VPN Advantages You Didn’t Know and Pitfalls to Avoid

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If you want to do anything sensitive on the internet, it’s important to use a VPN (virtual private network). According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center or the IC3, internet-enabled theft was responsible for $6.9 billion in financial losses, and over 50,000 people had their identities stolen in 2020. The number of complaints and economic losses have skyrocketed over previous years.

Basically, you’ll want to use a VPN if you use the internet to work, shop, sell or buy. It is also imperative to use a VPN if you share crucial and confidential information to a far-off location. A VPN is a straightforward and safe way to ensure data safety, data protection and privacy.

What is a VPN?

By definition – V in a VPN stands for Virtual: a digital infrastructure that does not require a wired cable connection and can be set up effortlessly. P is for Private; a VPN encrypts your information and protects you from hackers or anyone who might intend to use your data for the wrong reasons. Lastly, the N stands for Network or the interconnection between different devices.

A virtual private network creates a secure alley, also referred to as a tunnel between your device, which can be a laptop, smartphone, tablet or iPhone, and the internet. VPN’s are useful in gaining access to restricted content, anonymous surfing and safe torrenting.

“A VPN has the power and capability to ensure that you no longer connect directly to the Internet, but that you make a “stopover” at the VPN server, so to speak,” said Gary Cuff, CEO of Bitcoin Miners Hashrate. “So you first establish a connection to the VPN server and from there you then connect to the Internet. All you need is a so-called “VPN client," which takes care of establishing a secure connection to the VPN server for you."

How do people use VPNs?

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According to research by Security.org, nearly 41% of Americans use VPNs for business and personal purposes. Most people use virtual private networks because it:

  • helps individuals avoid targeted ads,
  • allows them to access content restricted to certain geological zones,
  • allows anonymous internet browsing,
  • makes it easy for users to use public Wi-Fi networks without worrying about being tracked, and
  • allows them to protect themselves from viruses and worms

Types of VPN

Remote access VPN

A remote access virtual private network connects to a safe remote server that allows access to a private network. At the same time, encryption (or the masking of data) ensures that security is not breached.

Remote VPNs are best for two categories of people; personal users and corporate employees. Employees can connect to company files and resources from wherever they are, keeping company data secure on both ends. Meanwhile, home users use VPNs to ensure internet security or to browse geo-restricted content and websites unavailable in their region.

Site-to-site VPN

Large corporations use this kind of virtual private network with offices in different locations to ensure connectivity between company branches. Site-to-site VPN is further broken down into intranet-based site-to-site VPN and extranet site-to-site VPN.

The connection between several offices of the same company is an intranet-based VPN, while an extranet-based VPN is when companies connect to another company's office. This type of connection, in time past, has been referred to as router-to-router transmission, where one of the routers acts as a VPN client and the other VPN server.

Examples of VPN

Some of the commonly used VPNs include:

  • NordVPN
  • OpenVPN
  • Private internet access (PIA)
  • ProtonVPN
  • ExpressVPN

7 advantages of VPN you wish you knew

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  1. Save money online: Because of the economics and exchange rates of different countries, purchases in one country might be more rewarding than in the other. For instance, subscriptions can vary significantly with your location. You can save money by buying a subscription for a service like Netflix for another country and enjoy similar benefits for a lower price. Just make sure to use a VPN that supports streaming Netflix.
  2. Use multiple devices set to different VPN locations with a single account: The best VPN providers allow the flexibility of using your account across multiple devices. This means you can mask the connection of your laptop, phones and tablets and even set each of them to different locations. Some virtual private network providers offer more than five connections with an account. For instance, NordVPN allows you to use up to six different devices using the same account.
  3. Browse public connections securely: It is not always possible to rely on your mobile phone or a portable device for reliable internet connectivity. In such cases, using a public Wi-Fi connection becomes inevitable, be it in a cafe, a hotel, or an airport. When you hop on a public Wi-Fi network, it is vital that your connection is safe so malicious actors do not intercept and misuse your data. By encrypting your internet connection, a VPN ensures that your data is safe.
  4. Avoid censorship: From time to time, we've witnessed government authorities restricting free access to the internet, especially when there is public unrest or chances of a protest. Social media is usually among the first targets of such suppressions of online voice, and many countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea have blocked access to notable platforms, including Facebook and Twitter. The only way people can access these platforms is through a VPN. A virtual private network overrides restrictions and gives you access to connect with the content of your choice.
  5. Surfing safely: The advent of social media has enabled people to be more vocal. Speaking blatant truth can often land you in trouble, and one must be sure no one can trace your activity through the internet. The US is among the countries with one of the most stringent mass surveillance—so much so that the idea of the FBI constantly watching your every move online has become a widespread meme.
  6. Shopping online without fear: Financial Institutions are beginning to request two-factor authentication to strengthen security and protect customer information. Using a virtual private network similarly helps guarantee safety and privacy. Using a VPN while shopping means your payment methods are secure and not apprehended and stolen by hackers.
  7. Prevent internet service provider tracking: Your internet service providers (ISPs) track your online activity. While this may not necessarily be to hurt you, it can be used to upsell services and share them with advertisers who serve you online ads based on your usage. However, sometimes ISPs can share these data with the government and policymakers. Even worse, the ISP can be hacked, and all your browsing-related data can get stolen.

5 disadvantages of using a VPN

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For every good thing, there are downsides. The same applies to VPN services, and it is essential to know the pitfalls to avoid them. Here are some of the disadvantages that you might have to face for using a VPN:

  1. Using a virtual private network is illegal in some countries. Russia, Belarus, Turkey and Iraq are among the countries where the use of VPN is strictly prohibited. In other countries like China, the government regulates usage and requires VPN providers to share data with them. In India, the government requires VPN providers to log users’ data and share data from servers in the country.
  2. Certain online services or games ban VPN users, especially when accessing geo-restricted content.
  3. While VPN provides a layer of guarantee, it is important to note that VPN is not universal; it won't always guarantee your safety and privacy. This especially holds if you are using a free VPN service.
  4. One more point to consider when using a free VPN service is that all your internet browsing data is routed through them, which can result in the VPN provider monitoring your internet activity. This can be used against you in relatively harmless ways like serving relevant ads or dangerous ones where a VPN provider sponsors hacking.
  5. Some websites block VPNs. If you have had issues accessing some websites, you might want to turn off your VPN and try connecting again. Walmart, Expedia, Nike and BBC are among the thousands of websites that block VPN services.

Conclusion

A VPN is an incredible tool that gives you the liberty to explore the internet more freely. It offers a wide range of advantages for users to browse through otherwise restricted areas online. While it’s great to have this freedom, it’s important to be aware of the potential threats and challenges one can encounter while browsing with a VPN.

Always check with the local legislation around VPNs and avoid overriding those rules, especially in case of social turmoil. Furthermore, do not use VPNs for illegal activity as they cannot guarantee your immunity from law enforcement agencies. But when you are conscious of both the benefits and dangers of VPNs, you can take full advantage of it.

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