VPNs have been getting a bad rap lately.
It’s true that some service providers are exaggerating the benefits, overselling the importance of encryption on the modern HTTPS internet, and neglecting to mention that all the trust you had placed in your ISP is shifted to a 3rd party company. However, there are still some very valid reasons to use a VPN, and in this article, we’ll go through them.
How A VPN Works
There are two main components to a VPN.
The client, which is software that you install on your computer.
The server, which is a computer that can be anywhere on earth responsible for receiving all traffic from the client and rerouting it to your intended destination.
It helps to think of a VPN as a sort of mail forwarder. You have your network packet addressed to a website. The client takes the packet and wraps it in an encrypted envelope addressed to the VPN server and hands it to your internet service provider (ISP) to deliver.
The ISP is unable to open and read what’s inside the wrapped envelope, while it delivers it to the VPN server. Once it’s there, the server unwraps the envelope and forwards it to the intended recipient. See how using a VPN breaks the chain between your computer – ISP – the website you’re visiting. Not only is your ISP unable to see what sites you’re visiting, but the site you’re visiting can’t see who you are either.
Anyone can google your public IP address and get your location within a few blocks.
How Private is A ISP
VPNs aren’t the magic black box of internet privacy and security many providers claim.
If the CIA, FBI, NSA, or Interpol wants to know what you are doing online they’ll work it out.
There’s plenty of meta-data about you and your device exposed throughout the layers of the OSI model.
On the application layer, everything you do is exposed. If you have malware on your computer, your VPN isn’t going to protect you.
WPS addressing information is used by tech companies to identify your real location through Wi-Fi positioning. There are millions of known devices that can triangulate your position by comparing the signal strength of your router.
All big tech companies use 3rd party cookies, banks rely on device session tokens and hardware tokens. There are E-tags and HTML5 local storage, single-pixel web beacons, and more.
Furthermore, your ISP will likely know that you are using a VPN because of the inflated size of the packet, and they might have a list of known providers. There’s nothing wrong with using a VPN so this shouldn’t bother you.
Unless you give law enforcement a reason to look, a VPN is enough to keep your browsing history a secret.
You can also read: How to Enable Free VPN in Opera Browser
If no one is actively trying to find you, all you need to worry about is keeping your history off your ISP’s servers.
You might think, “but I trust my ISP” and that’s fine, but if your ISP’s records are hacked then there’s a chance that your browsing history could become public knowledge. Likewise, if a VPN server is hacked the same is true. That’s why you should always insist on a VPN that has a strict no-logs policy. Surfshark is a good one. Here’s a link to get Surfshark on Mac. With a no-log policy, it doesn’t matter if your provider is hacked because there’s nothing to see.
VPNs Beat Geo Blocking to Let you Watch Movies and Access Services
Netflix, Hulu, SkySports, Amazon Prime, Vevo, Youtube, and hundreds of other sites are all geo-blocked in certain countries.
When using a VPN you can connect to a server in the US to access US Netflix, or if you’re traveling you can access the library of content from home.
These restrictions are worth getting around because the broadcasting laws make no sense. When everyone watched TV shows and movies on their living room TV it made sense, but in the modern era when content can travel under the ocean in a fraction of a second they don’t. If you choose to not use a VPN, you’re just waiting for the laws to catch up with reality.
VPNs also unblock services. In some regions, cryptocurrency exchanges, Saas products, and blogging platforms aren’t available. In The US, derivative crypto markets are hard to access. In Vietnam, the popular blogging platform Medium is hard to access. A VPN is an easy way around all this.
You can also read: Best VPN for MAC or iPhone
Avoid Cease and Desist Notices If Torrenting
No matter how you personally feel about torrenting, up to 10% of global internet traffic is from BitTorrent and other clients like it. VPNs are commonly used while torrenting, because if torrenting without one everyone can see your public IP address. The risk involved with this is that rights holders monitor IP addresses and send nasty emails containing cease and desist notices to ISPs to forward onto anyone downloading content. These notices can threaten you with legal action or demand you pay for the content at an expensive commercial rate.
A VPN isn’t the black box of internet security that many providers claim, but that’s not to say they aren’t without their uses. If you want to watch blocked content, hiding your public IP address from your ISP and everyone else other than a VPN is the easiest way to do this.
You can also read: Top 9 Free VPN Services