You’ve probably heard of VPNs before. You might have even been recommended one for online security. So what is a VPN and why are they considered safe? We explain the growing interest in VPNs and guide you through how they work.
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The importance of online safety and security
Online safety and security is a major issue, given the regular reports of malware, ransomware, data breaches, and other online security incidents. So, it’s no surprise that a lot of us are looking for ways to enhance online security.
Most of us probably rely on the internet for essential services like banking, bill payment, shopping, and digital wallets. While accessing these online can be convenient, it could leave us open to unauthorized access, phishing scams, data breaches, malicious attacks, and other criminal activities. Hackers can use sensitive confidential and personal information for illegal purposes like identity theft and stealing your bank balance.
With so much of our lives lived online, safety and privacy have become major considerations and options like VPNs have come to the fore.
VPNs: security benefits
VPNs offer a range of security and safety benefits, along with the potential to enhance privacy online.
What’s a VPN and how does it work?
VPN stands for the virtual private network. When you use a VPN, you’ll still be using the internet but your ISP (internet service provider) won’t be able to see what you’re doing. This is because your Internet-related data will be hidden behind your VPN and encrypted and decrypted as it’s sent and received. The best way to understand it is that VPNs are designed to create private tunnels over an open internet. However, note your ISP can still see you’re connecting to a VPN.
To use a VPN, you need to subscribe to a service and download the relevant software. Once the software is active, whenever you use the internet, the data first gets routed to a server somewhere else – the VPN’s server – before it’s sent to the final destination. So if your VPN service is based in Europe, the websites and online services you use will think you’re based in Europe rather than Australia. They won’t be able to see your IP address. You can use a VPN on your desktop, laptop, tablet, or phone.
Why are VPNs considered safe?
VPNs complete encrypt all data you send online. Additionally, it’s close to impossible to find out where your computer is located, making it hard for third parties to track you down or log your internet traffic.
Another benefit – unrelated to security – is that you can access geo-blocked content. VPNs can be a good idea, for example, when you have to do personal banking on a Wi-Fi network you don’t trust 100%, or if you want to stream the latest TV show that hasn’t been released in your country yet. So the best VPNs can offer excellent privacy as well as security, though some might focus on security more than privacy.
Are VPNs legal to use in Australia?
It’s completely legal to use a VPN in Australia, even if you’re accessing content from overseas. Accessing geo-blocked content likely won’t be a breach of local copyright and IP laws, but always keep up with any legal changes to be sure. However, if you’re doing illegal things through the VPN, then obviously you’d be partaking in criminal activity and using a VPN won’t change the illegality of what you’re doing. VPNs are illegal in some countries (like Russia and China) though, so keep this in mind if you’re traveling.
VPNs: potential weaknesses
So why are VPNs sometimes considered unsafe? Not all VPN services are of the same quality. This is because providers can use different technical protocols. So you could even end up with a service that exposes you to bigger online safety risks than if you didn’t use one at all. Some VPNs are little more than data-gathering services that don’t protect your data and in fact collect your data with malware and tracking software before selling the data onto third parties like advertisers. Other VPNs actually make you share your personal bandwidth with others.
Choosing a good VPN
Since providers vary in trustworthiness, how do you choose a good VPN? As a general rule, if the VPN is completely free or costs less than $10 a month, you could be looking at a low-quality VPN service. Also, make sure your chosen VPN doesn’t store your internet-usage data. Look for privacy-minded VPNs that log as little data as possible or regularly purge the minimal data they do collect. Seek out a VPN that’s not based in one of the ‘14 Eyes’ countries to avoid mass surveillance and data-sharing arrangements.
With everything from banking and shopping shifting to online and the growth of online security threats, it’s no wonder a lot of us are concerned about security and privacy. A VPN can be a powerful online safety tool to counter these growing online risks. And although VPNs aren’t perfect, reputable providers are out there. By carefully screening prospective VPN services and finding a good service, you could enhance your online security and privacy.
I am Very Enthusiastic about Writing Tech, Smart Phones, Products Reviews, Offers, and deals. I have been writing on tricks5.com since 2015.
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