Do VPNs Really Keep You Secure and Private? The Truth
Thinking about getting a VPN to hide your identity online and secure your data? Just how well do VPNs actually work? Here are the answers to your questions in full.
If you’re like most people online today, you probably worry about your security while you’re online. Don’t feel like you’re being paranoid here, either – you have every reason to be concerned about where your information goes and how it is used.
In the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook and other tech companies were forced to let users know exactly how they’d be using their personal data. Users can also now request to have their private information deleted from the databases of these companies. This is a big step in the right direction for online privacy, but it’s not enough to keep you safe.
Realistically, most people just agree to the cookie terms on any website that they visit. In general, the only way to not go along with these terms and conditions is to not use the website in question at all. That’s pretty annoying – sometimes you really do need to use a certain website and having to accept the cookies isn’t exactly something that you can avoid.
So, many people are deciding to use a VPN to get around these inevitable privacy breaches. But does using a VPN really keep all of your information private and secure? In this post, we’ll go over just how private a VPN actually is and whether you should bother using one.
Are VPNs private?
The short answer to this question is that it depends which VPN you’re using. A good VPN will remove your IP address – and therefore the internet’s way of identifying you – from public hands. This means that you can view websites without them being able to collect data on you. They can, in effect, see what you’re doing – but they can’t see who you actually are because your IP address is masked. They’ll just see the data coming from the VPN server.
In order to understand how this truly works, you’ll need to understand the fundamentals about what a VPN actually does.
What does a VPN do?
A VPN – or virtual private network – is when you reroute your data through a virtual server before it is sent to its destination. This means that the website you’re on can only see that the data you sent it came from a VPN. They can’t see you.
If you imagine that every time you visit a webpage, or do anything online, you’re sending data to the website you are on, as well as to your Internet Service Provider (ISP), and anyone who just decides that they want to have a look at what you’re doing.
Think of the data you’re sending as being like mail. You post it and then the receiver can see where it’s sent from and who sent it, then they can open it up and read what’s inside of it. Now, this isn’t very private or secure – especially not if you’re sending thousands of those letters every day.
First of all, the postman could always open it up and read it, or steal it, or someone else could steal it from the recipient’s mailbox, or they could just show it to anyone they want.
A VPN is like sending that letter to a trusted friend, who will then personally drive it to the recipient and ensure that they take it and that it can’t be stolen. They’ll also remove all references to your address and identity. This means that it’s private and secure and if the recipient tried to track it, they would just end up back at the VPN’s address.
That’s basically how a VPN secures and protects your data when you send it out online.
Never use a free VPN
If you imagine the above scenario, but then imagine that the person you were trusting with all of your mail wasn’t being paid by you or anyone else for the service, then you’d probably end up being very suspicious about why they want to deliver your mail for free and what they’re getting out of it.
You’d likely assume that they themselves are opening all of your letters and stealing your personal information. This is the case with a free VPN.
VPN servers cost a lot of money to maintain, and if you’re not paying for the thing, then it’s probably because the VPN is hording your personal data and selling it on to third parties. Basically, if there isn’t a product being sold, then you are the product. Always remember that with anything online.
What is a good VPN
A good VPN is one that is trusted widely across the web – so, they’ll often be cited in articles by companies like the New York Times or Cnet as being one of the best ones available. They also will state in their private policy that they won’t keep your personal information. Because all your data runs through the VPN servers, they can, in theory, keep hold of it all. A good VPN will have a strict policy on not doing this and will be based out of a country like Panama or the British Virgin Islands, where data retention laws don’t apply.
A good VPN will also have solid encryption to protect your data. The best is AES 256-bit military-grade encryption. This is the stuff that the Pentagon and the US military in general, as well as most major international banks, use. The best VPNs also use this encryption to secure your data. That’s like having your mail delivered in a safe that’s dropped off in an Apache helicopter gunship. Some way to send your mail…
Using a good VPN can help a lot when it comes to securing your data online and keeping your activity private. If you’re concerned about hackers, data miners, the government, or just want to make sure your stuff remains your own, then by all means use a reputable VPN. We’ve deliberately not mentioned any names in this article because we want you to know that this article is genuine and not sponsored content.