One of the applications that you may hear about to keep your online connection more secure is a virtual private network (VPN). This is a service that basically takes your internet connection and reroutes it through its own servers before connecting you online.
VPNs are sold by lots of companies using FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) tactics. These companies make promises of encrypting your online connection and keeping your data safe. However, some of them have been found to be not very private after all.
What Is a VPN?
A VPN is a service that will route your online traffic through one or more of its servers. These servers can be anywhere in the world, and at times, you may be using different ones.
The VPN is designed to encrypt internet traffic and make your online connection secure by being a middle man between you and the internet.
Before you get scared into thinking you need a VPN, you’ll want to check out our list below of the reasons that you may not really need one after all.
Used with permission from VPNCrew
Can Slow Down Your Connection Speed
When you connect to a VPN, your internet traffic gets routed through a third party. This is like taking the long way to go to the grocery store. Instead of connecting directly from your internet service provider (ISP) to the internet, you’re taking a detour through a VPN service that could be thousands of miles away.
This detour can slow your connection speed, especially if the VPN server is across the ocean in another country. This can lead to buffering frustration when trying to watch streaming services and worse quality video calls due to slower internet.
Can Cause Login Problems Due to Location Differences
Not all applications play well with VPNs and you may start having login problems. This can especially be the case when logging onto sites that look at your location to determine the type of content to serve you.
You may also find that you do a Google search like usual, but all the search results are in another language. This can be because the IP address of the VPN server is coming from a certain country so the site thinks you are located in that country and is providing content based upon that server location.
They’re Complicated to Use
Because a VPN changes how you connect to the internet, it can be complicated to set up and use. It may end up conflicting with other processes you have going, such as file sync with online cloud storage.
This type of app is difficult to adjust so it’s not conflicting with any online or hard-drive-based apps. Uninstalling the VPN may be the only way out of an issue that has occurred after it was installed.
They’re Illegal in Some Countries
Some countries restrict internet content, and the use of a VPN to get around that restriction is prohibited. So, if you travel overseas and use a VPN on any of your devices, you could be breaking the law without realizing it.
May Be Storing Your Online Data Without Your Knowledge
It’s been found that many VPNs store your online session data, despite the promises made on the company’s website. Some may be governed by laws requiring them to store that data, and others may do it out of carelessness or for more nefarious reasons related to selling it.
If you use a free VPN, you need to be very careful about this, because if you’re not paying anything for the service, then it’s most likely you (your data) is the revenue generator for the business.
There are Better Ways to Protect Your Data
A VPN is not necessarily the best way to protect yourself and your data while online. There are other options that don’t require you to route all your internet traffic through a third party.
Some of these options include:
- Use of a DNS Filter: A DNS filter blocks malicious websites even after you’ve clicked the link for one. It will redirect you to a warning page instead. Setting up a DNS filter is done on your computer or router.
- Use DNS encryption in your web browser: A security setting in your browser will block your Internet Service Provider or another middle man from seeing what websites you visit. DNS encryption in your browser often includes DNS filtering. Here’s an article that explains DNS encryption (aka DoT/DoH) quite well.
- Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is one of the best ways to keep your online accounts secure, and it’s free. You should enable this on every account that you have. According to Microsoft, MFA blocks 99.9% of fraudulent sign-in attempts.
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Also read: Why you probably don’t need to worry about public WiFi anymoreThe Washington Post