Will you ever say NO to anti-virus software? Well, I thought so. Then, why would you not care to use VPN software?
We never go online without having anti-virus software turned on. Similarly, everyone should use a VPN nowadays on all of their devices connected to the internet including your smart home devices.
In the initial days, VPN was meant for journalists, activists, and whistleblowers kind of people or it was meant for the general population to bypass the geographical restrictions. For example, you wanted to watch Netflix when you are traveling outside of the US.
When I started using a VPN, it was for the same reason actually (and also because of a few wrong reasons). I wanted to have access to my Netflix account, which I purchased in the US, but I wanted to keep watching movies when I traveled to the UK for some time. However, that didn’t work for too long, because Netflix started blocking traffic from VPN servers.
But, in the modern world, VPN has become a necessity for all of us.
In today’s connected world, privacy protection is all about controlling data collection everywhere you go. Also, understanding the fact that sharing anything online should truly be on a need basis. It doesn’t matter what you share online and with whom, it’s always public.
We need to protect ourselves from
- Device fingerprinting,
- Browser fingerprinting,
- Hiding the IP Addresses of all your devices,
- Hiding our location,
- Creating as few accounts as possible,
- Sharing our emails as less as possible,
- Register for as few newsletters as possible, which you end up not reading anyways.
Well, the list can go on and on.
When I look at myself as an average person in this world, I love to try out all the good things today’s world of technology and innovation has created for us. But, at the same time, it also gives me the scary feeling of my data being harvested. And, you know what, I don’t feel good about that at all.
The biggest question that comes to my mind is how can I achieve a true sense of security and privacy.
Well, I think we all have that answer. Using a VPN gives me that feeling to some extent. It may not protect me from everything I’m scared of but definitely does take care of a few things least. That’s why I continued using the VPN service, even when I didn’t have the need anymore to watch Netflix outside of the US.
If you are even a little bit concerned about your privacy, then my advice for everyone is to try VPN at least once. I’m sure that you will love it and would definitely like to continue with it for the rest of your lives.
The best part of VPN software is that it is just like anti-virus software installed on all your devices. Once you have installed it, you will have that sense of security that you are protected from all the prying eyes.
What is a VPN
As the name suggests, it is a virtual network and not a real/physical one. However, the word I like the most is “Private”.
What is Virtual Network
When you are at home, all of your devices including your smart home devices are connected to the internet via your wi-fi router. All the devices can talk to the internet, but do you know that these devices can also talk to each other because they are on the same network, your home network.
- You can send prints to your printer from your laptop.
- You can control Spotify from your mobile phone or laptop and play it on your smart speaker.
This is a physical network created by your wi-fi router so that devices connected to the router can talk to each other.
You can assume VPN is a similar kind of network, but you don’t need any device to create that network. It is created virtually over the internet with the help of software. The whole world of the internet is your network.
So you might think that without VPN also I’m able to talk to the internet, so what VPN is doing differently when it is still connecting my devices to the internet.
Well, that’s when the word “private” comes into play.
What is Private about it
When VPN says it is private, it is actually private in the true sense.
Do you know that if you can encrypt all of your electronic data online or offline, you have the best protection available?
No one can hack your data. Even if someone does, they will not be able to read that data, because it is encrypted.
People like Whistleblowers, activists, and journalists always keep their data encrypted including their emails and messages.
We have already heard, seen, and experienced the end-to-end encryption of apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. However, most of us, an average person may not be bothered about this whole end-to-end encryption thing, but I believe all of us understand why it has created all the fuss about end-to-end encryption.
Well, that’s what VPN is. It encrypts everything you communicate with on the internet. If you are using VPN software, your data never leaves your device unless it is encrypted. So, if anyone is trying to pry on you will NOT be able to read or intrude on what you are doing online. Isn’t it amazing? I wouldn’t mind paying $4–5 every month just for that.
Now, because VPN encrypts everything, that’s why it is called private. You are on the internet, but no one can see what you are doing, including your ISP.
Why Do you need one?
I will not go into the list of reasons, which are more applicable for Whistleblowers, Activists, or Journalists. The common public doesn’t fall into that category.
