When you hear “virtual private network,” you might think of some high-tech service that is way beyond your ken. After all, digital technology is advancing at a break-neck pace; 20 years ago, social media didn’t exist, and today, people are trading fully digital assets like cryptocurrencies and NFTs. You aren’t alone if you expect that there are some technologies that are beyond your ability to comprehend.
However, virtual private networks, or VPNs, are definitely approachable for the non-tech-savvy. These tech tools function as a buffer between your device and the internet, like a security screen that shields you, your device, and your data from anyone or anything lurking online. Far from being a tool reserved only for the most high-tech users, VPNs are useful to everyone. If you want more proof, consider the following good reasons you might want to use a secure VPN:
You Don’t Trust Your Internet Service Provider
Your internet service provider (ISP) is the company you pay to provide you with the internet. Unfortunately, ISPs aren’t the most trustworthy of businesses. For one, they function more or less as monopolies in different regions of the U.S., which allows them to set unnecessarily high rates and provide the bare minimum of customer service. For another, ISPs are in the data business, eagerly siphoning up data whenever their customers access the web and selling that data to online advertisers and any other interested parties.
A VPN protects you from some of the predatory practices of your ISP. When you connect to a VPN, your data should go to the VPN’s servers for encryption before it journeys through your ISP. As a result, the data your ISP collects will be encrypted and useless.
The only caveat is that less reputable VPN providers might not offer a private DNS server, instead of relying on your ISP’s servers — thereby continuing to give your ISP access to your data. If you don’t trust your ISP, you should look for a VPN service with private DNS servers.
You Sometimes Want to Use Public Wi-Fi
If you have heard it once, you have heard it a thousand times: Public Wi-Fi networks are not safe. The Wi-Fi networks you find at coffee shops or airports are convenient, but they are also riddled with insecurities. Anyone else using that Wi-Fi can see you when you are connected, and it doesn’t take much effort for bad actors on the network to infiltrate your devices and steal your data.
The only safe way to use public Wi-Fi is with a VPN. Because a VPN encrypts your data before it enters the public network, any bad actors on the network will see only a string of encrypted text if they try to view your data. What’s more, a VPN hides the location of your device, replacing its IP address with an address from the VPN. Thus, bad actors won’t be able to identify your device, let alone get into it while you are using a public network.
You Don’t Want Websites and Apps Collecting Your Data
Data is a valuable commodity, and almost everyone wants to collect data on web users for some reason or another. Some businesses buy user data to provide targeted advertising to online consumers; other businesses buy data to help companies develop new products or improve existing services. Ultimately, your data is helpful in providing a clear picture of who you are as a consumer and what will get you to buy more stuff.
Some people hate the idea of businesses profiting off their personal data, but data collection practices can be dangerous for other reasons. Many data brokers are targeted by cybercriminals, and data leaks can result in personal and financial information being used for nefarious purposes.
To prevent all software and websites from collecting your data, you need a VPN that keeps your device fully covered. A standalone VPN application or a VPN-ready router are both good options for protecting you from all forms of data collection.
You Suspect the Government Is Watching You
It is hardly a secret that governments spy on their own citizens. In 2013, Edward Snowden revealed that the National Security Agency in the U.S. was purchasing user data from phone companies, and even in 2021, the Defense Intelligence Agency found that government agencies are still paying data brokers for information about Americans’ online behavior.
You don’t need a tinfoil hat to protect you from government surveillance; these days, you need a VPN. You can even take advantage of location services from VPNs, which route your traffic through a server in another country, preventing government agencies from knowing where you and your device are located, let alone what you are doing while online.
You don’t need to have advanced tech skills to install and use a VPN, and the benefits of a VPN certainly outweigh the costs. If you don’t want your ISP, websites, applications, other web users or the government spying on your internet activity, you need a VPN today.