Valuable VPN! – Use a virtual private network to protect your data
In a coffee shop the other day I took my phone out to catch up on some emails. The customer Wi-Fi was free so of course I connected and started browsing the web.
I glanced up at one point and all around me a number of people were busy doing the same thing. It suddenly struck me that everyone was on the same network, so how safe was my information? Then I wondered whether my home was really any safer.
Any time we use the Internet for browsing, watching videos, answering email, or any of our apps, our phone or computer has a digital conversation with other computers. If someone monitors this conversation, they will see what we’re looking at, who we’re talking to and, if the computer we’re talking to isn’t secure, our account details and passwords are vulnerable.
Organisations make a lot of money from gathering this sort of information. It’s called Big Data. Think of those pop-up ads that seem to know exactly the sorts of things we like.
So how can we stop the snoopers?
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a great solution. This works by using our Internet connection to securely connect us to a VPN server. Hackers can see we’ve made the connection but can’t see anything we’re doing. Our device tells the VPN server what we want to do, and it goes on to the Internet to do it for us. It then sends that information back to our device using this secure connection.
This technique has a number of advantages.
All our browsing is carried out by the VPN server. No one can track our activity back to our computer. Governments, hackers and websites can only see the VPN server, and these don’t keep any records of who was using the system.
Everything we do online instantly becomes fully encrypted. We can connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots without worrying about somebody stealing our information.
Most VPN systems allow connection to servers in different countries. It’s then possible to access websites and services as if you were based in that country. However big organisations like Netflix invest a lot of money trying to stop people using VPN connections to get US shows from the UK.
In countries where the Internet is censored, using a VPN can bypass the censorship and allow access the information from forbidden sites.
VPN services cost a few pounds per month to rent. Sometimes internet security software offers the service as part of their package.
So, if you do use lots of public Wi-Fi networks it’s well worth the investment. If you’re worried about people tracking your online activity and building up a personal profile of your likes and dislikes, then VPN is the easy solution.
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