So, we will talk about the reasons which make more sense for the common public. Below is the list of PROs of using a VPN:
- You can connect to any public w-fi (e.g. airports, hotel) or hotspot without any fear when you are out of your home or traveling. You should never ever connect to the airport, coffee shop, or hotel wifi without a VPN.
- Connect to any wi-fi network anywhere without fear including airport or any public places.
- If you travel a lot and bound to connect to public hotspots or wi-fi frequently.
- VPN also protects you from the trackers all around the web.
- You can save money on shopping including flight tickets and hotel bookings. I don’t think I need to tell you that nowadays everyone knows everything about you, including your shopping habits, spending behavior, and purchasing power. But do you know that prices are manipulated based on these factors? Your neighbor might have purchased a flight ticket for $600, and the same ticket might cost you a thousand dollars because the internet thinks that you are richer and don’t believe in the bargain. The whole cost of a one-year VPN subscription can be paid off with just one shopping.
- VPN automatically encrypt everything. Do you know that full and end-to-end encryption is the key solution for all the hacks, data breaches, and ransomware?
- Avoid Bandwidth Throttling by your ISP. The same broadband cable from your ISP is being used by everyone in and around your community, so it’s capacity is much higher, but you never get more speed (bandwidth) than what you pay for, right? This technique is called throttling. If you pay for 100 Mbps speed, then your ISP will throttle it so that it never goes beyond 100 Mbps. In addition to this, your ISP can also throttle your internet speed for various activities, e.g. playing online games, streaming audio or video, direct download, emailing, simple browsing, and torrenting. This is not legal though, but it depends on what you have signed up for. You can avoid this intentional throttling by using a VPN because then your ISP also doesn’t know what you are doing.
- You can access geo-blocked websites, bypass geographic restrictions on websites, or streaming audio and video.
- You can protect yourself from snooping on untrustworthy Wi-Fi hotspots.
- You can have at least some anonymity online by hiding your true location. The IP addresses of your devices are never disclosed when you are using a VPN. You use an end-to-end encrypted connection to the server of your VPN service, the same server is used by a thousand of others. So the internet can’t uniquely identify you by any means.
- You can hide your browsing activity from your local network and your ISP.
- You can bypass Internet Censorship.
- Your device can’t be hacked. Well, it is not impossible technically, but it becomes a lot harder for a hacker to penetrate into a VPN connection.
What It can’t do
- It can’t protect you from viruses, malware, ransomware, so you would still need anti-virus software.
- It can’t protect you from phishing scams.
- Because it encrypts all outgoing communication and decrypts all incoming communication, it reduces the performance marginally. However, you will not be able to notice any difference in your day-to-day use.
Why you shouldn’t use a free VPN
I will not go into too many details here and will try to keep it short and simple:
- Nothing comes free, right? Anyone providing anything free has to make money some way or the other. Why someone will spend all the money to implement loads of servers in multiple countries to provide you free privacy protection.
- Because your traffic (all outcoming and incoming communication) is being diverted through the VPN server, they know everything about what you are doing, they will start selling your data, which defeats the whole purpose of having a VPN in the first place.
I hope, you get the point.
If you still want to go with a free VPN, my only recommendation would be to go with ProtonVPN. This can be to try out the VPN service itself, however, a paid experience is a paid experience.
ProtonVPN provides you the following forever free:
- You can connect to three different countries
- You can use it only on one device
- Data speed or bandwidth will be of Medium speed. So even if you use 100 Mbps broadband internet, you will not be able to use it if you are connected to ProtonVPN.
I, myself, have never used ProtonVPN, but I rely on their services because I use the paid version of ProtonMail. I have always used the paid version of PrivateInternetAccess.
Which one you should go for
I’m not someone who is a reviewer of VPN services, so I will recommend something which comes from my own experience.
After thorough research for a variety of features of zero-knowledge, zero logging, speed, a number of servers, servers in a number of countries, etc, I have started my first VPN experience with ExpressVPN. No doubt that it is one of the best VPNs out there, but it is also one of the costliest VPN services.
After using ExpressVPN for one year, I switched to PrivateInternetAccess. I’m using it for the last two years now. It is fairly priced and comes in 1/4th the price of ExpressVPN.
Based on my experience, for an average person, the most important factor is the speed of the internet. I’m pretty satisfied and can’t complain about the speed.
I hope that it provides good enough information for you to decide on using a VPN service. If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments.