The "invisibility cloak" that makes it difficult for those trying to track your personal data, your location, what you searched for online and more.
Enjoying life in the digital world comes at a price: our privacy.
Every website we visit, where we are, how much we spend and with which cards we pay – these are just some of the information that is tracked, collected and used on the Internet.
We live in a world where our online activities they leave digital traces.
"Yesterday's search for back pain is today's painkiller ad," says André Lameiras from the global digital security company's team ESET. "That photo you took at the beach in the morning is a sunscreen ad in the afternoon. And even a search for a new job as a journalist can turn into an ad for a newspaper subscription. Our data is valuable to companies and they want to get as accurate information about our interests and location as the algorithms allow.”
In case of war, the risks are much greater: data can be misused in ways that are much more harmful not only to our virtual but also to our real lives. Since its inception war in Ukraine, for example, the demand for virtual private networks (VPN) has been launched in both Ukraine and Russia.
Lameiras from the team of the global digital security company ESET answers some of the most frequently asked questions about VPN, how they work and how using a VPN can add a layer of privacy to your online activities
What is a VPN and how does it work?
VPN is something like «o invisibility cloak" which hides the address IP your. That is, instead of displaying your IP address, the VPN transfers your connection to a server in a country you choose to connect to and displays an IP address originating from that country.
In this way, the VPN acts as a "protective filter", encrypting all data traveling through it, thus enhancing your online privacy. Your information, location and browsing history will be unreadable to anyone trying to locate and track you. Not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will be able to collect the information.
For example, when you are using public Wi-Fi, you connect to a network that is less secure, giving hackers the opportunity to gain access to your devices. A VPN will ensure that your connection is encrypted and protected from those who want to steal your personal information, passwords, or bank details.
At home, you might think your network is secure since you own it, but that's not necessarily the case. Unfortunately, you don't know how secure your home network password is, or whether it's been compromised.
What are the benefits of using a VPN?
Using a VPN:
- It protects your personal information. The information you share is stored on the VPN servers in the country of your choice and thus is not associated with your own information. The legitimate VPN services they do not record your searches in the upcoming years, while no one will know which websites you have visited. This is especially important if you live in a country where freedom of expression and the press is restricted.
- Hides browsing information: A VPN will hide your IP address and the websites and apps you use. However, your social media platform of choice, for example, may know it's you using it, simply because you're logged into your account – in other words, a VPN can't make you completely anonymous.
- It allows you to access websites that are blocked in your country. If a website isn't accessible in the country you live in, like the BBC isn't accessible in Russia, you can bypass (some of) these restrictions as your internet connection behaves as if you're somewhere else.
- Gives you access to more content on the Services streaming. Since your IP is in a different geographic location, you can benefit from different content on streaming platforms that offer a greater selection of movies and series in different regions.
- It enables you to save money, as many suppliers raise prices in certain higher-income areas.
Is a VPN enough to protect privacy?
No it is not. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to all of your privacy and security concerns. However, using a VPN is a good start. You should also keep in mind that there are many companies offering VPNs - you should choose one according to your needs.
Here are some points to look out for:
- Due to redirecting your connection to a different server, your internet speed may decrease. Different services offer servers with different speeds.
- Different companies are based in different countries and they follow different rules and laws depending on the data protection requirements in their respective jurisdictions.
- Some VPNs focus on data privacy and others to more complex security features.
- Not all VPN services are as reliable as they look.
- Virtual Private Networks it is illegal in some countries, especially in countries where you may need a VPN to bypass news media access restrictions. In some other countries, it is not illegal, but governments systematically try to block access to their services.
- If you use a VPN while logged into, for example, your account at social media, your account activity does not remain hidden from that social media platform.
- No VPN offers complete reliability, as companies, ISPs, and some governments may try to block them.
- They cost money (which is worth giving). The It's free VPN they can cause a host of problems of their own, and they'll probably keep your data and logs - they'll probably sell them, too.
How can I use a VPN like a pro?
Installing a VPN on each of your devices and turning it on and off all the time is doable, but quite annoying. Instead of connecting individually, you can enable the VPN option on your router if it offers it (many do).
All devices connected to such a network will connect through the VPN's encrypted tunnel, securing even smart devices that don't support apps, like a smart bulb for example.
Various vendors explain how you can make the settings. It is much safer and guarantees an extra level of security.
Do I really need a VPN now?
Generally speaking, we live in a world where our online activities they leave digital traces. Our data is valuable to companies and they want to get as accurate information as possible about interests and the location us, as the algorithms allow.
Virtual private networks are not a panacea, but the more the internet comes into our lives, the more we can benefit from using them. Just keep in mind that there are some limitations.
In any case, in addition to enhancing your privacy and protecting your sensitive data, VPNs can also make the digital lives of those in areas of conflict. They can be a window to the outside world for those who live in areas where free access to that window is blocked by government or technology.