Virtual private network

How Do You Get a VPN, and Which One Should You Choose?

The Internet Isn't Safe. That's Why You Need a VPN.
Smarthome Office Security Linux. VPNs cannot make online connections completely anonymous, but they can usually increase privacy and security. The Best PC Games. You also don't need to buy any new equipment, like a modem or router, or hire some squad of geeks to hook you up to anything. All the other traffic will travel over the VPN connection.

What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?

Why Use a VPN?

But do you know who might be watching the traffic on that network? Can you even be sure the Wi-Fi network is legit, or might it operated by a thief who's after your personal data?

Think about the passwords, banking data, credit card numbers, and just plain private information that you transmit every time you go online.

If you connect to that same public Wi-Fi network using a VPN you can rest assured that no one on that network will be able to intercept your data—no other users snooping around for would-be victims, nor even the operators of the network itself. This last point is particularly important, and everyone should keep in mind that it's very difficult to tell whether or not a Wi-Fi network is what it appears to be.

Another example showing the value of VPNs is using these services to access blocked websites. Some governments have decided that it is in their best interest to block certain websites from access by all members of the population. With a VPN, those people can have their web traffic securely tunneled to a different country with more progressive policies, and access sites that would otherwise be blocked.

And again, because VPNs encrypt your traffic, it helps protect the identity of people who connect to the open internet in this way. But that's not always the case, and I have found marked performance differences depending on the platform. I have split out reviews of Mac VPN applications , in case you're more into fruit than windows. Note that you can skip client apps altogether and connect to the VPN service simply using your computer's network control panel.

You'll still need to sign up with a VPN service, however. For mobile devices, the situation is a little thornier. However, VPNs don't always play nice with cellular connections. That said, it takes some serious effort to intercept cellphone data, although law enforcement or intelligence agencies may have an easier time gaining access to this data, or metadata, through connections with mobile carriers or by using specialized equipment.

This is fine for the most part, however. In some cases it may represent an actual bonus, as iPhone VPN developers do the extra legwork Apple requires to use newer, more robust protocols. Note that while those using less mainstream OSes often think they protected by the fact that malware coders don't target them as frequently, people spying on network traffic don't care what kind of computer it's coming from.

Among the enemies to free speech and privacy, there are two three-letter groups to be especially concerned about: Through years of reporting and the Snowden leaks, we now know that the NSA's surveillance apparatus is enormous in scope. The agency has the ability to intercept and analyze just about every transmission being sent over the web. There are jaw-dropping stories about secret rooms inside data infrastructure hubs, from which the agency had direct access to the beating heart of the internet.

With a VPN, you can rest assured that your data is encrypted and less directly traceable back to you. Given the mass surveillance efforts by the NSA and others, having more ways to encrypt your data is a good thing. Your ISP may already be involved in some of these spying operations, but there's an even-newer concern. The ISPs wanted a slice of that big data monetization pie that has fueled the growth of companies like Facebook and Google. Those companies are able to gather huge amounts of information about users, and then use it to target advertising or even sell that data to other companies.

ISPs now have the green light to bundle anonymized user data and put it up for sale. While it is true that companies like Google and Facebook make money off your behavior, you are not necessarily forced to use those services. If you suddenly decided to stop using Facebook, you might miss out on cute pet pics and political rants from your friends and family, but you could still live a decent, perhaps better, life.

You could even choose to avoid the Google-o-sphere entirely by using the privacy conscious DuckDuckGo for your web searches, or drop the Google-backed Chrome for the nonprofit Firefox. You don't have this same level of choice when it comes to your ISP—your home's gateway to the entirety of the internet. Some areas have only one ISP offering wired internet access. That makes recent changes that allow ISPs to sell data from their customers all the more troubling.

It's one thing to opt into a shady system, it's quite another to have no choice in the matter. They kind of have to be, since they have to carry all of your traffic," explains Electronic Frontier Foundation EFF senior staff technologist Jeremy Gillula.

We should note that there are multiple ways your behavior can be tracked online—even with a VPN, things like cookies allow web services Amazon, Google, Facebook, and so on to track your internet usage even after you've left their sites here's a handy guide to pruning cookies on your browser.

Smarthome Office Security Linux. The Best Tech Newsletter Anywhere Join , subscribers and get a daily digest of news, geek trivia, and our feature articles. So how does this help you? You can use a VPN to: Bypass geographic restrictions on websites or streaming audio and video. Watch streaming media like Netflix and Hulu. Protect yourself from snooping on untrustworthy Wi-Fi hotspots.

Gain at least some anonymity online by hiding your true location. Protect yourself from being logged while torrenting. Tunnelbear — This VPN is really easy to use, is great for using at the coffee shop, and has a limited free tier. StrongVPN — not quite as easy to use as the others, but you can definitely use them for torrenting and streaming media.

They may not know your name, but they know you like their website. Online companies and networks can and do restrict someone's access to a website based on where the user is located. Guess how they know where the user is? As hard as IT experts, Internet providers and technology companies try, the Internet is not as safe or private as you wish it should be.

However, when you go online using a VPN account, you tilt the scales in your favor. A VPN account can instantly and continuously provide Remember, you don't need to switch the Internet Provider Service you use at home or the office to connect to the Internet.

You also don't need to buy any new equipment, like a modem or router, or hire some squad of geeks to hook you up to anything. We've reviewed and recommend the following best VPN providers:.

What Is a VPN and How Does It Help Me?