“So, what’s a VPN?”
I was recently asked this question by an old friend whom I was catching up over drinks with. My first instinct was to give the true but generic “gives you privacy and security online” line, since I was pretty sure she was just being polite and didn’t actually care. Her curiosity however turned out to be genuine, as she wanted to know how all this related to her personally. This exchange made me realize I’m not very good at explaining what I do for a living, especially after a few half-priced cocktails. I thought about the actual real-life applications of concepts such as privacy and security, and the idea for an article was born.
A VPN, or virtual private network is like a secure tunnel through which all the traffic between you and a website travels. While your traffic is in this tunnel, nobody can see what it is or modify its contents. Those at the other end of the tunnel also can’t tell which computer the traffic came from. Here are just a few kinds of web users who gain different types of benefits by using a VPN.
1 – The Content Geek
Seeing “Sorry, but this video is unavailable in your area” when you press play can be a real downer for those who like to watch stuff online. One benefit of a VPN hiding your actual location is that it can you can choose a virtual one instead.
Whether it’s a game, video or a blocked website, using a VPN can unlock the internet for those who want to access content otherwise unavailable in their corner of the world.
2 – The Privacy Seeker
Corporate and government surveillance have made privacy a valuable commodity. The most immediate effect of turning on a VPN is that it gives users back their right to be exactly as anonymous as they want to. Some of us don’t like our governments or ISP’s snooping on what we do online, and VPN technology has the incredible power to keep privacy in the hands of the individual.
Shameless plug: In addition to hiding your location, Freedome also blocks companies gathering information about you from various sources and using it to build advertising profiles on you. Our awesome new Tracker Mapper feature also lets you see who exactly is trying to track you online.
3 – The Traveler
Those who live abroad or travel a lot can use a VPN to make their lives easier and more secure. Homesick expats can watch sports or other online TV from back home, or access sites blocked in the country they are in. Travellers will also often be forced to connect to any Wi-Fi they can access, which can in worst case scenario lead to private data being stolen. Nobody likes to go to their embassy abroad because their credit card has been maxed and they don’t have a penny to their name.
While you still have to make sure pickpockets don’t get the better of you, you will be safe and sound from digital theft with a VPN. This is because all your traffic travels safely through the VPN tunnel, encrypted and unreadable by criminals. For those abroad, a VPN therefore offers the double benefit of a better online experience and added security.
4 – The Secure Shopper
Not being a huge fan of noisy crowds, I can personally say that the weeks leading up to Christmas have become infinitely more bearable since I started doing my Christmas shopping online. Credit card scammers target people like me by luring shoppers through a seemingly innocent link into a website that looks just like a normal web shop.
A VPN like Freedome detects & blocks these sites, meaning you don’t have to look over your virtual shoulders any more. Data theft is one of those things that people often don’t think about until it hits them personally. So be careful!
This is part of a series of posts about what security experts think will happen…
December 30, 2015