10 reasons why you need a VPN

These days, VPN technology has made the transition from a ‘nice thing to have’ to a ‘must-have’ for many folks who are online. And that’s mainly because of concerns around online privacy, and regulations like the Investigatory Powers Act in the UK, or the legislation passed in the US earlier this year that allows ISPs to sell user data. In short, there are a number of compelling reasons why you should start using a VPN, and we’ve rounded up 10 good ones here.

1. Secure messaging

Online communications have evolved from simple text-based emails to robust cross-platform messaging services – including WhatsApp, Skype and Snapchat to name a few of the more popular ones. The issue is that not all of these are encrypted, and therefore there’s the potential for messages to be intercepted and read.

Putting these messaging services through a VPN provides a higher level of security with the inherent encryption, and keeps these conversations where they belong – in private.

2. VoIP

VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. This is the revolutionary advance that enabled digital voice communications at a lower cost than traditional phone lines by routing calls through the internet.

The downside is that now instead of tapping individual subscriber lines, VoIP calls can be acquired and analyzed in bulk. By sending these calls through a VPN, they are encrypted, and therefore require serious decryption skills to gain access to the call, making things much harder for any snoops.

3. Online gaming

Using a VPN to play an online game might seem like a poor idea on the face of it, but it does offer some advantages. For starters, there’s anonymity, meaning you can keep your account credentials (that may contain credit card information) safe and secure.

Additionally, a VPN can be used to overcome geo-blocking restrictions, so for example, an American can continue to play a US-based game while traveling overseas. Also, in some cases, using a VPN will offer faster connection speeds as it could avoid throttling, and could also allow you to connect to a faster gaming server (which you might not have been able to access without the VPN).

Finally, a VPN can increase your level of protection against DDoS attacks – not that these are common, but gaming rivals with a serious grudge could decide to attempt to target your connection and bog it right down, lagging you out of the game. A nasty prospect indeed.

4. Avoiding government censorship

In some countries the internet is highly censored by oppressive governments. This hampers efforts to communicate outside of the regime, and prevents access to sites that we all take for granted.

Obviously enough, when you’re travelling to such a country, you will also be subject to this online censorship – so a VPN could be a necessity if you want to freely surf the web and communicate with the rest of the world.

5. Secure public Wi-Fi

When out and about, staying connected is often a necessity, and free Wi-Fi has become an important commodity for staying in touch with family members, as well as business colleagues. The added bonus is that using Wi-Fi won’t chew through your smartphone data plan.

However, using public Wi-Fi can also be fraught with hazards. These include packet sniffers, falling into phishing scams via fake Wi-Fi connections, and being hacked or infected with malware. The good news is that a VPN with a modern encryption protocol will help protect you and your precious data from these types of attacks.

6. Location-based price targeting

Businesses not only target their ads at customers, but they also adjust their pricing as well. We can (mostly) accept the fact that a supermarket chain may adjust the price of a certain item at different locations due to ‘local competition’. However, this sort of practice gets more painful when it occurs over the internet, as in essence it should be a level playing field.

Well, a VPN can even those odds right up. By being able to choose the VPN server’s location, you can change where the online shopping site will think that you are, and therefore benefit from the best price, as opposed to the one you’d have got from your real-world location.

7. Bypass restrictions 

Using a computer at certain locations, such as a school or library, will not offer the full internet, but rather a filtered, partially censored version. While in some cases this works for the protection of users, in other cases it can be frustrating when trying to look into a blocked topic.

For example, in one case a user was researching the topic of ‘breast cancer’ for informational purposes, and was blocked from doing so as the word ‘breast’ was on the restricted list to protect users from pornography. A VPN allows the user to get access to the full internet, and bypass any unreasonable restrictions.

8. Stop Google tracking

There are times when the ‘Do no evil’ company, Google, seriously starts to resemble ‘Big Brother’ as it seeks to track what every user does online, including searching their Gmail accounts to better target ads – although the firm has promised to stop this practice. Although Gmail aside, Google has plenty of mined data from other sources; it is a search engine giant, after all.

A VPN allows the user to stop Google from being the ‘camel that sticks its nose under the tent,’ and to take back control of their privacy. Without a VPN, users are literally tracked in just about everything they do online with Google’s suite of products from email, search, to G Suite apps, and when using the popular Chrome browser, among other considerations.

9. Research without a trace

There are times when some research needs to be done without tipping your hand. For example, if one company wants to look at the available jobs or policies at a competitor, it would be ideal to do this without revealing their IP address, especially if this is done from the workplace.

A VPN is an effective cloak in these cases, as the user will be assigned a totally different IP address, and it can be chosen to be geographically disparate for an additional element of safety.

10. Take control of your privacy

Quite simply, a VPN has become a necessity to keep online activities private. Email and cloud storage accounts, with their potential to be compromised, are a ripe target for hackers. Thankfully, by using a VPN and choosing a robust encryption protocol, privacy can be reclaimed.

Jonas P. DeMuro

Jonas P. DeMuro is a freelance reviewer covering wireless networking hardware.