise your privacy.
- Doing something malicious. No VPN will completely protect you if your are doing something to attract the attention of a large, well-connected organization (e.g., a government agency).
- Using a VPN because of “no logs” is not a good idea. I am sure there are some that really do not log, but even if they didn’t at some point, how do you know that they will not start logging without your knowledge?
- A VPN will not protect you from viruses. A virus (e.g., from a file download) can still infect your computer even if your are using a VPN.
- A VPN will not completely protect you from hackers either.
Posted in Computers, Internet and Servers, Security, VPN