Privacy-related issues and stories about personal data tracking are a returning topic in the news. We’re being following around the web through our computers and smartphones.
Companies and websites in all sectors are collecting personal customer data, but for what? Your browsing activities, online banking activities and your social media activities could by monitored at any given moment.
Luckily there’s a solution to all this: VPNs.
VPNs allow users to do all these activities without worrying someone might be watching their every move. VPNs give users a lot more privacy and it’s definitely a must-have for every internet user but VPNs do have some limitations as well.
Let’s look at the benefits of VPNs first.
Privacy Benefits of VPNs
VPNs have proven to be a great tool with a lot of benefits for everyone browsing the internet. In this section, I’ve listed the most important privacy benefits of VPNs.
Hide Online Activities from Unwanted Snoops
In the U.S., Internet Service Providers (ISP) are allowed to collect and share data generated by their users. ISPs are allowed to, for example, share or sell data to advertising agencies and other companies.
VPNs are exceptionally effective at hiding your online browsing activities from unwanted snoops as well as other activities such as downloading files. VPNs primary technique to create a shield for users is by redirecting real IPs over a server owned by the VPN which then connects to the web. That means that all the users would have the same IP address of the VPN while their own IP is hidden.
Thus, it would be impossible for an ISP to monitor the internet activities by IP addresses as hundreds or even thousands of users would share the exact same IP address.
Cloak Your Online Identity and Location
The biggest VPN providers have servers all over the world. Once you connect to the VPN, you can choose what server you’d like to connect to and in which country this server is located.
The VPN has the ability to mix up the data you generate online in order to cloak your real identity and location as well as storing the data in encrypted format on their servers.
VPNs provide the ability to connect to a server to your liking. Thus, if you experience geo-restricted issues and you can’t view content, you can simply connect to a VPN server in a different country and refresh the page to lift the restriction.
You could use a VPN to watch Netflix as its content differs per country due to contracts with content distributors, but also geo-restricted content on YouTube can easily be viewed by browsing with a VPN.
Using a VPN while torrenting has two major advantages. Firstly, if you use a VPN while torrenting, your ISP can’t monitor what you’re downloading which means that if you download copyrighted material, you can’t get caught.
Secondly, ISP are known to throttle down the bandwidth of users who engage in torrenting but if your ISP can’t see what you’re doing, you won’t experience a slower internet connection.
Limitations of VPNs
Although the advantages of a VPN heavily outweigh the disadvantages, there are still some limitations tied to using a VPN.
Weak Authentication & Logs
Before making a final decision on a VPN provider, make sure to check what kind of authentication is used. For example, point-to-point tunneling (PPTP) should be avoided at all times. It’s a popular but old protocol that has been around for a long time. However, PPTP is vulnerable to brute force attacks that could expose your personal data.
Also, VPN that keep logs should be avoided. If a VPN keeps logs, is basically the same as ISP that store your browsing activities. And once a powerful government institution urges to hand over log data, you’re browsing activities are still exposed.
Governments have the ability to force VPNs to hand over logs if needed, however, if a VPN doesn’t keep logs, there’s nothing to hand over.
VPNs & Smartphones
There are many VPNs on the market which don’t support cross-platform compatibilities. So, even though the VPN might work pretty good on your laptop, it doesn’t mean it works on your smartphone.
Make sure to choose a VPN that offers L2TP/IPsec protection, because the OpenVPN protocol to encrypt your traffic doesn’t work on smartphones.
Limited Servers & Speed
This is mostly applicable to smaller VPN providers, which generally own significantly less servers in comparison to the big players on the market such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN. If a VPN provider has few servers, the speed and availability in certain regions is rather limited causing dissatisfaction.
In addition, ISPs or Netflix may block certain IP addresses once they identify it as a VPN connection. Small VPN providers won’t be able to respond quickly to such issues because they don’t have the capacity or availability to change the server’s IP address.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!