What is a VPN and why you need to care

A Virtual private network (or VPN for short) is an extended private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It establishes a safe virtual connection through dedicated connections with a tunnelling protocol or a type of special encryption. For a business, this means you can create a secure private network from a site office or a remote user to access applications at the head office, using the Internet. VPN’s can also be used to secure Internet transactions, circumvent geo-restrictions and connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location. For example, somebody in Canada could be watching a show on US Netflix by using a VPN. Netflix thinks that person is in the USA because the VPN is accessing the application from a computer in the USA that is linked by a private network to the Canadian user. But the reason you need to care is that a VPN is an excellent way to protect yourself online.

Some countries have imposed restrictions on accessing specific websites or content. Other nations are engaging in surveillance that can prove to be a breach of privacy. It’s important to protect yourself online, either from malicious attackers or governments actions. And VPN’s have grown out of the corporate environment and can let journalists speak freely of a restrictive government or watch Netflix from another country.

 

Surf the net anonymously

Your computer’s IP address is your computer’s home address. It is assigned to communicate thru the Internet, and this IP address can hold information like city, country and your Internet service provider. By using a VPN, you can hide your IP address and your location from websites and services. This means that websites and services that track your location data can’t track you. This also means you can by-pass location restrictions from video and music streaming sites.

You’ll also be able to shop online, watch videos, and whatever else you do online without your Internet Service provider (or ISP) or anybody spying on your network to track your online activities.

 

Surf the net securely

The very nature of a VPN is a highly encrypted data tunnel that is private between you and the server (end-to-end encryption) you are accessing. This means there is no possibility of data leak or potential for manipulation by malicious attackers.

 

Bypassing restrictive networks

Even if you’re not in a country that restricts what you can see or do online, chances are the network at your work, school, coffee shop (if you are accessing open wifi, you should be using a VPN already), etc. has restrictions. This means you might not be able to access Facebook, Twitter, or any other site. A VPN can circumvent restrictive networks and let you get past the restrictions while still encrypting and keeping your browsing private.

*the general rule is that you shouldn’t be on open wifi in general. This could be at a coffee shop, mall, or airport; anywhere with “free” Internet (you should always be cautious of things that are free). A VPN will hide you from malicious attackers or trackers that are monitoring your browsing activities while on the open wifi. The end-to-end encryption of VPNs provides you with a secure connection on a public connection.

 

Choosing a VPN can be intimidating. So many options, different pricing schemes and features, it’s easy to find it frustrating. A good VPN offers a balance of features, like malware protection, a good range of server locations and ease of use across devices. A few things to consider are:

Your services locations and the “exit location.” Choosing to identify what country you are browsing in is a big selling point for many people. For this, the VPN service will need servers in the particular countries from which you want to access the Internet.  Exit location is also something you need to look at if you are using a VPN for privacy or if you’re worried about government-sponsored and ISP spying.

If you are using a VPN, chances are you want to use it on all the devices you access the Internet with, such as a phone or tablet. Some VPNs can be desktop only or mobile only, finding a desktop VPN with a mobile app will let you stay secure online, no matter what device you are using.

VPNs help but don’t make you invulnerable. There is a lot of malicious software floating around the web, and you never know what can get into your computer and your data. If you feel confident with your anti-virus (such as Sophos Home – Free) then maybe your VPN not having additional protection isn’t a huge deal. But if you can find one with it included, it is comforting to have that extra protection.

Have a quick read of the VPN provider’s policies. You are trusting the VPN with your data, but what if the VPN operator mis-uses your logged data? Many VPNs don’t log activities when you’re connected to their service but beware of those that do.

There are a lot of articles about the best VPN you should be using, and it all depends on what you are planning on doing with it. NordVPN seems to be very popular with communities like Reddit. Browse around articles by the trusted publication like PC Mag.

If you are wondering how a VPN can help your business security, contact Next Digital. We will be happy to answer any question you have. Our NextGen Security offers malware and ransomware protection, vulnerability testing, and advanced AI backed end-point protection. We look forward to hearing from you.

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