A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, allows you to browse the Internet without fear of being spied on by neighbors, hackers, or the government, as the case may be. While you might think that only those with something to hide would be interested in using a VPN, that’s definitely not the case. Think of all the information you put out there on a daily basis without even thinking about it: Your Facebook status, your credit card numbers, your passwords…the list goes on. You might think that the websites you’re using are secure, and while that may be the case, it’s the security of your network that you need to worry about.
There are also some ways you can benefit from using a VPN while utilizing WiFi connections other than your own, as well as if you were to travel abroad. Choosing the right VPN allows you to essentially view the Internet as if you’re in your home country, without any restrictions that may affect local ISPs. Bear in mind that you utilize a VPN in this manner at your own risk, as many countries can be extremely strict when enforcing their Internet censorship policies.
If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to use a VPN, decide for yourself after reading up on the following benefits of a Virtual Private Network:
Access restricted content abroad
So you took a trip to another country, but it’s raining and you’re jet-lagged. You go to load up some Breaking Bad on Netflix, only to realize that Netflix is completely blocked in the country you’re currently staying in. And so are a ton of your favorite websites. With a VPN, you can use your American IP address anywhere in the world, thus tricking Netflix and other websites into thinking your actually in the States. Hey, it’s not like you’re downloading movies illegally.
Access restricted content at school or work
How many times have you tried to visit a legitimate site for work- or school-related research only to find it’s been blocked by your organization’s “Acceptable Use” policy? I can recall a time when I worked in a high school in which Khan Academy was blocked. I’m not advocating for you to circumvent your school or company’s gateway for illicit or immoral means, but using a VPN can allow you to access important information that is completely necessary to your current task.
Use public WiFi
Public WiFi is about as unsecure as you can get. If you’ve ever logged into the free WiFi at Starbucks, you ran a huge risk of having all of your information stolen by some guy sitting in his car in the parking lot. Not only that, but if you really weren’t careful, you may have logged into a different WiFi network altogether, inadvertently handing your information directly over to a spoofer without him having to do any work at all. With a VPN, your information is encrypted, so it is indecipherable to anyone trying to eavesdrop.
Private file sharing
Again, I’m not saying you should be downloading and uploading stolen files such as copyrighted music and movies, but a VPN allows you to send and receive files to friends without anyone else seeing what you’re doing. Surely there times you need to share files that you don’t want others seeing. By using a VPN, sending private documents or personal photo albums can be done without the thought crossing your mind of your information being leaked to the world for all to see.
Browsing isn’t logged
Once again, this sounds a little shady, but think about it. Imagine you were accused of a drug-related crime, but weren’t able to prove your innocence. The authorities subpoena your Internet browsing history, and find that you had previously looked up the recipe for crack cocaine. It’s not going to matter that this was for a research project in chemistry class; it’s only going to make you look worse in front of a judge. If you had used a VPN, your browsing history would be completely untraceable, and you’d have a much better chance at convincing the court of your innocence.
Right to privacy
Above all else, privacy is (or at least, should be) a basic human right. Everything discussed above should be private in the first place. But unfortunately, in this day and age, it’s not. Even those who have nothing to hide should be wary about how their Internet browsing habits may appear when viewed out of context by outsiders. Remember: Nothing you do online is private, but with a VPN you can minimize the chances of your private information becoming public knowledge.