10 VPN Mistakes We Commonly Make

A virtual private network (VPN from virtual private network) allows you to browse the web privately and securely with a layer of encryption between you and the VPN provider.

VPNs are often used to subscribe to services or apps that are geo-restricted to a specific location. For example you may need to change IP (VPN server) to stream TV shows.

These restrictions are usually because a company doesn't have streaming rights in your country or simply hasn't expanded its service to your region yet.


However, VPNs are not perfect. Many streaming services and modern apps can detect VPNs and lock you out. This is because most of the popular VPN apps reuse the same list of IP addresses. So if a streaming platform sees that a certain set of IP addresses are being used to connect from thousands of different accounts, they can block you.

VPNs usually cost money to operate as they require a separate computer located elsewhere for the of all your requests, so you usually have to pay per month for a VPN subscription.

Assuming a VPN ensures anonymity

One of the most important VPN misconceptions that you need to get over right now is that using a VPN makes you anonymous online. Assuming that a VPN automatically makes you anonymous online is the biggest VPN mistake you can make if your goal for of a VPN is to hide your identity.

A VPN can help make your online activities private and, when used correctly (and with great care), can be part of your online anonymity toolkit. But a VPN isn't some silver bullet or privacy cloak that you can throw over your shoulders and instantly become anonymous. From many opinions, a VPN is analogous to a disposable phone.

If you buy a burner phone anonymously with cash and never use the phone to identify yourself or connect the phone number to anything in your existing life, it's a pretty anonymous tool. But if you buy the phone with your credit card, immediately start calling people you know, and sign up for services that connect your real-life identity to the phone, then any suspicion of anonymity goes away.

Thus, if your goal in using a VPN is to remain anonymous for any purpose, then you should treat the VPN as a part of your privacy plan. You should do everything you can to avoid connecting yourself to activity on the VPN network, including registering anonymously on the VPN.

Misunderstanding what a VPN can and cannot do

The potential anonymity (or lack thereof) is so important that we've singled it out in a separate entry above and highlighted it. But misunderstanding, overall, what a VPN can and can't do is the second biggest mistake people make.

A VPN is simply a virtual private network: you connect your computer, phone, or even your entire router to a different network than the one it's already on. This setup can be as simple as connecting your work laptop to your office's internal LAN across town, or as complex as routing your entire internet connection through a VPN to appear to be in a country on the other side of the world.

But basically, that's all a VPN is: an encrypted tunnel from where you are to somewhere else that makes it look like all the traffic from your device is coming from wherever else it happens to be.

This tunnel can help prevent a coffee shop Wi-Fi hotspot from snooping on your connection, let you watch a streaming service like Netflix by bypassing geo-restrictions, protect you while torrenting, or give you σε πόρους που βασίζονται σε LAN στο γραφείο του σπιτιού σας. Αλλά δεν θα σας κάνει με μαγικό τρόπο ανώνυμους, δεν θα σας προστατεύσει από software or ransomware, nor will it change your connection and habits while using it.

Paying for a VPN for remote home access

When setting up a VPN network, there are two critical components, a VPN server (which hosts the VPN service and accepts connections) and a VPN client (which connects to the server). Paying for a VPN service doesn't help you create a client-server model with your home network, it helps you create a client-server model with a remote VPN service.

If your goal is to connect securely to your home network, you don't need to pay for a commercial VPN service. Instead, you need to install a VPN server on your home network so you can call home when you're away. You don't need a third-party service to securely access files on your home network.

It's worth noting that you can use your home connection as a VPN, but it has some notable limitations. First, you're limited to geo-shifting from wherever you are in the world to your home web address—you can't pretend you're from Canada or Austria. Second, you are limited to the speed of your home connection.

If your home internet connection is very slow to upload, you'll have little success using it as a VPN for Netflix or other high-demand activities. But if you have a fiber connection and your only goal is to protect yourself from suspicious public Wi-Fi hotspots, it's definitely a way to go.

You are not testing your VPN connection

The basic function of a VPN is to secure tunnel to a remote network. If the tunnel is not secure or leaks data, the VPN's usefulness is greatly reduced. At best, you don't get what you paid for, and maybe your attempt to geo-shift and watch Netflix fails. But at worst, if your motivation for using a VPN is higher than watching Stranger Things, you might find yourself in danger.

