A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a privacy and security tool that has been around for decades. It lets you securely connect to the Internet, or a remote private network using servers in a specified location, all the while making it seem as though you’re accessing the Internet or the network from the location of the VPN server.
VPNs are becoming increasingly important as the world becomes more connected. People use the technology for browsing the Internet anonymously, to carry out P2P tasks, and to access content that is otherwise restricted in their location. Even though the general public’s knowledge about VPN technology has grown, there are still some misconceptions about the technology that not only rob people of the benefits of VPNs, but also confuse their efforts to identify the VPNs, and expose them to security risks as they go about their business online.
This article addresses five of these myths and explains why they are untrue.
Myth 1: I’m not engaging in illegal online activities, so I don’t need a VPN
Among the most common misconceptions regarding VPNs is that the only purpose of this technology is to allow a user to engage in illegal online activities. Examples of such activities include bypassing legal restrictions in your country to use certain communication networks, or accessing content from streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, which may be blocked in your country or region.
Granted, a large proportion of users worldwide use VPNs for these purposes. They are, however, not the most important purpose of the technology. The main reason VPNs were created is to ensure security over a network by encrypting a user’s data. Therefore, the main beneficiaries of VPNs are people who are concerned that their online security may be in jeopardy.
A good example of a case where using a VPN is of utmost importance is when you are engaging in banking transactions over a public Wi-Fi network, such as the one available at your preferred coffee shop, in the library, or at the airport. Failure to use a VPN in such a case exposes you to a variety of threats, including man-in-the-middle attacks by hackers seeking to steal your data for negative purposes.
Myth 2: Using a VPN diminishes my browsing experience because it reduces my connection speeds
If you’re vaguely familiar with the mechanics of VPN technology, then you probably know that a VPN passes your traffic through a server, typically located in a distant country. Understandably, you thus expect that your Internet speeds will slow down drastically. Well, it’s not that simple.
To begin with, the speed of your Internet connection is largely determined by the quality of the network infrastructure used by your Internet Service Provider and the data package to which you have subscribed. In simple terms, the speed of your VPN cannot exceed the speed offered by your Internet Service Provider.
In addition to that, the speed of your VPN connection depends on the location of the VPN server you’re using to connect to the Internet. The farther away the server is from your device and the website you’re accessing, the greater the latency of the connection. For that reason, it is essential that you use a VPN provider with a vast network of well-maintained servers across the globe.
Myth 3: I can save a few dollars and get a good enough service by using free VPNs
Sometimes, free is good. Most times, though, free services are worth as much as they cost. When it comes to free VPNs, you’re usually heavily compromising on important features and giving up more than you bargained for.
To begin with, even though a VPN provider might offer free services, they will usually be accompanied by some restrictions. The monthly limit on bandwidth may not be adequate for the average user, and the VPN connection speed is typically unimpressive. Such restrictions are standard with free VPNs.
Second, the worst-case scenario when using a free VPN service is that you will be voluntarily giving away all your browsing history and personal data, such as your email address. As the popular quote goes, if you’re not paying for the product, you’re the product. Think about it, VPN providers have to spend money, at the very least, to maintain the server network.
If you insist on using free VPN services, make sure you read the terms of service carefully. In the end, you get what pay for. With most of the leading premium VPN providers, you can be sure that your online activity is not logged and the connection speed will be optimum.
Myth 4: It doesn’t matter which VPN I use because they’re all the same
You couldn’t be further from the truth. By the time you make the decision to use a VPN, it will be clear to you that securing all your online activity is worthwhile. You’ve decided that maintaining privacy is a top priority.
If you know a bit about how VPNs work, then you’re aware that an important aspect of the technology is the type of encryption used to secure your data as it bounces around servers. The type of encryption used varies from one VPN provider to another: some use industry-leading, military-grade encryption, while others use weaker encryption standards.
OpenVPN is the most secure VPN technology, while PPTP is the least secure. When considering which VPN provider to use, your main consideration should ideally be the type of VPN protocols that are available in the packages offered, because it impacts your security.
Myth 5: I can do whatever I want online because I’m using a good VPN
Needless to say, it is important that this dangerous myth is dispelled. Using even the best VPN on the market doesn’t mean that you have absolute protection, or that you can engage in activities that are risky and illegal. If you visit dubious websites, you open yourself up to the threat of phishing or keylogger attempts and other attacks by cybercriminals.
It’s essential to always maintain vigilance online. In addition to using a VPN, use other powerful security tools (an anti-malware, anti-virus, and firewall), be wary of dubious emails, and avoid connecting to unknown Wi-Fi connections.
Additionally, if you’re using a VPN to download pirated content, note that not every provider will hide your activity. So, before you settle on a VPN provider, find out which P2P activities are supported and encrypted.
Never compromise on your online privacy and security. Learn about VPNs and equip yourself with the right knowledge to ensure you choose the most suitable provider to cater to your needs, allowing you to browse, work, and play online with peace of mind.