With growing insecurity about being online, more and more people have started using a VPN (virtual private network). However, besides increased online security, VPNs also offer some other rather surprising benefits. Here, we explain what VPNs are and discuss the reasons why you should use one.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a service that protects your online browsing activity, data and identity from cybercriminals and anyone else who might attempt to discover information about you. It works by redirecting your online activities through a proxy server and in doing so, hides your device’s IP address. At the same time, a VPN encrypts the data you send online so that it cannot be accessed and stolen.
The benefits of using a VPN
1. Safer use of public wi-fi
While public wi-fi is a highly convenient way to stay connected when you are out and about, it is, by its very nature, an open network that anyone can use and this makes it easier for cybercriminals to join that network and try to snoop on others who are using it. When you use a VPN over public wi-fi, your data is protected. No one can see your browsing history, the login credentials you use or the banking details you input.
2. Better security for remote working
When work from home became a necessity during the pandemic, many businesses took advantage of VPNs to keep their systems and data secure. With employees using their own devices and internet service providers to access company systems, a VPN’s data encryption ensured that sensitive business information, login credentials and communications were kept secure.
Today, a growing number of businesses are finding value in VPNs for the same reason. With more people working remotely, it ensures they can connect securely to the business network regardless of where they are.
3. ISP privacy
When you use your broadband to connect to the internet at home, your internet service provider can access all the data you generate when you use their network and servers. This includes your browsing and search histories, even when browsing incognito. While these companies are required to comply with data privacy regulations, it is still possible that some of your data could be shared with or sold to third parties, and there is always the potential that either the ISP or the third party may suffer a data breach and your information may end up in the hands of cybercriminals. VPNs keep you protected from this by hiding your IP address – even from your own service provider.
4. Stop other businesses getting hold of your data
Data is highly valuable to businesses who use it to help them find new opportunities in the marketplace and target different groups of people. While this can improve our online experience, such as providing us with personalised product recommendations, not all businesses use our data in ways we would wish. For example, data from our social media activities may be used to target us with content that tries to change our opinions, including who we vote for. By hiding your IP address, a VPN breaks the link between your online behaviour and your device. In other words, companies will see the behaviour but will not know it is yours.
5. Access streaming and live sports content from anywhere
When streaming companies, like Netflix, do business with content providers, like film distribution companies, their complex deals sometimes put restrictions on when and where certain movies or series can be watched. As a result, what’s available on Netflix in the USA might not be available on Netflix in the UK. This applies to music streaming, gaming, live sports and many other forms of online content.
The content you are offered on these services depends entirely on where you are located and that is all down to the IP address of your device. VPN providers, however, have proxy servers in countries across the world and they let you choose which region you want your IP to look like it is based in. This means that if the show you want isn’t available in the UK but is in the USA, you can access it by changing your IP address to a proxy server in the US.
6. Out-smart business pricing
What many people don’t realise when they buy things online is that the price of a product or service can depend on where you are located. Sellers may be forced to do this because of contractual reasons with suppliers or because they recognise you live in an affluent place and so charge you more. Again, it is your devices IP address that affects the prices that are displayed when you visit the website and by changing this, you can sometimes get a much better deal. – Read more