What is a VPN and how does it increase your online security and privacy?

The number of VPN users has grown considerably over the past few years. According to a report by Findstack, around 72% of laptop users use a VPN, while 69% of mobile users access their VPN once a month. The global VPN market is predicted to reach $107.5 billion dollars by 2027. However, with more and more people using VPNs every day, this figure could easily end up being greatly surpassed. So, why is that? What is it that makes VPNs so useful? Why are so many people using one every day?

What is a VPN? 

A VPN, or a Virtual Private Network, creates a secure connection tunnel from your computer to the internet. A VPN encrypts your connection, preventing others from seeing the data you’re transferring. It also masks your Internet Protocol (IP) address, providing you with complete online privacy and anonymity. This keeps your data secure from any spying attempts, particularly on public Wi-Fi networks, in places such as cafes, restaurants, airports, and hotels. The use of a VPN helps to ensure that no one — including hackers, governments, and your internet service provider can see your personal data, passwords, or credit card information. 

How a VPN protects your IP address and privacy

In a nutshell, a VPN encrypts your network traffic and disguises your network identity. This makes it almost impossible for third parties to track your online activities and steal your data.

A VPN hides your IP address by redirecting your network traffic through a specially configured remote server. This creates a data tunnel between your local network and an exit node in another location, which may be thousands of miles away, making it appear as if you are in another place.

Without a VPN, your internet service provider can see your entire browsing history. With a VPN, your search history is hidden. This is because your web activity will be associated with the VPN server’s IP address, not yours. A VPN service provider may have servers all over the world. That means your search activity could appear to originate from any of them, making your online actions effectively untraceable and anonymous, and providing you with a much greater degree of privacy for everything you do online.

Why do you need a VPN?

  • Safeguard your personal information

This is truly the era of mobility. The majority of people are accessing the internet on the go using their mobile devices, exchanging massive amounts of data over public networks in the process. From online shopping to mobile banking, or simply checking emails and social media accounts, the number of ways your personal information and sensitive data can be exposed to hackers and cybercriminals is a real concern.

People who frequently access the internet using public Wi-Fi networks are at a greater risk. Using a VPN will help mitigate unwanted data leakage and theft of your personal information by securing your data as it is transferred across the internet.

  • Access region-restricted streaming content

One of the main reasons people use VPNs is to access region-locked streaming content and websites. Popular streaming services limit their viewable content depending on which country you access their sites from. As a result, it may not be possible to watch your favourite movie or TV show without the use of a VPN. VPNs allow you to choose which country you appear to be connecting to the internet from, enabling you to view streaming content that may not be available in your country. They also allow you to access websites and social media platforms that may be restricted in your country, too.

  • Enhance your browsing privacy

Many shopping apps, social media platforms, and search engines continuously collect and analyse your internet search history. They keep track of links you’ve visited, products you’ve viewed, and even social media posts you’ve liked. They use this information to provide you with content more targeted towards you, such as the ads they show you.

Please note that simply clearing your browsing history will not completely stop them from being able to do this. However, a VPN is by far the most effective way to prevent these services from tracking your internet activity. A VPN hides your browser’s cached data and location, enhancing your browsing privacy and preventing companies from serving up content based on your searches and location.

  • Save money when communicating with family and friends abroad

Communicating with loved ones in a different country can oftentimes be a costly affair. Long-distance calls to friends and family can be a quick way to rack up a serious phone bill. Although there are messaging apps that enable free communication over the internet, certain countries implement restrictions on the use of some of them. If you live in or you’re planning on visiting a country where the use of your favourite messaging app is not allowed, a VPN can help you circumvent the restriction, allowing you to save money on expensive phone calls and enjoy the level of security and encryption the messaging app provides.

  • Escape content-based bandwidth throttling

With more and more people streaming content over the internet — videos, music, and more — ISPs have responded by limiting the connection speeds of customers who they notice are consuming a lot of content. This can be frustrating because customers affected by this data speed throttling are no longer getting the advertised internet speeds that they pay for.

ISPs also regularly throttle customers’ internet speeds they notice downloading lots of content, too — through torrenting clients such as BitTorrent, for example. A VPN hides your internet activity from your ISP, stopping them from seeing how much content you are streaming or downloading, greatly lowering the chances of them reducing your internet speed.

Types of VPN

  • Remote access VPN

A remote access VPN creates a tunnel between an organisation’s network and its remote users. This tunnel is private, allowing remote users to safely connect to their organisation’s server. They can then access the applications, company-restricted websites, and data stored on the servers. All data sent and received by the users is encrypted.

