A VPN offers a layer of protection when you’re on the go
Privacy and security on the internet are vital as more and more of our daily lives revolve around digital communication and most of our financial interactions shift online. A virtual private network, or VPN, can add an additional layer of protection, especially if you find yourself accessing your data outside your home.
WHAT IS A VPN?
At its most basic level, a VPN links your device to a remote computer called a server and allows you to use the internet through that server’s internet access. Anyone looking at your internet traffic would only see a secure, encrypted connection to that remote host.
A VPN can also keep websites and internet services from tracking your browsing habits, monitoring your search history and knowing your geographic location.
You may not even realize you’re already using a VPN. If you’re working from home and have access to your company’s network, odds are that it’s through a VPN.
WHY WOULD I WANT ONE?
If you’re at home, VPN use for security is limited, since it is highly unlikely a hacker has targeted your home network. But you may still be interested in being anonymous to companies collecting your data for advertising and commercial purposes.
Once you leave your home and start using other Wi-Fi networks, a VPN becomes more important. It doesn’t matter how good your passwords are. They won’t do you much good if they’re intercepted by a hacker while you’re accessing your bank account at a local coffee shop or even a hotel. People with bad intent can set up access points with similar names to legitimate connections, tricking users into unwittingly giving up their information.
IS THERE A DOWNSIDE?
Connecting to a VPN may slow your connection to the internet. Most VPN providers will show you a list of server locations along with the expected delay, allowing you to choose the fastest link. If you’re using a VPN at home, it may also interfere with connections between your VPN-protected computer or smartphone and some of your smart devices.
WHAT’S A GOOD FREE OPTION?
They may not come with all the features that a paid VPN includes, but if you’re only using
it sporadically, then a free option makes sense. TunnelBear (tunnelbear.com) has a data limit
of 500MB per month, but it is user-friendly, available on desktop and mobile versions, and is backed by McAfee, the security software giant.
WHAT’S A GOOD PAID OPTION?
NordVPN — nordvpn.com — is the biggest name in the VPN business for a reason. It provides top-grade security, speedy connections and ease of use across a variety of devices. It can get expensive at $11.95 a month, but the price drops if you choose annual plans. Most pay services periodically offer discounts, so it may be worth checking out a free option and waiting for a deal.