Overview: A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.
VPNs essentially forward all your network traffic to the network, which is where the benefits – like accessing local network resources remotely and bypassing Internet censorship – all come from. Most operating systems have integrated VPN support.
Definition: When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. All your network traffic is sent over a secure connection to the VPN. Because your computer behaves as if it’s on the network, this allows you to securely access local network resources even when you’re on the other side of the world. You’ll also be able to use the Internet as if you were present at the VPN’s location, which has some benefits if you’re using pubic Wi-Fi or want to access geo-blocked websites.
When you browse the web while connected to a VPN, your computer contacts the website through the encrypted VPN connection. The VPN forwards the request for you and forwards the response from the website back through the secure connection. If you’re using a USA-based VPN to access Netflix, Netflix will see your connection as coming from within the USA.
Reasons To Use A VPN:
1. Access Full Netflix and Streaming Content from Outside the USA
Because of copyright agreements, Netflix and Hulu and Pandora and other streaming media providerscannot broadcast all content outside of the USA. This means: many movies and shows are blocked to users in the UK, Canada, South America, Australia, Asia, and Europe. This geographical enforcement is managed by reading your user login IP address and tracing it to its country of origin. By using a VPN service, you can manipulate your machine’s IP address to be from within the USA, therein unlocking access to more Netflix and Pandora streams. You will need to configure your television movie player or mobile device to use the VPN connection, but if you are a streaming fan, then the effort and cost of a VPN are worth it.
2. Download and Upload P2P Files in Privacy
MPAA and other cinema and music associations absolutely detest P2P file sharing. For reasons of both profit and legality, the MPAA and other authorities want to forbid users from sharing movies and music online. A VPN can be a P2P user’s best friend. While a VPN connection will slow your bandwidth by 25% – 50%, it will cipher your file downloads, uploads, and actual IP address so that you are unidentifiable by authorities. If you are a file sharer and do not wish to risk copyright prosecution or civil lawsuits, definitely consider spending 15 dollars a month on a good VPN. The privacy and protection from surveillance are definitely worth it.
3. Use Public or Hotel Wi-Fi in Confidence
Most people are unaware of this, but that Starbucks hotspot and that 10-dollar-a-day hotel wi-fi are not safe for confidential email and browsing. Public wi-fi offers no encryption security to its users, and your signals are broadcast for anyone savvy enough to eavesdrop. It’s very easy for even a junior hacker to intercept your unencrypted wi-fi signal using an Evil Twin phony hotspot or a Firefox Tamper Data plugin. Public wi-fi is terribly insecure and is perhaps the biggest reason why mobile users should consider spending the 5 to 15 dollars per month for the safety of a VPN connection.
If you log into a public wi-fi network and then connect to a personal VPN, all of your hotspot web use will then be encrypted and hidden from prying eyes. If you are a traveler or a user who is regularly using public wireless, then a VPN is a very wise investment in privacy.
4. Break Out of a Restrictive Network at Work/School
5. Bypass the Country’s Web Censorship and Content Surveillance
In the same way ‘Acceptable Use’ policies are enforced at workplaces and schools, some nations choose to impose oppressive internet censoring on their entire countries. Egypt, Afghanistan, China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Belarus are some examples of nations who surveil and limit access to the World Wide Web.
If you live in one of these restrictive countries, connecting to a VPN server will enable you to ‘tunnel out‘ of the censorship restrictions and access the full World Wide Web. Simultaneously a VPN conceals your page-by-page activity from any government eavesdropping. As with all VPN connections, your bandwidth will be slower than the uncloaked internet, but the freedom is absolutely worth it.
6. Cloak Your VOIP Phone Calls
Voice-over-IP (internet telephoning) is relatively easy to eavesdrop on. Even intermediate-level hackers can listen in to your VOIP calls. If you regularly use VOIP services like Skype, Lync, or online voice chatting, definitely consider implementing a VPN connection. The monthly cost will be higher, and the VOIP speed will be slower with a VPN, but personal privacy is invaluable.
7. Use Search Engines Without Having Your Searches Logged
Like it or not, Google, Bing, and other search engines will catalog every web search you perform. Your online search choices are then attached to your computer’s IP address and are subsequently used to customize the advertising and future searches for your machine. This cataloging might seem unobtrusive and perhaps even useful, but it is also a risk for future public embarrassment and social faux pas.
8. Watch Home-Specific Broadcasts While You Are Traveling
By employing a VPN tunnel connection, you can force your borrowed connection to access your home country as if you were physically there, therein enabling your favorite football feeds and TV and newscasts.
9. Avoid Reprisals and Traceback Because of Your Researching
Perhaps you are a celebrity, or you are an employee doing market research of your competition. Perhaps you are a reporter or writer who covers sensitive topics like war atrocities, violence against women, or human trafficking. Perhaps you are a law enforcement officer investigating cybercriminals. In any of these cases, it is in your best interests to make your computer untraceable to prevent reprisals.
A personal VPN connection is the best choice for manipulating your IP address and rendering you untraceable.
10. Because You Believe Privacy Is a Basic Right
All the above reasons notwithstanding, you are a firm believer in personal privacy and the right to broadcast and receive without being surveilled and cataloged by authorities. And that is perhaps the biggest philosophical reason you want to spend a nominal amount a month on a good VPN connection service.
In last week’s Bulletin, we covered the repeal of many online privacy laws that, in essence, allow ISPs to now openly track our every move online and compile and distribute our online private search history. It’s probably well past time for people and businesses to move to VPN use.
BNI Operatives: Situationally aware.
As always, stay safe.