VPNs aren’t the “silver bullet” that many VPN companies like to portray.
It’s critical to understand the restrictions and dangers of VPN use before you start using one, frankly.
One major drawback is that encryption is good but it only happens between VPN endpoints – in other words, if it’s not properly secured, using a VPN connection exposes not only the data travelling between your computer and the VPN server, but also the data travelling between the VPN server and its intended destination. While VPNs might help protect your data and anonymity online, it’s vital to remember that no security measure is bulletproof.
And it gets worse. There’s also the possibility that your VPN provider is reading and logging every packet you send and receive while connected to their network for their own use or to sell to advertisers or law enforcement.
If you want to know what happens to your data when it’s being transmitted through a VPN, you should read the fine print very closely ineeded; they may not say they will use your information, but it doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t.
At a Glance:
|🔒 Keeps your data secure||🐢 May slow down your internet speed|
|🕵️♂️ Protects your online privacy||🤑 Cheap or free VPNs may compromise your security and collect your data|
|🎭 Hides your IP address||💰 Premium VPNs come with a cost|
|👊 Useful for activists in hostile environments||📱 Does not protect against data collection on social media|
|🔌 Prevents bandwidth throttling for certain activities||🚫 Incompatible with some devices|
|🛡️ Protects against DDoS attacks||🌍 Banned in some countries (e.g. India)|
|👨💼 Useful for remote work||🤖 Does not protect against voluntary data collection|
Some VPNs also offer anti-virus or anti-malware protection, which necessitates that your traffic be scanned before being sent over the Internet. While this has its uses, keep in mind that they can reinstate content—even dangerous material, personalised advertisements, and even monitoring mechanisms—into the system. While determining whether or not to utilise a VPN, there is another element to consider. Do your homework and select a VPN service that places a premium on your security and anonymity.
What are some examples of VPNs acting shady?
Hotspot Shield, a widely used VPN, has come under fire for its logging practises in the past. In 2017, the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group, lodged a complaint with the FTC alleging that Hotspot Shield’s free VPN service was collecting user data and sharing it with third-party advertisers.
Hotspot Shield’s free VPN service was collecting user data and sharing it with third-party advertisers
Hotspot Shield has modified its logging policies and procedures since they were first introduced. The corporation has updated its policy to reflect the fact that it no longer tracks users’ activity across websites or stores their IP addresses. However, it does collect some information, such as the quantity of data transferred and the length of VPN connections, which it justifies as being essential to its operation and development.
It’s important to note that Hotspot Shield is not the only VPN service to come under fire for its logging practises.
In 2019, reports surfaced that seven free VPN apps with over 500 million downloads on the Google Play Store were leaking user data. Another example is HMA (previously called Hide My Ass), which was caught logging user data and providing it to the FBI in a high-profile case in 2011.
So is it all bad then?
No. A VPN will always have pros and cons.
It can hide your IP address and stop bandwidth limiting, in addition to securing your data and protecting your online privacy. A virtual private network (VPN) can shield you from DDoS attacks, and/or other online threats, making it ideal for activists operating in dangerous conditions.
Plus, free or low-cost VPNs may not be trustworthy, as they can log your activity and not tell you (as history proves).
Premium VPN services cost money and have better security practices, but they too do not prevent social media platforms from collecting and storing your data if you choose to provide it voluntarily. In addition, some nations have outright outlawed VPN services, making them unavailable to residents there – for example, India, Russia, Saudi Arabia.
Advantages of VPNs
There are several ways in which a VPN might improve the quality of your time spent online, actually.
Your personal data is protected
The safety of your personal information while you’re online is one of the main benefits. As we use the internet, anyone from hackers to government agents to ISPs can potentially gain access to the information we send and receive. As a result, we may be more susceptible to acts of cybercrime, identity theft, and other forms of harm.
Nevertheless, if you use a VPN, your data will be protected because all of your web traffic will be encrypted. For maximum security and anonymity, premium VPN services employ sophisticated encryption methods.
Save money by shopping around
Online businesses use various tactics, such as tracking customers’ network information, to increase prices. This can lead to ecommerce vendors charging different prices for services based on the region. By using a VPN to hide your location, you can avoid such pricing tactics and access offers unaffected by them. This can save you money on flights and other services, which could potentially exceed the amount you spent on the VPN quite easily.
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Keeping you safe over public Wi-Fi
Furthermore, VPNs can help you stay safe on public Wi-Fi networks, which are a common target for hackers. Threat Protection in NordVPN is an additional layer of security that aids in detecting and blocking malware, harmful websites, and annoying advertisements. You can surf the web more freely and confidently knowing that your personal data is safe when you use a VPN.
