Let’s get this out of the way first: The internet is no longer a free or secure marketplace.
With the recent rollbacks on net neutrality, internet service providers (or ISP’s) have the power and authority to slow down or speed up various services as they please, depending on which services offer them the fattest check. Depending on which ISP is native to your region and which services you wish to use, you can be naturally shifted towards the services preferred by your ISP without even being aware of it.
What’s more, companies, individuals with bad intentions, and the government can track your activity across websites, selling your data at their discretion to whomever they please. While this may sound like the ramblings of a paranoiac prepper (and I assure you, the world isn’t ending anytime soon), a lack of privacy on the internet can be a real issue, as it becomes easy for these individuals and organizations to steal and use your information however they choose.
And with the aforementioned rollbacks on net neutrality and other protections meant to keep the internet a free marketplace, the threat of your internet activity becoming marketable, public data grows greater every day.
If these facts concern you and you’re worried about the security of your data, you may want to choose to install a VPN.
VPN’s: What Are They And What Can They Do For You?
Definitions and Delineations
First, let’s define what a VPN is. A VPN, or virtual private network, is a server that your computer connects to and provides a secure, encrypted channel through which you can browse without companies, organizations, or individuals seeing and messing with your data.
By cloaking your IP address, they can prevent these groups from tracking you across websites and can even hide your activity from your internet provider. As such, they can provide an extra wall of protection alongside antivirus programs from a variety of online threats.
While getting a VPN isn’t strictly necessary, it can be an effective preventative measure if you browse a lot of public networks, visit sites that attempt to track your activity across the internet, or just want to sleep a little better at night knowing your data is secure.
Bypassing Corporate Red Tape
An added benefit of VPNs is the ability to go beyond the limitations that ISPs and tech companies typically have on their devices and networks. This can mean bypassing both ISP-imposed limits meant to cut down on competition or geographical boundaries on content that seem unfairly restricted.
For example, take the Amazon FireStick, a set-top system that is meant to allow you to browse Amazon and other video streaming services on your TV screen. Compared to many of its competitors, the FireStick doesn’t have nearly as many free TV and movie streaming channels because its primary goal is to direct consumers toward Amazon’s site.
In short, you can use your Firestick to easily search for and order cordless tools or ceramic frying pans, but you can’t use it to access channels like CinemaHD or Kodi.
Even after jailbreaking your FireStick and bypassing manufacturer limits on the channels it can host, you may still get slowed down by an ISP if it doesn’t like the channels you’re using. That is, unless you have a VPN. In which case, your ISP won’t be aware of the services you’re using and won’t be able to suppress your activity if it was paid to prioritize other services.
Or say you’re trying to access Netflix content that’s only available in another country. Use your VPN to change your web address to one that resembles the preferred country, and stream away. Your ISP won’t know the difference.
Take Control of Your Information With a VPN
As net neutrality protections continue to recede and the world continues to transition to digital landscapes, the added protections that come with employing a VPN will only become more valuable. Stop letting unknown third parties take advantage of how you spend your time online, and make the choice to secure your data today.