Did you know that most traffic across the Internet travels in an unencrypted state. And when you make an open wireless connection in a coffee bar or other public location, the radio connection is unsecured and unencrypted, too. This traffic travels as plain text, and can be read by anyone with the skills to intercept the traffic and open the data packets.
We know that HTTPS web connections to our bank are secured and encrypted, but all HTTP travel is wide open to the attacker. How would it be if every connection you made over the Internet, and even across private networks, could be secured and encrypted? This is the purpose of a VPN or virtual private network.
Many business networks have VPN devices, sometime incorporated in the firewall, that allow their mobile, traveling, and home-based employees to connect securely to the corporate network for access to sensitive, confidential, or proprietary files, company applications, and databases.
What about the rest of us? Is there a way to use a VPN as a private individual? Fortunately the answer is yes. There are an abundance of VPN services available by subscription. There are many reasons that an individual may want a VPN, and not all of t hem have to do with security and privacy.
- Watching geo-blocked services – Netflix and Pandora are not available in Europe, but with a VPN, your connection request looks like it is generated from your home location.
- Political censorship – Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and other websites are sometime blocked by more repressive governments. Using a VPN can provide access, and prevent the government from knowing what you are doing.
- Bypassing DRM – If you are trying to circumvent copyright restrictions (which is illegal) a VPN can allow you to connect to torrent sites that may be blocked by governments.
Here are some of the issues to consider when choosing a VPN service provider:
- Security Strength – Make sure your VPN provider is using a strong form of encryption. Some types have been deprecated due to security vulnerabilities.
- Logging – If the VPN service provider keeps connection logs, this would be a privacy concern. The point of a VPN is to be invisible to bad actors and government surveillance.
- Speed – One of the drawbacks of using a VPN is that the connections can be slower than unsecured connections. Make sure your VPN provider provides acceptably fast connections.
- Device compatibility – Your VPN needs to be available on all your devices.
- P2P – If using file sharing networks and torrents is part of your plan, make sure your VPN service allows it. Not all providers permit this.
For more information, check out the except article link below. The service recommendations are for the UK, so will not be terribly helpful for my US readers, though.