Your ISP gives you an IP so your computer can access the DNS via a URL coordinated by the ICANN. Are you kidding me? The reality is that the average internet user doesn’t understand all this and if you’re part of that group, don’t worry! It’s not critically important for you.
There is one acronym, however, that I believe every person who owns a computer should know: VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network.
What is a VPN and why is it important?
Let’s dive in together and find out. Over the next few minutes, this VPN Video Reviews ultimate beginner’s guide to VPNs will run through a number of different topics but if you want to skip to one, in particular, you can use the time markers you see here.
Why a VPN?
It seems like almost every week there’s a front-page news story about somebody’s email getting hacked, identities stolen or privacy exploited. Get used to it: this is our new reality. It’s more important for us to secure our computers nowadays than it is for us to lock our doors.
If you’ve known anybody who has had their identity stolen, you know that it’s not a simple wipe and replace. It takes years, sometimes more than a decade to recover from identity theft.
So, what can you do to protect yourself?
There are a number of measures you can take, such as updating your Facebook security settings or creating long, secure passwords, but one of the easiest things you can do today starts using a VPN.
It’s not foolproof and despite the marketing, I don’t believe we’re ever completely anonymous or totally safe on the internet, but it is the best step you can take to secure yourself online.
Well then that begs the question, what exactly is a VPN?
A VPN, again a virtual private network, is a means to encrypt, or secure, your data to keep it safe and add a layer of privacy to protect your identity. Without going into too much boring detail, here’s one way you can visualize a VPN. Imagine that this is you on your computer and the cloud is the internet. Normally, your computer accesses the internet directly via your internet service provider.
While this connection may be fast, it’s rarely secured and it’s very easily traced back to you. When you access the internet via a VPN, imagine that your connection is routed through the internet via a secure tunnel to a server in another location – sometimes in a different city, sometimes in a different country.
At this point, the server accesses the internet on your behalf. The benefit here is that not only are you keeping your data safe, you’re also masking your location by making the internet think that you’re located where the server is, not your actual home or office.
Initially, VPNs were developed for corporations that needed to protect their sensitive data being sent over public and private networks, but ever since Wikileaks became a household name, the personal VPN market has rightly grown by leaps and bounds.
What most people don’t realize is that not all VPN encryption is the same. You might hear terms like OpenVPN versus PPTP or 256-bit encryption versus 128-bit encryption. It’s not important for you to understand all of these connection protocols, just know that higher bit encryption rate is better than lower bit encryption rate and, frankly, SOME form of VPN encryption is better than nothing at all.
Now, in the real world, what does it look like to use a VPN?
With a VPN, I can jump on the internet at my favourite coffee shop and be confident that all the passwords I’m typing or the websites I’m visiting can’t be intercepted by a hacker sitting in a corner sipping a latte.
A VPN can also spoof, or trick the internet into thinking you’re in a different location. For instance, I may be logging on to my computer in Bangkok, Thailand but with a VPN I can spoof my location to Chicago or Paris.
This is important if you travel a lot and like to use services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Pandora, any type of streaming service that restricts content based on geo-location. Now let’s stop for a moment and consider the reasons not to use a VPN.
I mean, if a VPN is so important, why isn’t everybody and their mother using one, right?
Great question! There are a few reasons why this is the case.
First, most people don’t realize that something as simple as using a public Wi-Fi network outside their home puts your security at serious risk. I’m not being an alarmist here. It’s scarily easy to snoop on computers over a public Wi-Fi network.
Second, some people don’t like using a VPN because it naturally slows down your internet speeds. When you begin encrypting and rerouting your internet traffic, there’s just no way to get around a loss in speed. Finally, personal VPNs cost money.
Sure, there are free VPNs out there but as they say, nothing is really “free”. These free VPNs, they either display tons of ads or sell your information, which is exactly the opposite reason of using a VPN! The paid services aren’t crazy expensive, but for some reason, it’s been a deterrent for people.
Allow me to conclude this explanation of a VPN with these thoughts: First, a VPN is not a connection to the internet. It is a secure way to access the internet.
Good news! A VPN is often really easy to use, even if you don’t consider yourself “tech-savvy”. Finally, if you use public Wi-Fi at places like a coffee shop, an airport, a church, your local grocery store…anywhere!…you should seriously consider a VPN.
If you want more information on VPNs, I suggest you check out the other VPN FAQs post where I cover commonly asked questions, our I will also come up with some good VPN Reviews, where I show you the pros and cons of the most popular VPNs and our step-by-step VPN setup tutorials.
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Take care and don’t forget to secure yourself online