Using a virtual network provider (VPN) is important if you want to protect your privacy. Still not using one yet? Here are some reasons why you should.
1. Staying safe on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi practically blankets the landscape today. It’s also insecure to use. Using public Wi-Fi should only be the last measure or emergency. Maybe you need to fire off a quick email to the boss, and you are out of cellular data. When you use public Wi-Fi, you should automatically assume that you’re being tracked. However, if you use a VPN, it’s harder for hackers and other third-party agents to track what you do.
If you’re a particularly security-conscious person, why stop at public Wi-Fi? Use it whenever and where ever you can. VPNs encrypt your web traffic so that even if someone intercepts it, he or she cannot figure out what you were doing.
2. Preventing tracking of your data
It’s scary what a hacker can do with your personal information. In most cases, it’s straight up identity theft. However, when a hacker steals your info, every person whom you have contacted is potentially in danger. If a hacker steals your email address, they can see every email you’ve sent and received, and the people you communicate with. They can pretend to be you and wreak havoc on your personal and professional life.
Maybe it’s not just any hacker that targets you. maybe it’s the government. Which brings us to number three.
3. Stop surveillance
In most cases, the government isn’t going to be exclusively targeting you unless you’re a whistleblower, journalist or another dissident. However, you are still being tracked. With Edward Snowden, the world learned of a nefarious NSA program called PRISM. The Guardian reported that “The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US. It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.”
Government surveillance isn’t the only issue. Another problem is the ongoing censorship of the internet.
4. Bypass censorship
The top ten countries that practice Internet censorship include:
- North Korea: The government controls all websites and only about 4% of the population has internet access.
- Burma: The authorities filter emails and block websites that expose human rights violations of the government, or that just disagree with the government.
- Cuba: Citizens can only use the internet at government-controlled web access points. The government monitors online activity through IP blocking, keyword filters and checking browser history.
- Saudi Arabia: The country currently blocks 400,000 websites, including those that discuss political, social or religious beliefs that disagree with Islam.
- Iran: Iranian bloggers have to register with the Ministry of Art and Culture. The government harasses and jails and opposition.
- China: Notorious for having the most rigid censorship in the world with the Great Firewall of China. The Chinese government filters searches, blocks certain websites and erases offensive content.
- Syria: The Syrian government arrests bloggers who “jeopardize national unity.” People wanting to use cyber cafes must provide identification, and the authorities collect time of use.
- Tunisia: ISPs report IP addresses and personal information of bloggers to the government. All web traffic passes through a central network, and the government filters uploaded content and emails.
- Vietnam: The Vietnamese Communist Party requires Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft to hand over data on all bloggers using their services. The Party blocks websites critical of the government and those that advocate for democracy, human rights, and religious freedom.
- Turkmenistan: The government is the only ISP here, and it blocks many websites and monitors Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail accounts.
5. Bypassing local network controls
A smaller form of censorship occurs in most schools and workplaces. The admins/IT team blocks certain websites. Some of this blocking is within good reason. For example, you definitely shouldn’t be watching porn at school or work. Other websites might not make sense, though, and this is where using a VPN helps you. Of course, if your boss or teacher catches you, you’ll probably get in trouble. USE WITH CAUTION.
6. Privately download/share files
Whether you pirate movies or don’t want your ISP to log your downloads, using a VPN prevents this from happening. Sometimes law companies target people who share files and accuse them of illegally downloading content. In some cases, these accusations are false.
7. Communicate privately
Don’t want anyone eavesdropping on your calls and messages? There are apps for that, but just by using a VPN on your phone, tablet or computer, you can prevent hackers from intercepting your communications.
8. Saving money
Did you know that shopping websites track you? Alternatively, when you buy airplane tickets, the airline tracks your cookies and web history to “dynamically” A lot ofchange your price? Companies like Google and other advertisers collect all of your personal information to build a profile of you. They know your age range, gender, your likes and dislikes, and much more.
If a shopping website knows that you’re a woman, it may even raise its prices accordingly. This is not only a gross privacy violation, but it also forces you to spend more.
9. Watch media
Content like Netflix, movies and television are restricted to certain geographic locations. Using a VPN lets people access content from their home country without it being blocked. Recently Netflix has started blocking VPN users from accessing its content. Using the right tools, it still might be possible to pull it off.
10. Stop ISP throttling
Some ISPs have started differentiating between types of bandwidth and content. This usually happens when users start downloading files or streaming videos. These use up more bandwidth than, say, texting. Your ISP then slows down your internet connection.
Sometimes an ISP will even throttle you if you use services provided by its competition. Instead of improving their services to fairly compete, they harm customers. Using a VPN Keeps your ISP neutral and lets you use any website or service you choose.