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A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is regarded as an effective way to cloak your online activity from prying eyes. Without a VPN, your privacy is at risk every time you connect to the Internet. How so? Every online connection has a true IP address. This is the IP address that identifies your computer’s current location. The IP address is a digital address that acts as a ‘pulsing light’ to trace traffic directly back to your computer. Unless you want all of your activity monitored by your ISP and the authorities, it may be time to start considering options to enhance the safety, security, and anonymity of your online browsing sessions.
Let’s circle back to our trusted resource – VPNs. A VPN is a cloaking mechanism that allows you to connect to a VPN server in a country, and then redirect all of your traffic through the VPN’s IP address. This is an ingenious solution to the IP address problem. Perhaps you’re sitting at your local Starbucks using the Wi-Fi connection. Everybody has access to the password, and it is clearly not a secure connection. Rather than risk a cyber security attack on your personal information, or malware, Trojans or viruses infiltrating your laptop or mobile device, try using a reputable VPN service.
Surprisingly, the majority of people don’t use a VPN service despite the increased likelihood of attacks, data breaches, viruses and other security threats. PCMag conducted a poll with some 1,000 respondents. 710 people had never used a VPN. Increasing awareness of online security threats is necessary to raise adoption rates. The main security threats you are likely to face online include the following:
- Can you trust your ISP? Think twice before allowing them to have access to your entire browsing history.
- When you connect to a free Wi-Fi network, is it an authentic network connection or a fake network connection?
- Your browsing history, your digital footprint, and your biographic information is in high demand by cybercriminals.
Your Internet Service Provider is the company you contract with to provide you with Internet services. It may be AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, Verizon, or any number of other reputable providers. Unbeknownst to many, your ISP may be required to hand over data records of your browsing activity as mandated by the authorities. This is a privacy concern. When you access websites, you leave behind a digital trail of sites that you have visited and everything can be traced back to you. Companies pay handsomely for this type of data and are known as data brokers. Powerful analytics algorithms are used to track this data and understand your tastes, preferences, behavior and so forth.
A VPN is a formidable tool to guard against the malicious advances of cybercriminals, authorities tracking online communications, and unstable Wi-Fi connections with potential security threats.
Reasons Why VPNs Are Hugely Beneficial to Users
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The Great Firewall of China is a reference to the repressive policies vis-a-vis Internet freedom in Communist China. It comes as no surprise that countries like China, Russia, North Korea, Burma, Syria, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, and to a lesser degree Vietnam have controls in place for Internet access. The governments of these countries are fearful of the outside world. Their strict policies on Internet access are designed to guard against dangerous new ideas which would threaten the very fabric of these autocracies. They justify their stance by claiming that Western ideas are detrimental to the cultural heritage and religious nature of their country. Bloggers who upload content deemed anti-state may soon find themselves incarcerated or executed – it’s that serious.
For this reason, VPNs are sacrosanct in repressive countries. They allow users to access content that would otherwise be blocked and inaccessible from insiders and outsiders. For example, China has strict controls on who can access Google, Facebook, CNN and other major search engines and new sites. The only way to bypass these government-imposed restrictions is a stealth mode VPN service. A little-known fact is that many repressive countries with ISP providers are aware of people using VPNs. To counter this awareness, stealth mode protocol with VPNs is used to obfuscate the connection between the IP address and the VPN server. If the ISP does not know that the user is connecting to a VPN service (remember everything that happens after the VPN connection is cloaked from the ISP provider), there is no trace of a VPN connection.
Going into Stealth Mode When You’re Searching the Web
VPN cloaking is the technical term given to the act of reconfiguring/obfuscating traffic flow between the true IP and the VPN service. It masquerades as a connection to a secure server or HTTPS protocol. The DPI (deep packet inspection) which examines network traffic flows in packets and identifies specific data for the ISP provider will not even know that you are using a VPN provider if you are in stealth mode. The online anonymity, privacy, and security that you enjoy with a VPN service is unparalleled. You can browse the web at will, navigating from one site to the next with no trace of your activity.
A word of caution is in order: VPN services are not all cut from the same cloth. Just because it says VPN and it displays a preconfigured IP address in a different location for you, doesn’t mean you’re safe. Why? Certain VPN companies actually maintain logs of their users’ activity – the very thing they’re promising to keep you safe from. It’s important to select a VPN service provider with an unambiguous policy on logs, privacy and online safety.
A review of Surfshark confirms that this VPN provider has a zero-logging policy and it features SSL encryption protocols to guarantee the safety and security of all online browsing activity. These non-negotiable points apply to anyone wanting to secure their online traffic from the unwelcome advances of cybersecurity criminals. The greater the network of servers in multiple countries, the less likely it is that a VPN server’s IP address will get flagged by websites or governments like that of a VPN IP.
There are many things to look out for when seeking a reputable VPN service, but this starter guide will get you on the right track.