It’s a bit of a sweeping generalization, but you can mostly avoid online snooping by using a VPN. When you go online, you leave behind a trail of information about you and your habits that others may be able to use to learn a lot about you. Your ISP can also track your online behaviour and share that data with others. With a VPN, however, your data is encrypted and your online activity is hidden from prying eyes. Using a virtual private network (VPN) is a great way to ensure your privacy when surfing the web.
Automatic kill switches
The Kill Switch feature is a crucial component of a VPN, especially when using it in countries where online freedom is restricted. If the VPN connection suddenly drops, your online activities become vulnerable to surveillance and can have severe consequences. NordVPN’s Kill Switch feature ensures that your internet connection is automatically terminated if the VPN connection drops, preventing your browsing data from being exposed. This feature is essential for anyone using a VPN, especially those living in countries with low levels of internet freedom.
VPNs can protect gamers
If you’re into gaming, you know that there are some strange folk out there. In the hyper competitive world of e-sports, it’s not unheard of that gamers can get abuse. For situations like that, it’s critical to hide your identity and IP address as much as you can.
Meshnet is a feature of NordVPN that lets users create virtual local area networks (LANs) for multiplayer gaming with friends from anywhere in the world. Also, this function aids in shielding your network from DDoS attacks and can help you stay clear of unjustified IP bans. When it comes to protecting your gaming sessions and personal information, a virtual private network (VPN) might be invaluable.
Ideal for businesses – but why?
In this age of remote work caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a VPN is an indispensable tool for organizations. Accessing company networks from off-site locations increases the danger of data theft, especially as the number of remote workers continues to rise. While using a public or shared network, your private information is at risk from hackers who may be able to access your company’s internal systems.
A company can suffer serious consequences if unauthorised individuals gain access to sensitive data. Thus, it is essential for businesses to adopt widespread VPN usage among its staff to protect confidential information and provide a risk-free setting for remote employees.
Disadvantages of VPNs
In addition to the above things I mentioned earlier, there are also a few other drawbacks to be aware of.
Firstly, VPNs cannot be 100% guaranteed to work to unlock content. It’s just the way that VPNs work; some websites and services will restrict access to their material for VPN users no matter how hard you try. This is due to the fact that VPN’s IP addresses have mostly all been logged (it’s called fingerprinting). A good VPN can be used to circumvent region-locked content and gain access to it from elsewhere, most of the time. But some online video streaming businesses, for instance, now actively work to identify and prevent VPN use and it’s become a cat-and-mouse game.
In addition, VPNs are not always compatible with all software and services. Some websites, like those for online banking, could block VPN users for security reasons. It’s important to remember that even a VPN can’t guarantee perfect safety from things like phishing schemes and social engineering attempts. In situations like that, you’ll want to use tunneling.
In general, the advantages of privacy and security provided by a VPN exceed the disadvantages. The success of your VPN usage depends on your selection of a trustworthy VPN service and your awareness of its limitations and potential pitfalls.
VPNs: Difficult to set up
If you’re not technical, then it can be hard to set up a VPN for the first time.
Plus mistakes in the process could lead to the disclosure of private data. VPN technology has come a long way lately, and now creates an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server, protecting your data from prying eyes. Nevertheless, if it is not set up properly, then unauthorized users may still be able to access your data, which is even riskier than not using a VPN at all.
Knowing how your VPN service works and having it properly configured are both crucial steps in preventing data loss. If you need help with this, just get in touch!
Is a VPN worth it?
I know what you’re thinking, I would say this as I write for a VPN review website…! But hear me out. Having a VPN actively shielding your online activity is crucial in today’s society. But not every VPN service is the same: server architecture, robust encryption, customer support, no-logs policy, country of operation, and other security features like tracker and ad blockers are all important considerations when selecting a VPN company.
Here are some due diligence checks I recommend you do, regardless of which VPN you use:
- Ensure there is a large pool of IP addresses available to you from your VPN service.
- 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption is currently the strongest algorithm available.
- Verify that the service provider has a no-logging policy that has been audited.
- Think about where it is based, as some countries have a poor track record when it comes to privacy and spying.
- Choose a VPN service that provides extra security features like tracker and ad blockers for a more private and productive online experience.
I’ve spent ages trying to get people to understand this point: choosing a reliable VPN service is just as important as locking your doors at home.
🏆 5 Best-Rated VPNs in 2023
- ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN around. Supports Netflix.
- NordVPN — Privacy-focused VPN that suppports streaming
- PIA VPN — Cheaper than most VPNs.
- Surfshark — Relative newcomer but making in-roads
- IPVanish VPN — Best for tech-savvy users
All things considered, the best VPN in world in 2023 is ExpressVPN. It's perfect for watching streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, and isn't as expensive as you may think. If you're looking for a VPN with speed, then our ExpressVPN speed test results speak for themselves.