What does a VPN do for you?
Most people will probably agree that the basic tenets of a VPN are a good thing. Here at Namecheap, we think that internet privacy is more than just a good thing – it’s vital to the success of the online world. That said, many people delay getting a VPN, considering it inessential or, worse, unnecessary. They shouldn’t.
A good way of illustrating the necessity of a VPN is to show just how exposed you are when your internet connection is not encrypted.
How data is transferred with and without a VPN
From shopping and paying bills to banking, so many everyday acts are rapidly moving online. As a result, we’re transmitting very important information, such as credit card details and social security numbers, day in, day out.
By not using a VPN, you’re not quite shouting your most sensitive information from the rooftops, but it is a little like leaving your front door open with your personal information conveniently laid out on a table right inside the door. Maybe you have good, honest neighbors that won’t come in and take what is valuable. It’s natural to want to believe in the goodness of our neighbors. That said, there’s a likelihood that one or two of those neighbors will have a more malicious intent. And even if there isn’t, do you really want to take that risk by not closing your door and locking it tight?
Think of the internet as a neighborhood, except instead of houses, there is a collection of servers. These servers store the internet’s countless websites and communicate with each other constantly and have access to your data as you browse the internet. You may not care about some of this data, but you should certainly be worried about more sensitive data like your online banking details.
You might think that HTTPS does the job, but it’s ok.
For the uninitiated, HTTPS secures information communicated between a person’s web browser and a website. It is indicated in green the browser address bar and also by a padlock icon. While this does indeed provide added security while web browsing, your data will still be vulnerable, particularly if you’re using public Wi-Fi. Going back to our house analogy, it’s a bit like closing your front door but failing to lock it. It’s better than keeping your front door open, sure, but security definitely could be tighter.
Whether you’re connected to the internet in public or at home, without a VPN you are exposed to a myriad of vulnerabilities. When you’re browsing at home, your ISP can see everything you do and is probably logging it. Places with public WiFi hotspots, such as coffee spots and airports, are very vulnerable to hackers who can easily set up fake but convincing hotspots.
On the other hand, when you use a VPN, your data is not exposed. The origin of your data will be your VPN server. By using a VPN your online actions will not be tracked and logged by ISPs and unsavory hackers, nor will sensitive information be taken. Even if data is intercepted, it is encrypted, so it looks like nonsense to anyone without a decryption key.
Common reasons for using a VPN
People use VPNs for countless reasons. Some of these reasons are specific, while some people just have a VPN as another layer of security in addition to a good antivirus program and practicing generally sensible internet usage.
As previously mentioned, a common reason to use a VPN is to prevent anyone – from ISPs to public Wi-Fi hotspots-- from tracking what you’re doing online.
Another reason many like to use a VPN is to gain access to region-restricted content, whether that be a TV show on your country’s Netflix, or to get around a certain jurisdiction’s internet censorship laws.
Ultimately, why people use a VPN is to have greater anonymity online. In a day and age where revelations of public data being used in shady ways have become a daily occurrence, keeping private information private is more vital than ever.