Interested in using a VPN? Maybe you already use one, but you don’t know much about them yet. Here are some common myths about VPNs and why they aren’t true.
Myth #1: You only need a VPN if you’re doing something illegal
A common misconception surrounding issues of privacy and security is accountability. That is, you might say “I have nothing to hide, so why should I use a VPN?” Sure, using a VPN is useful for hiding criminal activity, but that doesn’t mean using one *makes* you a criminal, unless you live in the United Arab Emirates. Data security is a good idea, whether you’re doing something illegal or not.
“There’s a counter to every attack. The idea is you can play the cat-and-mouse game forever.”
When governments and corporations take steps to erode privacy by requiring backdoors and limiting encryption, they’re only hurting good guys. The bad guys will always find a way to stay a step ahead, but good guys might not, simply because they don’t have that type of mentality. We certainly don’t support doing illegal things, but it just so happens that bad guys often use the same tools that good guys do.
Myth #2: Using a VPN makes your Internet slow
Since LiquidVPN routes all of your web traffic through bare metal servers, sometimes in another country, it might seem like it would slow your browsing. That is not always true. The bandwidth you will get depends mostly on your internet connection. It also depends on how far away the server is to your location. If you live in the United States and you are using a server in Switzerland your traffic tunnels through more endpoints. Each end point will have some effect on speed (bandwidth & latency.)
When looking for a VPN to use, try to find one that has bare metal servers in countries you want to use. You will be able to pick and choose which server to use – likely one that is closest to your location.
Myth #3: Free VPNs are equal to Paid VPNs
A common saying in computer security is: If the service is free, then you are the product. That is – things cost money, and many free services need to make up their costs in other ways. Advertising is the most common money-making tool.
Myth #4: All VPNs are created equal
Not true at all. Some VPNs are better than others. Taking the step to use a VPN means you’ve decided that securing your browsing is important. A couple of things to keep in mind when VPN shopping:
- Pick a provider that uses OpenVPN as their main protocol instead of PPTP. PPTP is obsolete and riddled with security holes.
- Make sure the VPN provider doesn’t keep session logs. Logging is a spectrum, and VPNs fall on this spectrum in different areas. For example, some keep no logs; some keep minimal logs, and some keep session logs.
In any case, a good provider explains what information it includes in the logs. Make sure that your personal data is not included. Whether it’s your email address or browsing activity, you don’t want a VPN log in the wrong hands.
Myth #5: Using a VPN offers total protection
The most important thing to keep in mind is that using a VPN is not a 100% failsafe. It will not provide you with protection from prosecution. Using a VPN won’t prevent you from getting phished or getting a virus. Combine a VPN with being internet savvy to be ahead of the game. Don’t visit suspicious websites, don’t click weird links in your emails. Your VPN can hide your location and encrypt your data until it reaches the Internet. That is it.
Myth #6: Tor is a better alternative to a VPN
Tor is less anonymous than you might think. Tor itself admits this on its website. Although Tor encrypts your web connections once you’re on the onion network, third parties can still see where web traffic enters and exits the network. After that, it’s possible to connect the dots and identify your location. Put another way: If you’re the only person within a 10-mile radius using Tor, then it’s easy for the FBI to catch you.
A report [PDF] from the US Naval Research Laboratory and Georgetown University studied how this.
“In general we consider it realistic that an adversary can observe, delay, alter, drop, or add communication in a variety of ways. As will become clear from our analysis, however, an adversary that merely passively observes can be significant and illuminating.”
Myth #7: Privacy companies are private
Hola Better Internet is an extension for Firefox and Chrome that lets you watch blocked content overseas. However, behind the scenes, people found that the company sold its users’ bandwidth to anyone with enough cash. Essentially, Hola turned its users into a botnet for hire.
“Analyzing your use of mobile applications and data…with information we receive from Affiliates or third parties…Operating the Services, such as virtual private networks and device monitoring.”
Myth #8: Anonymity and privacy are the same things
You can use private web browsing, Tor, encrypted messaging apps like Signal, all while using a VPN. You’ll certainly be private, but not necessarily anonymous. These tools protect you against mass surveillance, but not surveillance that specifically targets you. If there is a warrant out against you, or the NSA is after you, they are still going to get you.
If an adversary with enough manpower and resources like a government want to get you, they will find you. The only way to hide with 100% anonymity is to quantum teleport to a planet on the other side of the galaxy.
Are there any myths we might have missed? Do you have a question that only an industry insider can answer? Let us know in the comments below.