VPN is a virtual private network. This network allows users to change the IP address to unblock inaccessible content, be anonymous on the Internet, and protect the transfer of personal data from interception and hacker attacks. In the case of website blocking, VPN service allows you to access it.
Usually, VPN programs that have been previously blocked are the first on the list in the search engine. Therefore, experts advise not to choose VPNs from first lines from Google search but check those programs that are below the list.
To find a good VPN provider for a smartphone, you need to go to the App Store or Play Market. The advantage of the VPN service for smartphones, in contrast to the VPN service for desktops, is that all programs are licensed and scanned for viruses.
How to Choose a VPN Provider?
When selecting a VPN service, you need to pay attention to the following essential criteria:
- It is recommended to use the L2TP VPN connection type. It is built into most operating systems. It has a reliable and fast protocol. In most cases, connection types are specified in the characteristics on the VPN sites. All other types of connections are less secure and not very convenient to use. It is also desirable for a service to have an additional OpenVPN connection, which increases the security and encryption of the channel.
- Pay attention to the logs. Anonymity disappears when the VPN server checks logs. Logs are any records that can help to identify clients. You need to carefully examine the website of the company providing the VPN service. If the company has a legal address, then, most likely, logs are kept in the company, since all registered companies are required to keep records and control the activities of their clients. You also need to pay attention to the Terms and Agreements section. It happens that the company’s website indicates that no logs are kept in the company. However, the agreement may say the opposite.
- If you are seriously worried about your anonymity, then the best VPN service for you is the one that does not have an office. If there is an office, then there is a place where officials can come or send an official request. That is, the presence of a company or office registration means that the VPN service is less anonymous.
What to Consider When Choosing a VPN?
It is essential to ensure that the VPN service supports your operating system. As a rule, such systems as Windows, Mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone provide access to the VPN network.
There are free and paid VPN services. Free services are more likely to have such disadvantages as low speed of Internet traffic, frequent disconnections from the network, limited operating time, higher risk of being subjected to hackers or virus attacks. At the same time, there are high-quality free VPN services, but in any case, each of them is vulnerable in one or another component. Another inherent drawback for free VPNs is that they are more likely to sell your personal data.
Are VPNs Secure?
You should know about follow potential threats:
- No VPN service can guarantee 100% security for its user. Some services are used by fraudsters to collect personal data, which can lead to the stealing of money from a bank account or other cybercrime. Even some VPN services presented on Google Play or AppStore carry a potential threat.
- Some services have a spyware program that gets installed on the phone or computer during the download. This program is designed to steal personal user data (passwords, bank cards, etc.).
- User data can be sold to advertisers, which will lead to the fact that the user will become an object for annoying ads.
- When buying a paid VPN service, you can not always be sure about the security of your data. There are many fake services in the network that imitate conventional ones. Therefore, before you pay, it is better to examine the product in detail and to see if the contacts of the service provider are available to you.
Can VPN Declassify Information to the Government?
Foreign VPN service is not obliged to provide information to the Government of your country. An exception may be the presence of a special memorandum between the VPN service and government agencies, or the existence of a protocol between the authorities of your country and the authorities of the country where the VPN service is registered. The President or the Government may enter into international memoranda either with the states or with the vendor companies themselves.
Who and Why Blocks VPNs?
Such well-known platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, BBC, etc. can block VPN services. For example, it is possible to block a VPN by IP address. Considerable resources track them to create targeted ads and filter content depending on the country. For the same reason, they block the IP addresses of VPN providers.
There are many myths about VPNs. People know that the flexibility and anonymity that VPN services provide makes them a great tool for hackers who don’t want to leave any traces that could potentially reveal their identity. However, there are much more pluses from VPNs. Another example is Russia, where the Federal Law on Information Protection defines the responsibilities of the owners of VPN services. In particular, they should limit access to resources prohibited in the country. In March 2019, the Russian authorities demanded that ten VPN services not provide access to the Telegram messenger. Several services have been blacklisted. The Russian authorities are planning to block another nine primary services in August of this year.
The fight against the VPN is not very useful. It is enough for the provider to change the IP address to bypass the blocking. Besides, there are so many anonymizers and VPN services that it is almost impossible to block all these resources. You can even create your own VPN. This may be a promising direction in the near future.
VPN Services in the USA
In the US, the situation is completely different. The main prohibitions relate to the distribution of pirated content. The Pirate Bay torrent tracker’s war is a confirmation. However, the use of anonymizers and VPN-services in the States, as well as in Europe, is not prohibited at the legislative level. About 17% of Americans in 2018 constantly used proxies and VPNs to protect their personal data and access higher-quality content.
An interesting story happens with Netflix. After the service expanded its influence almost on the whole world, the resource management declared war on consumers who use proxies, VPNs, and other means of anonymization to view content not intended for their country. Video service tries to please copyright holders. However, the situation looks quite ironic. Considering that VPNs are created precisely to hide end-user data, Netflix can only block the IP addresses of VPN providers and blacklist them.
Differences Between Paid and Free VPN Services
It is meaningless to argue about which VPN is better. Of course, people who spend money will have several advantages:
- Free programs use throttling, which slows down the basic speed declared by the ISP.
- If a developer offers a fully open and reliable VPN, then he earns on advertising banners that pop up at inappropriate moments.
- Free utilities cannot be 100% secure. You will not know who the owner of the software is or whether he is using your personal data for mercenary purposes.
- The overall security level in the best-paid VPN services is higher than in the available free alternatives.
Is There an Alternative to VPNs?
There are two more ways to bypass Internet blocking. These are anonymizers and proxy servers. Anonymizer is a website that opens a single blocked resource while hiding the user’s IP address. You should enter the link in the anonymizer address bar, and you will get access. Usually, anonymizers are used for simple tasks like visiting blocked resources. But the anonymizer has very serious disadvantages: lack of confidentiality and high risk of infecting a computer or smartphone with viruses.
That is, the anonymizer is less secure than a VPN.
The proxy server also acts as an intermediary between the user and the target server, hiding the user’s IP address. The proxy server is quite similar in structure to the VPN. However, its main difference from VPN is that the proxy server does not encrypt user traffic, so all messages remain open. Using the right tools and skills, hackers can track messages. Proxy servers also have a short time of stable operation, which affects their efficiency.
Many people use VPNs to protect their IP addresses, and the growth of its use does not plan to slow down. However, using a VPN involves some risks. Although while using a VPN, you can become anonymous, you should still remember these risks. In addition, with the development of VPN services, resource locking technologies also improve.