How A VPN Can And Can’t Help With Internet Security And Anonymity

by John Sanderson
How A VPN Can And Can't Help With Internet Security And Anonymity

There is no such thing as total internet security or anonymity. A VPN is useful, but if you’re signing into accounts, saving cookies in your browser, or creating data that might give away your identity online, you can still be tracked.

The right VPN offers you a number of anonymity benefits, but choosing the wrong one or using a free VPN is like paying for a man-in-the-middle attack.

Advertisements and large technology corporations have various ways to circumvent your VPN for PC. IP addresses aren’t the only means we’re monitored online. Browser fingerprints, web beacons, and other tracking methods are becoming increasingly sophisticated.

A VPN can protect your internet connection from snooping, but it can’t stop an attacker from stealing your data once they’re on your device. Even if a VPN encrypts your data, it’s still vulnerable to malware that can be installed on your device without your knowledge.

The bottom line is that a VPN can be a helpful tool in maintaining your privacy online, but it’s not a cure-all.

With that out of the way here’s how can a VPN improve your internet security and privacy?

  • Your data is encrypted and anonymized
  • Your IP address is hidden from the public internet
  • Your ISP is unable to see what you’re up to
  • A VPN protects you when using public Wi-Fi

What Can Your Internet Provider Find Out About You When You’re Not Using A VPN?

When a website address starts with http://, it indicates that your data is not encrypted. Your ISP can see where you’re going and what you’re sending.

A hacker who manages to interpose himself between your computer and the site you’re visiting has access to everything you’re sending. The ease with which traffic may be intercepted is alarming, especially if you’re utilizing open WiFi. There are free and public tools that anyone can download, as well as YouTube tutorials that will teach you how to use them.

This is an issue that prompted the internet to migrate to HTTPS encryption for the previous two decades. When you view the web via HTTPS, a padlock will appear in your browser’s URL bar every time. This encrypts data transmission between you and the website. Your ISP can tell that you’re visiting a particular site, but they won’t be able to see what you’re sending or receiving. Anyone listening in on that conversation would agree with this statement as well.

How Do VPNs Work?

A VPN connects your computer to a server in another country, making it seem as if you’re accessing the Internet from that location. Your usual IP address is replaced with one belonging to the VPN service, which then allows you to access the Internet via that server. It’s similar to having a mail forwarding service.

The VPN client is software on your computer. It takes your packets and wraps them in an encrypted envelope, which is then sent to the VPN server. The server decrypts the envelope and sends your traffic to its destination.

The encryption used by most VPN services is strong enough that it would take a very powerful computer billions of years to crack.

When your data reaches the ISP, it has no idea where the VPN sends them. The site you’re really trying to access has no way of knowing where your data goes after it leaves your ISP. On the other side of the connection, your IP address is hidden. All that anyone knows about you is the IP address belonging to the VPN.

Unlocking Geo-Blocked Content

There’s no reason not to use a VPN to access foreign streaming services. You’re just waiting for outdated broadcasting rules to catch up. A VPN is particularly handy for ex-pats and tourists. It’s wonderful to be able to watch TV shows from your own country or get the news from your local city or state. However, without a VPN, this may be difficult. Most streaming services are region or country-restricted, making it more difficult to access content from other countries.

Unblocking Sites At Work

Businesses frequently block websites on computers for a variety of reasons. These restrictions may be imposed at the network level, and they may not be overcome even if you use your own phone or computer. A VPN can get around these restrictions by encrypting all of your traffic and routing it through a server in another country.

This method is not fool-proof, however. If your company is monitoring traffic closely, they may still be able to tell that you’re using a VPN. A final note on this subject: while VPNs are technically legal in most countries, many workplaces forbid their use. Be sure to check with your employer before using a VPN at work.

Let’s Wrap This Up

A virtual private network (VPN) isn’t the one-click solution to perfect online anonymity, but it’s a step in the right direction. The most important benefit of utilizing a VPN is to hide what you’re doing from your ISP. Unblock geo-restricted media. Get around corporate limitations on internet usage, and localize the internet while traveling abroad. While a VPN will encrypt your traffic and make it difficult for your ISP to track your online activity, it’s important to remember that the VPN service can see everything you’re doing. Choose a reputable provider with a strong privacy policy, and be sure to read the fine print before signing up.