Have you ever thought about how much of your life resides on the inherently insecure internet? Well, if you have, you’ve probably felt a little jittery. Although the world wide web is almost as essential to the modern world as food and water, it is an unmanageable jungle where hackers are thriving, and restrictions from totalitarian regimes are common.
Thankfully, virtual private networks (VPNs) exist to keep you, the average internet surfer, in control of everything you do online. A proper VPN will protect your digital life by keeping you out of reach from the hackers, snoopers and mass data collectors in your network. Moreover, because it essentially connects you to a remote server in a different location, a VPN can also help you circumvent geo-restrictions against accessing blocked sites or the internet as a whole.
Unsurprisingly, the use of VPNs has been on a steady rise in recent times. According to research company Global Web Index, about 25 percent of all online goers access the internet with a VPN. Like most mainstream things, however, the use of VPNs is tainted by numerous myths, ranging from misinformed pro-VPN beliefs to unfounded reasons not to use one.
In this article, we look at some of the most prevalent misconceptions about the use of virtual private networks, and why you shouldn’t believe them.
1. You Only Need A VPN If You’re Doing Something Illegal Online
The majority of VPN users across the world use them to navigate around geographical restrictions and access content that is not available in their region. But just because VPNs are used to circumvent policies for internet use doesn’t mean that that’s their sole purpose.
VPNs are designed to encrypt communication, thereby securing your data from anyone else connected to your network. A good time to connect to a VPN is when you’re accessing your work data using a public Wi-Fi network. You may not be doing anything wrong, but a VPN will help you keep any company information safe. In fact, it is paramount to use a VPN whenever you connect to a public network
2. A VPN is A VPN
You may not have enough expertise to distinguish one from the other, but some VPNs are better than others. While all VPNs will encrypt your communications as you connect to their servers, the type and level of encryption vary across VPN services.
Therefore, weighing your choices carefully is critical when choosing a VPN. Take a good look at the protocols offered, and strive to pick a provider with OpenVPN rather than PPTP, since the latter is an obsolete protocol.
Another variable to consider is whether or not your prospective VPN provider logs client sessions. Most VPNs don’t retain logs, but it’s best to confirm that no personal data is stored, and the activities you engaged in while connected to the VPN are not logged in any way.
3. You Don’t Have To Spend Money On A VPN
If you’ve just drained your wallet getting a decent laptop, the last thing you want someone to mention to you is another thing you need to buy. Understandably, therefore, a free VPN can be more convincing than a paid service.
However, free VPNs usually come with a few downsides. The first thing you’ll notice is how slow your connection gets. And after a few hours of intensive browsing, a notification will pop up alerting you that you have exhausted your allowed bandwidth for the day.
If that doesn’t sound horrible enough, free VPN providers are notorious for logging sessions and offering browsing data, email accounts and personal information to big data collectors. They won’t be charging you, so they’ll need to raise money somehow, right? Also, your experience will likely be riddled with unpleasant adware and intrusive pop-ups, all which go against the very purpose of using a VPN.
A premium VPN may seem expensive, but it will guarantee you optimum speeds and total privacy while online.
4. VPNs Are Slow
It is common saying that using a VPN creates an additional channel for traffic to go through before it can reach you, and this affects your browsing speeds. Sure, that explanation makes some sense, but it is not entirely true.
All internet users will agree that enlisting to a service that can potentially undermine connectivity makes for a tough sell. But, before you wrongly conclude that a VPN is one of those services, consider the facts.
First of all, the speed of your VPN will depend on the speed of your connection, which it won’t be able to exceed. Additional factors like the distance of your remote server, the number of computers connected to the server, VPN protocols and encryptions, ISP speed limitations, and even the performance of your computer will also influence your internet speeds.
Ultimately, it is important to check the specifications when signing up for a VPN service. For instance, a premium VPN provider with local or regional servers will offer faster speeds than a free provider whose servers are half-way across the world.
5. You Have a VPN, So Anything Goes!
A proper VPN will hide your IP address and provide protection when you’re on an untrusted network, but it won’t give you a license to do anything you want on the internet. Therefore, while you may be able to access a blocked site anonymously, you won’t be entirely safe from malware, scams, phishing or hacking attacks. A VPN is not a firewall or an antivirus, so, unless you have all those things in place and correctly configured, downloading infected content will undoubtedly infect your system.
Moreover, no VPN will offer you 100 percent anonymity. Because the data will still be transmitted over the public internet, a skilled digital forensics professional can identify illegal activity, such as pirating copyrighted material, even when you’re using a VPN.
A virtual private network can be an excellent tool for enhancing privacy and security online, but for it to work efficiently, you must understand the truths about the technology. VPNs have much more to offer than unrestricted internet access, and a good provider will help alleviate any concerns you may have regarding your browsing experience.
More importantly, you need more than just a VPN to stay safe on the web. Keep your firewall, antivirus and supporting security devices well configured to ensure the highest level of protection at all times.