With this in mind, you should always take the time to test your VPN connection to ensure that the connection is secure and not leaking DNS or other data.

Use of legacy encryption systems

If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right. Just like encryption systems used for Wi-Fi security and anything else, VPN encryption has evolved and improved over the years.

We're not in the early 2000s anymore, and unless you're trying to connect an ancient device to a VPN and have no other choice, there's no reason to use old VPN encryption standards like PPTP or L2TP/IPsec. Instead, you should use modern VPN encryption systems like OpenVPN and WireGuard.

Using a free or cheap VPN

You don't have to spend a lot of money on a VPN service, but you should seriously consider choosing a quality one VPN provider instead of a free or very cheap one.

While we have some recommendations for free VPNs (most of which are very basic limited packages from commercial providers), VPNs are very much a get-what-you-pay-for experience.

On the legal side of things, free VPNs are slow and/or have limited bandwidth. On the darker side of things, free VPNs are actually free because they look at your data or otherwise try to take advantage of the experience without you directly paying for the VPN.

If you're thinking about choosing a free or cheap VPN, think about what you're using it for and what's at stake. If you're trying to maintain your privacy, it's worth investing in a reliable VPN. If you're just trying to access a new IP address to vote a second time for free minecraft server loot or something very low-risk, you may not care about your privacy or data security.

Using a VPN without logging

The less anyone knows about what you do online, the better. And if you're concerned enough about your privacy to use a VPN, the last thing you want is to successfully bypass your carrier's or government's logging efforts, only to have your VPN log all of your online activity like anyway.

This is why it is important to choose a no-logs VPN. No-logging VPNs do the minimum possible logging necessary to operate the VPN service, but do not log additional data (and discard any identifying information).

Routing your entire Internet connection through a VPN

It's not always wrong to route your entire internet connection through a VPN tunnel, but doing so by default for the vast majority of people is wrong.

If you have a clear and compelling reason to do so, such as working remotely in a foreign country and routing your entire connection back to your home country, or being transferred safely to another country to avoid prosecution, then you should definitely do it.

But for the average person, buying a VPN-friendly router and wrapping their entire internet connection in an encrypted tunnel doesn't make much sense. For example, let's say you're Joe Smith and you live in Buffalo, New York. You buy a VPN router, pay for a VPN service, and set the VPN server in Austin, TX.

Practically all you do is slow down your internet connection because all VPN tunnels have overhead introduced by the encryption process. Assuming you keep logging into your email, surfing the web, watching Netflix, logging into social media, and so on, you'll still look like Joe Smith from Buffalo. The only difference is that your local ISP won't see what you're doing. Ultimately, this is not a worthwhile trade-off, so we recommend that most people not connect their home network to a VPN.

Torrenting via US based VPN servers

Hiding your identity and location while torrenting is a common use of VPNs. If you are using a VPN for torrenting, you cannot use any VPN service. Choosing a VPN outside of the United States is crucial to avoid legal complications stemming from DMCA notices and related complications.

And if you're on the fence about whether or not to use a VPN, yes, you really do need a VPN when torrenting, and no, incognito mode won't protect you when torrenting.

Failed to use Kill Switch

People choose to use a VPN for a variety of reasons, but whatever their motivation, they certainly don't want the VPN to suddenly turn off and expose their web traffic – whether it's private data or active torrents.

This is why you want to use a kill switch. Without a kill switch, when your VPN disconnects, your connection is simply transferred to your existing internet connection. At one moment you are connected to a remote server in Lithuania. The next minute you're back on your US connection.

From a privacy perspective (and from a legal perspective if you're torrenting or something), this is a disaster. A kill switch will terminate the connection if the VPN tunnel disconnects. You won't be able to access the internet until you restore it, but you also won't have data leaks that reveal your identity or link your torrents to your personal IP address.

Not all of the mistakes and misconceptions we've outlined here apply to every person, but being familiar with common mistakes will help you use VPNs effectively for your needs and with minimal risk.

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Written by Anastasis Vasileiadis

Translations are like women. When they are beautiful they are not faithful and when they are faithful they are not beautiful.

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