As an internet user in 2013, you have to deal with a whole bunch of privacy and security considerations that weren’t such a big deal a decade ago. Today, political leaders, governments, corporations, and other institutions are making subtle attempts to compromise the privacy we as internet users used to enjoy. This isn’t happening all at once, but the next few years should prove to very interesting and will no doubt define the future of the internet.

Remember SOPA and PIPA? These congressional acts were quickly protested by some of the largest corporations in America. A group named The Internet Defense League was created to quickly organize massive action online and combat such legislation should it come up in the future. However, we have not seen the last of these political attempts to encroach on individual privacy online—this is just the beginning.

Within the last 12 months, a new policy called “The Six Strikes Policy” was based as a joint effort by the Motion Picture Association of America and the three largest Cable companies to not only track and private internet records, but to also penalize private internet users who download copyrighted files. This means that if you’re a bittorrent user or if you download any music/movies/pictures or other content online, you may be at risk.

Listen, I’m not trying to scare you. What’s important is that you’re informed of the debate surrounding internet privacy and that you take the necessary steps to protect yourself. By far the best way to protect yourself online is to start using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. If you don’t know what a VPN is, that’s fine; it’s really not that complicated to understand. Essentially, a VPN connects your computer to a remote server somewhere in the world. Once you establish a connection between your computer and this remote server, you can start to surf the internet through the remote server. Not only does this change your IP address, it also encrypts your browsing data, making you “invisible” in a sense.

Using a VPN is a great way to regain control of your online privacy, and it can help you achieve a level of desired anonymity that isn’t otherwise possible these days. VPN connections are also 100% legal and most, if not all, Fortune 500 companies use VPN connections to protect their data and to allow employees to safely access corporate servers while they’re out of the office. So if you’re worried about the legality of a VPN, don’t! If Microsoft, Google, KPMG, and the other big boys can use them, so can you!

Lastly, VPNs aren’t just for those who are paranoid about protecting their privacy. There are many other great benefits that come with using one. Let’s say you’d like to do some online banking or some internet shopping at a cafe over a public hotspot connection. Connecting to a VPN would encrypt your data so your online banking and credit information would remain safe and protected.

You can also use a VPN to change your IP address, which may be important for those of you who are traveling or living outside of the United States. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, HBO Go, and others are protected by “geotargetting” which means that only users with an American IP address can access these services. If you’ve ever wanted to watch Netflix in Europe or access Pandora while you travel, it’s possible with a VPN, as you can easily switch to an American IP address, giving you the ability to sign up and start using these web applications. Pretty cool, right?

VPN technology has been around for over a decade and it isn’t going anywhere. As the debate over privacy carries on, it’s wise to start looking into how a VPN can help protect you from prying eyes.

Here are some lifehacks to start you off: 24 Easy Ways To Make Money On The Internet

Featured photo credit: markomni via Flickr

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