If you are concerned about your online privacy, you are probably already thinking to get a VPN. Indeed, you may already have one.
Short for Virtual Private Network, they secure your data through encrypted tunnels while making your digital activities anonymous and practically untraceable.
Under the current climate of increased surveillance fostered by invasive regulations worldwide, these tools are becoming more and more popular among everyday internet users. Although, there are many other VPN uses you can benefit from.
Beyond security, many people manage to access geo-restricted content from anywhere in the world using one of the best streaming VPNs. These services are also very popular for torrenting safely, and gamers use them, too.
Want to know more benefits of using a VPN? Here are just seven that you may not yet know about.
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1. Securing online anonymity
Device type, location, IP address, browsing history: these are just some of the digital footprints you leave behind when surfing the net. Anonymity is then central for securing your online security as, every time your identity is exposed, anyone can be able to see the fingerprint you leave behind.
A VPN works by hiding your IP address, rerouting your connection on a different server. In this way, your online activities will be virtually untraceable and anonymous. On top of that, the most private VPNs all offer strict no-log policies so that none of your sensitive data will never be retain even by your provider.
Your anonymity will not only be secured when you are browsing the web, but you will also be protected when downloading torrents and other files from the internet. A VPN for torrenting can also improve your overall downloading experience thanks to faster connection speeds and, in most cases, unlimited bandwidth.
2. Safely connecting to public Wi-Fi
Coffee shops, pubs, libraries, airports, hotels, schools: nowadays almost every public space offers a free Wi-Fi connection. Despite these wireless hotspots being really useful - just think of all the digital nomads who can work remotely from anywhere - the network traffic, together with your sensitive data, can easily be accessed.
In contrast with your home router that is protected by a password and encryption protocols (like WPA2), public Wi-Fi connections are open to all - sometimes you don't even need a shared password to access the network.
That's why it's a good idea using a VPN when you connect to a public Wi-Fi. As mentioned before, it mask your identity while encrypting your data. So, even if someone manage to intercept your activities, it would be impossible to trace your identity.
3. Protecting your data
If both a proxy server and VPN can mask you IP address hiding your identity and location, the latter goes even further. It shields all your data into encrypted tunnels so that no hackers or authorities can access and exploit them.
Every encryption protocol defines how the service connects with the server as well as the methods used to send and encrypt data. All the best providers offer several options to you to choose from.
Notably, OpenVPN and the relative newcomer WireGuard are seen as the golden standard in fact of encryption. Other companies, like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, have even developed their own based on the same technology.
4. Boosting your online freedom
The ability to mask your real location when online is not only good for security reasons, in some cases it's the only way you have to access certain content or site.
Think about if you are living, or even simply travelling, to a country with restrictive internet regulations - like Iran, Russia or the Great Firewall of China for example. A VPN is the only tool that can help you beating online censorship and accessing banned websites and apps.
The same principle applies for a far more common everyday use: watching online movies and TV series. All the big streaming platforms geo-restrict their content, so that if you live in the UK you cannot access the US catalog - or vice versa. Don't you want miss all your favorite BBC shows when on holiday? With one of the best BBC iPlayer VPNs, you will be able to access everything in the catalog no matter where you are in the world.
5. Avoiding ISP and apps throttling
Throttling is the practice used by your internet service provider (ISP) for deliberately restricting your internet bandwidth or speed. This happens without you being aware of it. This may happen if you have consumed a specific amount of your available data or when you access certain websites.
A VPN can help as it has the ability to avoid data cap. That's mainly because your ISP cannot even see how much data you are using. If you have a business or or the need to engage with a big amount of data, a VPN service is the tool you want for carrying on your online activities without any limitations.
Bandwidth throttling is when your internet speed is intentionally slowed down. This mainly happens when you engage in certain internet activity, like torrenting for example. Using a VPN service, your traffic is encrypted so that not your ISP nor wireless network cannot see what you are doing online.
6. Preventing price discriminations
Based on your location, products and services are offered at a different pricing. Price discrimination comes in practice even according to how many times you make purchases on that platform or your online shopping habits.
A VPN can prevent this from happening as it hides both your browsing activities and purchasing preferences. This is particularly handy for some type of products.
Let's say you want to buy a cheap flight ticket, for example. We've seen reports that you could jump on a foreign VPN server and compare prices against the ones you're seeing where you live.
A similar principle applies to reduce long-distance phone charges. Just connect to the local server of your receiver and enjoy domestic-phone rates.
7. Safely shopping online
Online shopping means that, with a couple of clicks, you can buy everything you need without even leaving your home. Although it will save you time and in some cases even money, your security is again at stake.
With every transaction you do on the net, your sensitive data - like your name, address and banking details - are inevitably exposed. Online shops can retain your data and selling to third-parties for commercial purposes. Hackers may access them to steal your money. Sometimes this can lead also to identity theft.
Using a VPN (alongside antivirus software) is then the best bet you have for safely shopping online, preventing your data to be exploited for any of these circumstances. Plus, hiding your location you will be able to access local websites that are most convenient for your purchase.
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Chiara is a multimedia journalist committed to covering stories to help promote the rights and denounce the abuses of the digital side of life—wherever cybersecurity, markets and politics tangle up. She mainly writes news, interviews and analysis on data privacy, online censorship, digital rights, cybercrime, and security software, with a special focus on VPNs, for TechRadar Pro, TechRadar and Tom’s Guide. Got a story, tip-off or something tech-interesting to say? Reach out to email@example.com