With so much focus on privacy and data security right now, more and more consumers are looking for proactive steps they can take to protect their sensitive information. One of the easiest ways to protect yourself while online—whether from your own network or a public connection—is through a VPN.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and you can imagine it like this: pretend that everyone is standing around on the Internet, and everyone around them can see everything they’re doing. Now pretend that you have access to a private tunnel that lets you go around the crowd and get connected, and no one can see your activity since you’re safe inside your tunnel.
Now, right off the bat, you might be thinking that VPNs sound like tools of the trade for people who want to conduct illegal activities on the Internet, but that’s not the case. People have even said, “I don’t need a VPN, I don’t do anything wrong that I don’t want other people to see.”
What they’re not realizing is that entering a password is something that others can potentially see from an unprotected public WiFi connection, like the kind you’d find in your hotel while on vacation. Logging into your online banking to pay a bill or buying tickets to a show or travel destination are behaviors that people can see. Even something like logging into your email account over an unsecured network can leave you at risk of having your email account hacked, which can then lead to having all of your other accounts hacked. A VPN can block that danger by routing you through a separate secure server before you connect.
But more importantly, there are other risks associated with traveling and trying to get online. For example, accessing your account from somewhere far from home—even in another country—can trigger a red flag with your bank or credit card company when they see someone trying to get into your account from Jamaica. In their legitimate attempts to protect you, they can actually freeze your account. That’s probably not something you want to happen while you’re on vacation in the Caribbean!
Even little things like checking a news website for updates back home or trying to watch a movie in your hotel room from a streaming service that you legally pay for may be blocked for a number of political or financial reasons. Checking Facebook or other social media sites also might not work, all depending on the country you’re in. Even Skype, a wonderful and inexpensive way of calling family members back home, won’t work from certain countries; the service has been blocked in some places after telecom companies lobbied to ban it over fears of lost revenue.
By using a VPN, the Internet will “think” you’re back home, sitting at your desk.
In each of these cases, a VPN will reroute your connection back to a US-based server so that the IP address isn’t blocked based on your location. You can also work your way onto the internet through a secure connection that others can’t access, meaning your information or any sites you visit are safe from prying eyes.
It’s one more level of peace of mind that comes with a fairly small price tag, considering the service it provides.