Top 5 Reasons to Use a VPN

So you’ve done some research on VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), hopefully you’ve read my article on Proxies vs. VPNs (if you haven’t I suggest you start there) and decided that a VPN is the way to go. It is the strongest tool to protect your internet privacy.

Perhaps you are wondering ‘why use a VPN at all?’ what’s all the fuss is about: why do so many people take using a VPN seriously?

Well, my friend, you are about to find out. I have compiled…

The Most Popular Reasons to Use a VPN

1. Business– The first reasons to use a VPN came from the needs of businesses. With the dial up connections of old, companies had to have several landlines and modems in order to handle multiple connections (or back then, calls) from remote employees. This could get quite costly- especially for a small business. The integration of a VPN alleviated the need for multiple lines and allowed a remote user to connect to a local telephone line to gain access into the business’s encrypted tunnel.

The reasons to use a VPN for business continued to grow from there. Companies that have employees constantly traveling or located in remote offices across the country, or world, find VPNs invaluable. The employees are able to access all of the information on the company’s local server via VPN.

Encryption also provides another benefit for businesses to use a VPN. For those businesses handling sensitive information such as banks, or engineering firms that wouldn’t want their trade secrets to get out a VPN creates a way to effortlessly create a private connection

2. WiFi Security– In another one of my previous articles I went into some of the pitfalls of WiFi. Most people don’t realize it, but that coffee shop WiFi you use all the time, or that hotel WiFi that you connect to is not secure. On these networks it is amazingly easy for a hacker to gain control of the network and your computer: without you having any clue.

When you connect to a WiFi network all your traffic is sent via radio waves to the router and modem. Using what’s called sniffer software (evil twin phony hotspot, firefox tamper data as well) hackers can capture your information midstream. They can then see everything you type; email passwords, bank information and passwords, private messages, Facebook and Twitter activity, you name it.

Like me, I bet you’ve been in a jam where you needed a WiFi hotspot, you didn’t care where it came from as long as you can access the internet. Well, that’s not a good idea. Hackers have been known to set up their own hotspots to lure people like us to send our information straight to them.

Not to worry, this is what a VPN is made for. By using a VPN when you connect to a hotspot you no longer have to worry about the security of the WiFi network itself. The encrypted internet traffic that is generated is sure to keep wandering eyes wandering elsewhere.

3. Bypass Restrictive Connections– Ever been at school or work and felt like you were surfing the web in China or Syria? Many schools have an ‘acceptable internet usage’ policy comparable to that of authoritarian governments.

A VPN can be used to bypass these totalitarian school and work firewalls as well. What’s even better is that the system administrator won’t be able to collect any information because, you guessed it, it’s encrypted. So when using a VPN you are free to access Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter- whatever you desire at school or work- without fear of being blocked or reprisal.

Censorship in Thailand

One of the images used in Thailand when trying to access blocked content.

As with school and work firewalls you can also bypass country firewalls. In the country where I currently reside, Thailand, trying to access the Kings Wikipedia page- or over 22,500 other URLs- will get the image to the right.

Yes, Thailand is quite gratuitous when it comes to internet censorship. China even more so: people call their system The Great Firewall of China. It’s both ironclad and massive- Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Gmail, Google are just a few of the big names that are blocked.

Using a VPN can route your internet traffic so it looks like it’s going through another country. The tunnel, again, is also secure preventing enforcers from becoming peeping Toms.

4. Access Geoblocked Content– If you have traveled out of country and attempted to watch Hulu or Netflix without a VPN I bet you were sorely disappointed. These companies, and others, prevent access to their services from outside the account’s origin country (Canada can’t watch US Netflix, US cant watch UK Netflix, etc.). And other countries you simply can’t access Netflix at all (see image below) This sucks! Especially if you have an extended stay out of your country of origin.

But just like with restrictive connections of the countries themselves you can also use a VPN to get around what’s called ‘geoblocked’ content.  Here, again, a VPN not only encrypts your traffic but makes it look like you are surfing the web in another country entirely.

The message that you will receive when attempting to access Netflix in a geoblocked region.

The message that you will receive when attempting to access Netflix in a geoblocked region.

5. File Sharing– A lot of netizens use file sharing in their daily life. P2P and Bittorrents, however, are absolutely despised by corporations and the government. Often times internet service providers (ISP) monitor traffic like this and may report it, or forward a DMCA (Digital Millennium Act) or RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) letter to you. More frequently now, copyrights holders are following that up with a lawsuit.

Furthermore, ISPs have been known to shape or throttle internet speeds that are downloading torrents or P2P files. Meaning they cut your speed down because of the traffic you are requesting.

A VPN can cure all of this. Not only will the ISP not be able to see what your internet traffic is, and thus throttle your speed; but other snooping organizations that monitor these sites won’t be able to track you down either.

Can’t be Your Superman

Whether you fall into any of these categories or you just care about your privacy (see Personal Data Brokers) a VPN is an invaluable tool to internet privacy. In short, the reasons to use a VPN, like LiquidVPN‘s renowned worldwide services, are because it creates an encrypted tunnel that can bypass firewalls and create a means to communicate privately.

Take all of this with a grain of salt, though. Hackers are getting increasingly sophisticated, a well established company called Hacking Team that develops and sells hacking software was recently devastatingly hacked themselves, there are continually large breaches in massive corporations, even the US federal government is not immune to being infiltrated.

What I’m trying to say is this; there is no true 100% privacy on the internet. You can’t be Superman on the internet- impervious to all assaults. The best you can hope for is just being a dude with bullet proof vest that only protects you so much.

Stay tuned, in a future article I will introduce the common protocols used with VPNs.

feature image courtesy of Mats Linander via Flickr

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