A VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network, and does exactly what it sounds like. It connects your device to an encrypted private network through software. It's a useful tool, but why is it important for security and privacy? First, we'll go over briefly what a VPN does.
A VPN works by hiding your IP address and making connections to other servers on the internet on your behalf, then sending that data to you. This makes it harder to track you. It protects you from DDoS attacks and MITM attacks. It encrypts your data between your computer and their servers which protects you from being easily spied on through WiFi or other computers on the same network. It allows you to bypass censorship and Geoblocking.
A VPN will generally only encrypt your data between you and their servers. There are also many methods of identifying you through your browser alone, including cookies, scripts, and HTTP request header information. That's only what your browser sends to each website you connect to and doesn't count the data your browser can collect from you and send to their own servers. No VPN can protect you from these methods of collecting your data.
A VPN is still the most effective first step in protecting your data and an important step for privacy. A VPN is just one part of full privacy and security. Even if you don't care about your privacy (even though you should), it is still worth it for the security benefits alone. Any time you are connected to a network, wireless or wired, you are trusting that no one else is trying to sniff out your personal data. Also, on a wireless network anyone can intercept data that you are broadcasting even if they are not connected to the same network.
There are many services out there, but no single VPN service is best for everyone. It depends on your needs and what the individual VPN service provides. Always research before trusting your data with someone. How do you know they are actually encrypting your data? What information about you are they keeping? A good rule of thumb is: if the product is free then you are the product, meaning they are probably selling your data.
- Use a VPN when you are using a public network and/or when transmitting sensitive data on a network that is broadcasting wirelessly
- A VPN is not a total solution for privacy and security
- Research the VPN service provider before you trust them with your security