Whether you’re working remotely or with sensitive information that requires additional protection and discretion, a virtual private network (VPN) can provide an added layer of security and peace of mind.
VPNs are essential for privacy, and understanding how they work and when to use them will help keep you and your data protected when it matters most. We’ll go over the following points to help ensure you understand why using a VPN is important:
- What a VPN is
- Reasons to use a VPN
- How VPNs work
- FAQS about VPNs
What Is a VPN?
A VPN is a tool to keep your online activity private — creating an encrypted tunnel that connects your device to a remote server. Any information sent to or from your device goes through this tunnel, which keeps your data secure by scrambling it in a way that would make it essentially unreadable by anyone who may try to intercept that data.
Normally, when browsing the internet, your device ― laptop, desktop computer, smartphone, or tablet ― communicates directly with the website you’re accessing. When you send or receive data, it’s communicated over the wireless network you’re connected to.
What if your network isn’t secure?
If that network isn’t secure, an attacker can intercept the information being sent via the network. That includes seeing what websites you’re visiting, messages you’re sending, and even sensitive information like passwords and logins.
A VPN eliminates this concern. While your data will still be transmitted via the wireless network, it’s protected by the encrypted connection. Instead of communicating directly with the website you’re accessing, the VPN server serves as a go-between: it receives information sent through the tunnel and sends information back through it. This ensures the data is protected and encrypted.
Reasons To Use a VPN
Here are some top reasons to consider using a VPN.
Use a VPN for security on public Wi-Fi
The most important thing that VPNs provide you with is security, especially when you’re operating on an unsecured or public wireless network. As more people work remotely and handle potentially sensitive information, ensuring a secure connection is more important than ever.
Whether you’re handling proprietary data or answering emails via public Wi-Fi, there’s a chance someone with malicious intent is on the network intercepting that data. By using a VPN, you mitigate that risk.
Information is transmitted via an encrypted tunnel that keeps it safe and unreadable, even if it gets collected by a hacker. Your activity, information, passwords, and everything else remain secure.
A VPN provides privacy from ISP, apps, and other legal ‘spies’
Hackers aren’t the only prying eyes on the internet. Most of your activity is being collected with your tacit permission by your internet service provider (ISP), the apps and programs you’re using, and websites that track your activity across the internet. You’re almost always being watched and monetized.
A VPN prevents that from happening. With a VPN, your activity is made private. Only you and your VPN provider know what you’re doing. Your ISP, apps running in the background, and the companies that serve up cookies and other tracking tools will be left in the dark as to what you’re up to.
Bypass geolocations and restrictions with a VPN
While we often think of the internet as global ― it’s still surprisingly restricted by location. You might find content to be geo-restricted, only available in certain areas. This can be tricky if you need to access that information for whatever reason but find it inaccessible.
VPNs can help negate these restrictions. When you connect to a VPN server, you’re perceived as being located where that server is. As a result, the sites and services you’re communicating with think that’s your geolocation.
That means you can spoof your location effectively, appearing in the region where the content you need is available. This is particularly useful for streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that only allow content in certain regions.
How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN creates a secure and encrypted connection between your device and a server hosted by your VPN provider. When you connect to that server, all your information is sent through that encrypted tunnel, ensuring no one knows where it originated or what data is being sent. The website or app you’re communicating with sends and receives data via the VPN server, which securely shares it with you.
What Are the Best VPNs?
Read our guide to the best VPN services available.A VPN is a great way to protect your online activity. Maybe you’re working remotely and must keep your sensitive information secure or are worried about spying eyes intercepting your activity and login information. Or perhaps you want to spoof your location to access content without restriction. You can set up a VPN easily on your devices.
Frequently Asked Questions About VPNs
Which devices should you use your VPN on?
You can use a VPN on any device to connect to the internet, such as your laptop and smartphone, which are commonly connected to unsecured wireless networks. If you work remotely, you’ll likely be connecting to wireless networks you don’t have control over. Turning on your VPN when connecting with these networks provides a level of security you wouldn’t otherwise have.
You can also set up and run a VPN on your desktop computer and other internet-connected tools like smart TVs, smart speakers, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This is typically unnecessary if you have secured your home network with a strong password. But it provides an extra layer of protection that ensures the data being sent and received by these devices remains protected.
Where can you use a VPN?
You can use a VPN anywhere. Because people are almost always connected to the internet, whether via the blanket connection provided by cellular towers or a wireless network, there is no shortage of places to run your VPN.
Is there a time when using a VPN is bad?
There isn’t a bad time to use a VPN. It provides you with protection and ensures your data remains secure. Even if you feel using it’s unnecessary, utilize your VPN for its additional layer of security.
However, there may be times when a VPN is less convenient in a way that outweighs its function. If you aren’t working with sensitive information and connecting to your VPN creates a slower internet connection, you may turn it off. Also, if you’re connected to a VPN server in a region where the content or information you need resides, it may not serve to keep your VPN running.