Unfortunately, the answer is, “It depends.” When you search for information on the internet for personal or business use, you can be a victim of all sorts of malice. Greedy corporations and individuals are interested in the sites you visit and your browsing history.
This information can be sold to the highest bidder, and you can become subject to targeted adverts or fall victim to criminals if your payment data is stolen! Because of the fear of losing valuable personal information to the wrong hands, many people look for ways to be safe.
If online security is your priority, you may have heard about a VPN and its ability to hide your identity so that you can safely browse. So, what is a VPN, and can it keep your online information safe?
What is a VPN?
A VPN stands for “virtual private network,” It encrypts your internet traffic and identity, thus preventing third parties from hacking and stealing your data.
It is different from the private browsing features that modern browsers come with. Private browsing features such as Google Chrome incognito mode and Firefox private browsing keeps you safe by not saving your browsing history, cookies, and search history.
On the other hand, a VPN saves all your private data but hides them from potential hackers.
How a VPN protects your history searches
Usually, when you search for anything online via a computer or mobile device, your internet service providers (ISP) give you the connection to access the information you need. However, since they have logins, they can keep track of everything you do online through your IP address.
Your ISP will have unrestricted access to your web traffic, which can be scary. Although you may think your ISPs are trustworthy, they may sell your browsing history to advertisers, the government, the police, or anyone who pays more.
We live in a commercialized world; everyone seems to be looking for more money, and your data can fetch much of it. Furthermore, your ISP is subject to breaches like hackers who can compromise your valuable data. You could lose passwords, payment information, or even your identity through dubious means.
A VPN can come to your rescue by masking your IP address. It redirects your IP address through a configured remote server operated by the VPN host. So, as you browse using a VPN, its server acts as the origin of data.
This disguise makes it impossible for third parties to know which sites you visit and any information you send or receive. Even if hackers get the data, they cannot use it to harm you.
For example, let’s say you visited your bank website, online casino slots real money, YouTube, and a couple of blogs yesterday. While using a VPN, an outsider might only see the server you are directing your internet through, not those sites themselves.
What are the features of a safe VPN?
You need a VPN to protect your data, but the VPN itself should be compromise-free. Consider some characteristics of a safe VPN:
Ability to encrypt your IP address
One main function of a VPN is to hide your IP address from your ISP and third parties. With a hidden IP address, you can send and receive data online without the risk of breach.
It should encrypt all your logs
A VPN should eliminate all your internet trails, including cookies, internet history, and search history. Encrypting cookies is important since it blocks suspicious individuals and third parties from accessing your sensitive information, such as financial information and personal details submitted to various websites. Hackers can trace this information to you, swindle your money, or steal your identity.
Ability to kill the switch
If your internet connection goes down, your VPN should recognize the downtime and quit certain programs, thus minimizing the risk of data compromise.
A good VPN should verify anybody who wants to log in by activating a diverse range of authentications. For example, as you put in the password, a VPN could send you a unique code on your mobile phone that you need to enter.
Free VPN is not safe
Some people don’t know, but VPN protection is paid. Premium VPNs offer soundproof protection, while free VPNs could have some risks. So, if you want to protect your data via VPN, ensure it is premium.
Here are some reasons for avoiding free VPNs
- Free VPNs can compromise your data security with malware from cyber criminals. Besides stealing your data, these criminals can gain unauthorized access to your machine and launch cyberattacks.
- Some free VPNs track your online activity instead of protecting it. One research found that 72% of free VPN services had third-party tracking tools embedded in the software. These tracking tools often gather data from unsuspecting users and sell the data to the highest bidder.
- Free VPNs are limiting since they dictate the amount of data you can use through them. For instance, they may limit the time the VPN is available per browsing session or prohibit you from accessing certain websites.
- Free VPNs can also slow down your internet speed. VPN providers prioritize premium clients, giving them high internet speed while lowering those for free versions.
- You may experience a barrage of adverts when using free VPNs, which I find very annoying. Allowing advertisers to target you means that your data can be shared without your knowledge. Adverts also signify that your free VPN provider shares your browsing history with third parties.
What VPNs do not do for you
While VPN protects your data from breaches by unauthorized third parties, they are some online threats it cannot protect you from, including:
VPN is not programmed to protect your devices from malware if you use them for browsing unlicensed sites. A VPN can only protect your online connections by hiding your IP address. Still, it will not protect you when you accidentally download malware or submit your details to an unencrypted site.
A VPN cannot make it completely anonymous
Although this tool offers you a measure of anonymity, it does not eliminate you’re your identity. Your internet service provider still knows who you are, governments can intercept and decrypt VPNs, and others will still see the images you share on social media if you make your profile public.
VPNs cannot prevent cookies from recognizing you
VPNs can do little about cookies. You store cookies on your gadget, and VPNs cannot intercept or store them on the server.
VPNs are programmed to protect your data from breach, but you need to know who provides the VPN. Most free VPNs can be dangerous, selling your data to the highest bidder.
However, premium VPNs are often trustworthy, especially from reputable providers. Your data is worth protecting while you are online, so invest in a good VPN to avoid scammers.