There was a time when only the most tech-savvy internet users considered using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), but their use is far more common these days. People today are more concerned about their privacy and place a high value on their freedom, which is just two reasons VPN usage is at an all-time high.
Modern VPNs are highly complex yet simple to use; they are designed to be open and accessible to all. They protect not only your privacy but also open previously locked doors, such as allowing you to access mybookie from the United States, tune into Netflix from other countries, give you early access to video games, and much more besides. Want to know more? Of course, you do, so continue reading to find out why you need a VPN in your life.
What is a VPN?
VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network, which sounds complicated on the surface, but having top-tier computer skills is not required to use one. In layman’s terms, a VPN acts as a middleman between your device and the website you are visiting. Without a VPN, your device sends a plethora of data to the target website, the website receives that data and sends information back to you. With a VPN running, the data is encrypted before passing through the VPN’s servers and reaching its destination.
Things are a little more complex than that, but that is the general idea of a VPN. Why, then, are VPNs so important?
Take Control of Your Privacy
Many people do not realize that everything you view or send via the Internet is logged and stored by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Governments can also access your data if they so wish. You will see this clearly stated if you ever thoroughly read your ISP’s terms and conditions.
This is not an issue for most people because they have nothing to hide. However, many people grow uncomfortable at the thought of a stranger knowing about their internet search history. You probably do not open your front door and announce to the people in your street that you have just finished searching for the latest football news, do you?
VPNs use industry-leading encryption to protect your data. The best VPNs use 256-bit AES encryption, which is on par, if not better, than most financial institutions. It is impossible to hack 256-bit encryption without the encryption key. It would take someone with a quantum computer more than 300 times longer than the universe has existed to break it!
Your ISP or government can still see that you are sending and receiving data from somewhere, but it is impossible for them to know what that data is and where it comes from.
Bypass Country-Based Restrictions
Not every country has relaxed rules regarding which websites and services you can access online. For example, Chinese nationals cannot access the social media website Facebook, while Google is partially banned, too. Using a VPN grants access to these sites thanks to location spoofing.
Most VPNs have servers worldwide, with the more premium VPN providers often boasting 50-100 server locations. You can select one of these servers to connect to, and it makes your encrypted data look like it is coming from that country. For example, you may be physically located in the United States but want to access a website that is only available to Brazilians. Selecting Brazil as your VPN’s server makes it appear that you are within Brazil’s borders, thus opening the door to the previously blocked website.
Location spoofing works wonders for those wishing to access television shows not yet released in their country. The streaming service Netflix often releases new movies and shows in America first before making them available worldwide. The popular BBC iPlayer is also unavailable in dozens of countries. However, using a VPN to spoof your location removes those geographical restrictions.
Video gamers among you can use a VPN to access new titles and updates early. It is possible to set your VPN’s location to Australia or New Zealand to access content far sooner. For example, if you live in Las Vegas, there is a 17-hour time difference between you and someone in Sydney. Imagine getting to play the latest game 17 hours sooner than you expected!
Subsidized Shopping and Traveling
Have you noticed that some countries pay far less for the same products and services you purchase? This is especially true when it comes to traveling, particularly when buying flights to and from another country. Many online shopping and airlines offer different prices depending on your location, so using a VPN while shopping can save you a small fortune.
Also, travel websites track your IP address, device’s MAC number, and more so they know you have previously visited them. This is why you sometimes look for a flight, then return a day later only to find the price has increased by 10%. The travel website knows you are interested in that particular flight, so it raises the price knowing you will pay it. Using a VPN hides this information, so you look like a brand-new customer and, therefore, you are offered the best price.
The next time you look for flights, load your VPN and select different servers from different countries. Doing so can be a little time-consuming, but you may find that you save a vast sum of money just by pretending you are a resident of a different country to the one you live in.
It should go without saying that you should not use a VPN to perform any activity that is deemed illegal or immoral. VPNs are there to protect your privacy, not to hide your unscrupulous behavior from prying eyes.
Furthermore, be aware that VPN use is illegal in some countries. Countries with oppressive governments, including China, have strict laws regarding VPN use. While it is extremely difficult for those officials to detect VPN use, the penalties for using one, if caught, can be severe.