A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is simple software designed to protect your privacy on the Internet and make life harder for hackers by keeping your traffic and location anonymous. However, you can also use it for many other purposes, such as fast and secure browsing and much more.
Having tested over 300 VPNs and reviewed everything they have to offer, I can honestly tell you that VPNs are super easy to use, and anyone can do it. This simple guide will teach you everything you need to know to start using a VPN.
How can a VPN help me?
A VPN can help protect you in several ways:
VPNs encrypt all the data you send over the internet.
When you are connected to a VPN server, all your internet traffic is encrypted. Therefore, no one can see what you do on the Internet, not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP). That also means your ISP can't limit your speed either.
Encryption prevents hackers from seeing the sensitive data you enter on websites, such as your passwords. This is even more important if you use public Wi-Fi networks, as it is then easier for cybercriminals to monitor your connection. However, a VPN ensures that even if someone steals your data, they won't be able to decrypt or understand it.
Your VPN also protects your privacy.
Websites and Internet services use your IP address to determine your location. When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address will not be visible.
Since they will no longer be able to see your real IP address, they will also not be able to see where you are.
Some VPNs block malicious websites, ads, and trackers.
Malicious websites can download malware and trackers onto your device without you even realizing it. VPNs with built-in protection help prevent infections by blocking these sites and blacklisting them before they can do any harm.
Some VPNs also block ads and pop-ups, thus preventing malicious ads from infecting your device with malware.
Does using a VPN have any disadvantages?
The advantages of using a VPN far outweigh the disadvantages, but there are some drawbacks that you should be aware of.
Your connection speed will drop a bit
As your data takes some time to travel, when you are connected to a VPN it will have to travel a little longer to reach the VPN servers. It also takes a few seconds to encrypt and decrypt your traffic. Therefore, it is normal that the speed of your connection slows down a bit.
Unreliable VPNs may have seen what you do online
If you use a less reputable VPN service, there is no way to ensure that what you do on the Internet will not be seen or shared with third parties. If your VPN service is within the jurisdiction of the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliance, they might even be forced to share that information with the government.
You can avoid this by using a well-known and reputable VPN that adheres to a strict no-logs policy and has RAM-based servers. RAM-based servers permanently delete your logs every time they reboot, so your VPN will have no data about you to share, even if they receive legal requests that require it.
Some websites block VPN users
Some websites check your IP address against a list of known VPN servers when you log in. If there is a match, they will drop your connection. You can avoid this by connecting to a different server in the same region.
PayPal and some banking services may detect a security breach in your account if you log in with a foreign IP address.
As part of their Internet security policy, PayPal and banking institutions sometimes prevent you from accessing your account if they see that you are logging in with a foreign IP address. This security measure is in place to prevent fraudsters from other countries from accessing your accounts.
But don't worry, your account won't be locked forever. However, you may need to contact your bank to clear up the error. You can avoid this by accessing your bank accounts by connecting to a server in your country.
What should I look for in a VPN?
It is important to choose a VPN that meets your needs and offers you the highest security and best performance possible. When looking for a VPN, I recommend prioritizing services that offer the following:
256-bit encryption: This is the highest level of encryption available, and will protect your personal data and everything you do online.
Kill Kill Functionality – Kill kill functionality kicks in when your VPN connection becomes unstable, temporarily interrupting your internet connection to prevent data leaks.
Strict no-logs policy
DNS and IPv6 leak protection
Customer Support: Most premium VPNs offer 24/7 customer support via chat available on their websites. Very few services offer phone support, although it is available on some smaller VPNs.
Easy-to-use apps for your devices – check out the VPN service's website to see if they offer them. Most have screenshots of their applications so you can familiarize yourself with the program before downloading it.
Lots of servers – You need a VPN that offers servers all over the world so you can connect to any location.