Remote access VPNs have proved essential for companies with employees working from home during the pandemic. Although they haven’t been physically on-site, companies using this technology have enabled their employees to connect remotely to company servers, ensuring that their files and resources have still been freely accessible.

  • Site-to-site VPN/router-to-router VPN

A site-to-site VPN is essentially a private network designed to hide private intranets and allow users of these secure networks to access each other’s resources.

A site-to-site VPN is a connection between two or more networks. The technology is most often used by large companies with offices in multiple locations. A site-to-site VPN allows every office within a company to connect to the same shared network, enabling them to share files and resources easily.

How secure is a VPN?

While VPNs are excellent for protecting your IP address and ensuring that your online activities are virtually untraceable, it’s important to understand that they are not an all-encompassing security solution. There are also some important points that need to be considered when choosing a VPN provider, too.

A VPN offers no protection from malware. If your computer were to become infected with malware, your data could be stolen or destroyed. To protect yourself from this happening, it is essential to use antivirus software such as Trend Micro Device Security.

Although when using a VPN, your ISP will be unable to view your internet traffic, your VPN provider could still potentially monitor your online activities. For this reason, you need to choose your VPN provider carefully. Here are some things to look out for when choosing a VPN:

  • Your data won’t be logged

If the VPN provider’s website states that they will not collect or store any of your personal data or information, please note that this is a popular promise. Almost all VPN providers claim this. However, if you read the terms of service carefully, you may find them to be contradictory. Read through their privacy policy and the section covering how they use customer data carefully. Do they use the information to improve their services or are they selling it to third parties? If they are doing the latter, avoid them at all costs.

  • Free VPN services

You get what you pay for. This old adage has never been more correct than in the case of free VPNs. Free VPNs are regularly found to contain malware. Such VPNs will not encrypt your online actions, in fact, they may even send your browsing history and personal information to advertisers.

Example: This free VPN app is called “VPN Master – Free VPN Proxy”. It is available for download from the Google Play store. When they tested it, RestorePrivacy found that this app returned eight positive hits for malware.

  • They’re offering a lifetime subscription

Operating a legitimate and secure VPN service is not cheap. As a result, offering every customer a lifetime subscription is almost certainly an unsustainable business model, and a big red flag. If you see such an offer, you should most likely pass on it, because it’s almost guaranteed to be too good to be true.

  • They require private data

If the VPN provider requires your phone number, address, or social security number, you should avoid using it, especially when anonymity and privacy are important to you. Avoid using VPNs that only allow you to pay with a credit card. A legitimate VPN provider should accept other payment methods, such as PayPal or Bitcoin.

How to choose a VPN?

Now that you have an understanding of what a VPN is, and some things to watch out for when choosing one, now let’s cover how to choose the right VPN for you. 

The demand for VPNs is growing. In response, there are a large number of VPN providers in the market today. So how do you choose a reliable VPN? Here are some criteria to help you pick the one that best suits your needs:

  • Faster and more data is better. Using a VPN can often decrease the speed of your internet connection, so you should pick a provider that has a good number of servers and locations and won’t pre-throttle your bandwidth. Some providers have data limits, so you should opt for one with a higher or unlimited data limit per month.
  • Provides the best encryption. Look for a VPN providing sophisticated ciphers such as 256-bit AES end-to-end encryption.
  • Ensures safe browsing. It’s a good idea to choose a VPN that can automatically safeguard your internet connection by filtering and blocking malicious websites, protecting you from online fraud and internet scams. 
  • Provides full anonymity. Trusted VPNs will not track and keep logs of their user’s browsing activity, payment information, or online transactions. This should be outlined clearly in their privacy policy.
  • Supports simultaneous devices. Select a VPN that is compatible with the operating systems of all your devices and one that can provide you with a good number of simultaneous connections.
  • Kill switch. A “kill switch” feature guarantees that even if the connection to your VPN provider’s server drops, your data will not be accidentally exposed. Your device will simply be temporarily unable to access the internet until the connection to the VPN is restored. 

Trend Micro’s Device Security offers a safety-focused VPN solution for everyday users via WiFi Protection, which meet most of the criteria above and would be suitable for the majority of users. Trend Micro VPNs do not track your online activities, ensuring that your online privacy is protected and that you can lead a secure digital life.

Trend Micro WiFi Protection turns any public hotspot into a secure Wi-Fi network and VPN with bank-grade data encryption to keep your information safe from hackers. While your VPN is active, Trend Micro Wi-Fi Protection provides exceptional web threat protection and checks websites you visit to safeguard your browsing from online fraud and internet scams. The VPN automatically kicks in when connecting to a Wi-Fi network with low security, such as one with no encryption. Trend Micro Wi-Fi Protection is available for all platforms (PC, Mac, Android, and iOS).

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