For years, VPN providers have told the general public that using a VPN is one of the best ways to protect your identity and information online. While this statement isn’t false, it’s also not 100% accurate.
VPN security can help protect your IP address, slow hackers from stealing your personal data, and more. However, depending on the VPN provider, your online activity, and other factors, some VPNs are less safe than they claim.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- How Does A VPN Service Work?
- Why Use a Secure VPN Service?
- What Are The Limitations of a Virtual Private Network?
- Are Free VPNs Unsafe?
- How to Stream Your Favorite TV Shows & Movies Legally
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know the benefits and drawbacks of using a VPN server and whether it’s the best option to safeguard your internet traffic. Get started now.
How Does A VPN Work?
A virtual private network (VPN) offers users a layer of cybersecurity protection for their internet connection and sensitive data. VPN companies encrypt data and re-route it via an “encrypted tunnel” to VPN servers worldwide. Once user data reaches the VPN server, the encrypted data (i.e., browsing history, app data, DNS traffic, etc.). is sent to its intended location.
Why Use a Secure VPN Service?
Online piracy statistics show that internet access doesn’t include the promise of online security. Your level of security while online generally depends on your browsing habits, knowledge of basic online security features, malware and virus protection, and whether you use a VPN connection. With that in mind, there are plenty of advantages to using a VPN service.
The benefits of using VPN apps and routers include, but are not limited to:
- Prevents potential cybercriminals from stealing your personal data
- Allows you to access online information blocked by a government (especially in countries like Russia and China where there’s a lot of censorship)
- Helps streamers get around geo-blocked services by their internet service provider (ISP) or streaming service (i.e., Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
- Offers a layer of security when using an unsecured hotspot or public wi-fi and when torrenting
- Makes it more challenging for companies to re-sell user data to third parties or use trackers
- Can prevent corporate data breaches
A good VPN is similar to a lock on your door; It doesn’t protect you 100%, but it does offer a level of security that makes it easier to sleep at night.
What Are The Limitations of a Virtual Private Network?
It’s important to note that a VPN is not an all-in-one online privacy tool. It’s not an ad blocker. It can’t stop you from downloading malware, spyware, bots, trojans, etc., and it’s not anti-virus software.
With that in mind, a few disadvantages or limitations to using a VPN service include:
- Lack of Virus Protection: A VPN uses encryption (SSL, AES-256, or ChaCha20) to protect sensitive information from third parties, but it can’t identify, stop, or remove cybersecurity threats–unless it’s a VPN app paired with antivirus software (i.e., Bitdefender, NordVPN, etc.).
- You’re Not Completely Anonymous: Some VPN providers (especially free VPN services) can access your personal data. Further, a VPN doesn’t stop a website from remembering you.
- Some VPN Providers Can’t Be Trusted: Some VPN companies do exactly what they claim to protect against; sell your data. Therefore, learning about the company’s policies and reviews is essential before signing over your data.
Are Free VPNs Safe?
Some open-source and freemium VPN services are safe. However, many others will sell your data as soon as you sign up. With that in mind, you should consider the following before using a free VPN solution:
- Do they have a no-logging policy? No-logging is when the VPN provider uses an anonymization process that doesn’t collect or log sensitive information (i.e., login credentials, files, web browser history, etc.) on their servers. Popular paid VPN apps like CyberGhost, NordVPN, and ExpressVPN have a strict no-log policy.
- Do They Have Good Reviews? It’s hard to know which VPN software you can trust. In many cases, there are countless reviews online to offer insight into the company, whether they sell your data, bandwidth issues, and more.
- Do They Have a VPN Kill Switch? Suppose your VPN connection drops (which happens a lot). In that case, if your VPN provider has a kill switch, it will automatically disconnect you from the internet, so your information stays safe.
- Can My IP Address Be Tracked? No VPN provider can 100% guarantee your IP address won’t be tracked. However, free VPNs are much more likely to sell your data to third parties (including your IP address). Further, due to the limited functionality of most free VPN services, the likelihood of hackers, advertisers, and others tracking your IP address is exponentially higher.
If a VPN service is free, you may be paying for it in a way you don’t understand. For instance, Hola VPN, one of the biggest VPNs, enrolls people who don’t pay their monthly fee into a Residential Proxy as a Service (RESIP). There are more than 25 of these companies, and the number continues to grow. This allows anyone with a credit card to use your computer or phone’s data, making it appear as though they are using your personal device. These services charge others up to $25 a GB to use your mobile data.
Generally, the best VPN services offer high-end encryption (i.e., AES-256), two-factor authentication, and the ability to use on all of your devices (including mobile devices) and operating systems, including iOS, Android, Microsoft Windows, etc.
Unfortunately, the best VPN apps are usually paid apps. However, in many cases, they offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you’re unhappy with the service.
Use a VPN Provider While You Stream Safely
Many people use VPN services to get around government censorship, access geo-blocked materials, and protect their information. However, it’s important to note that using a VPN app doesn’t keep you safe when using illegal streaming services.
Further, it doesn’t protect you from potential prosecution for illegally streaming or downloading protected materials. With that in mind, if you use a VPN while streaming or doing other online activities, it’s in your best interest to do your research first and use a trusted provider.
Learn where to watch 100% free and legal streaming services online.