Money - 9 May, 2020

Should you start using a VPN?

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In today’s technologically driven world, a lot of your life is transmitted over the internet. However, not all information online is secure.

There have been increasing worries about privacy and online data being sold to advertising companies. That’s why more people are considering securing their data using a virtual private network (VPN), which allows you to create a private connection to another network on the internet.

VPN’s were originally created to connect business networks together securely, but these days are becoming popular for regular users who want to shield their browsing activity from public domains.


What is a VPN?

A VPN offers a higher degree of protection as you’re on the internet, whether at home or outside. It connects your device to another computer (a server) that exists somewhere on the internet, and allows you to browse the internet using that server’s internet connection and not your own. By routing your traffic through other servers, VPNs hide your online activity and can potentially protect you from online threats – hackers trying to take your information, identity theft and more.

VPNs can also be used to access blocked content on the internet by connecting to a server in another country. Your device will then appear as if you are from that country, and you can potentially bypass geographically blocked content on the internet. For example, to watch streaming media like Netflix and Hulu.

To understand the value of a VPN, it helps to imagine some scenarios where it could come in handy. Such as connecting to a public Wi-Fi network at a coffee shop or at the airport. Although most connect without second guessing, it could be worth considering who might be monitoring the traffic on that network and what they could do with the information they receive from your device. Information such as passwords, banking data, credit card details can all be received every time you join a public network.

The pros and cons to a VPN

Pros:

Access content from all over the world

One of the main reasons people choose to use a VPN is to bypass location restricted content, whether you’re travelling abroad and want to access content from your home country, or you’re trying to watch a television show that’s been geoblocked. If you’re in a country with heavy censorship laws, getting a VPN can give you the online freedom to browse blocked websites.

Using internet with VPN

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Undeniable privacy when on the internet

We are constantly sending out personal information over the internet. Whether it be bank accounts or having a conversation with friends and family, you wouldn’t want anyone taking a look at your information. Regardless of the device used to access the internet, using a VPN will encrypt all in-transit data and keeps your activity private, no matter where you’re using your device. You will always remain anonymous through a VPN.

Affordable

A premium VPN service costs only a few dollars a month and can unblock any website you’d like whilst keeping your connection secure. You can even sign up to a few free services with less features, but still gives you the ability to swap your country of connection and is reliable for short term usage. VPNs are significantly cheaper than other types of online security plans, and there is little to no hardware to install. Most VPNs are up and running within minutes.

Cons:

Slowdown in device speed

Having a VPN service on your device can come at the price of a very slow connection. That’s because connecting to a server at a different place adds to the amount of time it takes for your connection to reach the VPN site. If you’re looking to get a reliable connection speed, you may have to pay for a commercial VPN service which can be quite costly.

Security against VPN users

Websites are picking up on users using VPNs and are coming up with their own security loopholes to counter block users. These VPN blocking methods are also constantly updated, meaning that you can still be denied access to a certain website with your VPN on, even if you’ve been using a service long-term. 

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Unreliable connection

Even with a reliable VPN service, connection drops happen from time to time. Not only is there added inconvenience with having to reconnect again, but because you dropped from the VPN, your IP address and information is now exposed and you are no longer acting anonymously. Some VPN services include a kill switch feature though, which immediately. disconnects you from the internet in case of a server drop.

VPN can cause internet drops

How to use a VPN

The process of using a VPN service is quite simple and straightforward, as many of them are browser extensions or desktop applications. All you need to do is download the application and open it so it starts running. Select the plan you’d like, then choose a country in which you want the server to come from. For example, if you want the connection to run from a Russian server, then select a VPN from Russia. After selecting a country, simply click activate and your VPN should be active and you can start browsing with anonymity.

The more advanced set of features in each VPN varies from service to service so it’s recommended to read through the documentation and try clicking some buttons for yourself to see what features there are.

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What the Australian government thinks of VPNs

In Australia, the use of VPNs is not illegal in terms of using to avoid geoblocking. Although there have been questions that these actions are a way of “breaking the rules”, the Australian Government have answered saying “should seek to avoid any international agreements that would prevent or ban consumers from circumventing geoblocking technology”.

Information is available to read on the Cyber gov website. You can also access this document here which identifies the appropriate security controls that should be considered when implementing VPN connections.

Words by Joanne Ly

Sources:

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