A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, and it is used to protect your Internet traffic from anyone who wants to intercept your data and monetize your personal information. The ubiquity of online transactions processing today is such that everyday folks cannot afford to be without a VPN. Most every payment, and online communication is conducted over the Internet. This is rapidly gaining momentum in developing countries too.
The Internet is peppered with security challenges, not least of which are cyber criminals and government snooping around in your personal data. Privacy is being challenged on every level, and it behooves folks to take all necessary precautions to guard against such activity. This type of nefarious activity is easily achieved when users do not take the necessary precautions against third parties. Antivirus software is one thing, but that does not shield your online browsing activity against hackers who are trying to intercept your personal data.
Your online footprint is something that can be masked from prying eyes. If there are no traces of where you have been, it’s virtually impossible to identify you personally. VPNs create what is known as an encrypted tunnel whereby all your online communications are masked by remote servers and VPN services. Think of the tunnel as a shield against anyone seeing what you’re doing. When you use a VPN service to mask your traffic, your computer assumes the identity of the VPN server.
In other words, you could redirect your traffic flow from your current location in position X to another location with a VPN server located in position Z. Your data connects with the VPN server somewhere else around the world, and when it exits that VPN server, your IP address is cloaked by the IP address of the VPN server. While you’re still using your computer and its IP address to connect to the VPN server, the only traffic that will be ‘seen’ will be coming from the VPN server address.
Why Is a VPN Service Essential to Your Online Browsing Activity?
One of the most obvious benefits of using a VPN service is when you are utilizing public Wi-Fi at the airport, a hotel, a library, coffee shop, on an airplane etc. Anyone on that public network can easily intercept your communications and steal sensitive personal information. It’s impossible to know what the intentions are of everyone using public Wi-Fi – there are nefarious actors in the mix. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know if the Wi-Fi network that is being provided is a legitimate Wi-Fi network, or simply one created by a cybercriminal designed to hack into your personal information.
Another issue to take into account is the sensitivity of your information – login data, browsing history, files, folders, bank records etc. With a VPN service, nobody can intercept that information since they don’t know what your IP address is. Anyone can name a Wi-Fi network anything that they want to – this doesn’t legitimize it in any sense of the word. For example, JFK Airport Internet or Hilton Hotels Internet, or Holiday Inn Express Wi-Fi may not the de facto Wi-Fi networks for these places – they could be fake names created to trick you. And then there’s the issue of why a VPN service is especially beneficial to your browsing activity. A great place to start on your VPN quest is an aggregator site that reviews the pros and cons of each service. For example, this HMA VPN review lists all the attributes of Hide My Ass, one of the most popular pay-to-use VPN services on the market today.
HMA is a user-friendly service that you can use to access content that is only available outside of your country. Maybe you’re looking for the latest rugby or cricket broadcast from a domestic competition, and you are based outside of the UK, in the US. You could reroute your Internet traffic through a UK server and access that information free, such as live streaming news updates, live sports broadcasts etc. In countries like China the Internet is severely limited, and this necessitates the use of VPN services to access information. Since VPNs are designed to encrypt traffic, they are identity protecting tools. The VPN you choose to use may be designed expressly for Mac operating systems or Windows Operating Systems, and often there are differences between them. When it comes to mobile Internet security, VPNs work a little differently, and a greater level of sophistication is needed to encrypt your data.
Who Is Spying on Our Data?
It’s hard to say who is or isn’t actively spying on data, recording data, or monitoring online communications. One thing is certain – your online browsing activity is always more readily accessible when you don’t use a VPN service. Whether the NSA, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, local law enforcement, or criminals are viewing your data is less important than the fact that they can snoop around in your private business if they want to. However, if you use a VPN service that does not maintain logs, your Internet traffic is encrypted against all advances.
Be advised that not all VPN services are cut from the same cloth. Most of these are profit-seeking organizations that will willingly cooperate with the authorities if required. That means they will hand over logs if subpoenaed. Certain VPN servers are operational in countries where the long arm of the law does not have any reach, such as Panama. VPNs are not failsafe since they don’t remove cookies from Web services – but that’s a story for another day.