What does VPN stand for?
VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. There are several providers around, but the one thing they have in common is that they are all dedicated to giving you online privacy and anonymity.
A good VPN establishes a protected network connection whenever you’re using public networks. It encrypts your movements on the world wide web and disguises your online identity. This blocks third parties from tracking your activities and stealing your data.
Why you should use a VPN
The world wide web and unsecured WiFi networks are a goldmine for hackers and companies that want to use your data for their own gain. If you’re surfing and browsing on unprotected devices, those third parties can easily get their hands on your data. Every time you expose your private information or browsing habits, you’re creating an opportunity for them to track or attack you.
Think about all those times you were reading emails or checking your bank account while you were waiting for the train or having a cup of coffee somewhere. Unless you were logged into a private network, all your online activities could have easily been tracked down by others using the same network.
That’s because your data is being sent via an unprotected network. Massive corporations such as Google pry on those networks, because that means they can monitor your browsing habits and sell your data to advertisers. Hackers are even more annoying. If they get a hold of your data, they can infect your systems with malware, steal your data and even block your computer and files.
A good VPN will prevent that from happening. It connects your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to a server somewhere on the internet, so that you can happily browse using that computer’s internet connection. All data transmitted during your online sessions will appear as if they’re coming from that server, thereby hiding your location and IP address.
Whether you’re sending emails, shopping online, paying bills, or downloading content: a good VPN will keep your online identity private and safe.
What does a VPN do?
Like we said, a VPN masks your IP address to keep your online activities untraceable. They also establish encrypted connections for an even better level of online anonymity. This way, you can safely send and receive information without anyone being able to track your data.
Features you should pay attention to when considering a VPN:
- A VPN has secure encryption protocols. That prevents you from leaving traces in your browsing history or cookies. It is especially important that your cookies are encrypted because that prevents third parties from gaining access to your sensitive information and data you leave on websites. Also, most VPNs don’t store logs of your activities, which means that your user patterns remain hidden as well.
- A good VPN also uses a kill switch. You need one of those when your VPN connection is suddenly interrupted, making all of your data temporarily visible to anyone. That would be risky. A kill switch terminates your online session, reducing the chances your data is compromised.
- A strong VPN checks everyone who tries to log in. It uses several authentication methods to make sure no third party is trying to sneak in on your secure connection. One of the methods is sending a verification code to your smartphone after you’ve typed in your password.
The benefits of using a good VPN:
- Hide your online activities: your actual whereabouts remain disguised because you’re connected to another server. This allows you to search the web anonymously because all online traffic will travel over the VPN connection. It also protects your browsing history from being viewed, gathered, and sold to other parties.
- Stream geo-blocked content: content can often only be accessed from certain parts of the world. For example, when you’re travelling, you cannot always gain access to content from your home country and vice versa. That’s because standard connections use local servers to determine where you are. If you use VPN location spoofing, you can switch your server to another country. This changes your location and makes it possible to access content from all over the world: like that local streaming service you use at home, but cannot receive while travelling.
- Download files: not that we want to encourage this, but a lot of people use VPN connections to download files via uTorrent. A VPN protects you from being logged while torrenting and makes sure nobody can intercept your torrenting activities. It can also make downloading a lot faster since ISP’s (Internet Service Providers) tend to slow uTorrent down.
- Access your home network while travelling: you can set up your own VPN to access your home network when you’re abroad. This way you can use local files and play games over the internet as if you were on the same local area network (LAN).
- Access your business network while travelling: you can also use a VPN to access your business network while you’re on the road. Seeing that your local network resources are not exposed to the internet directly, it increases security as well. And because VPN services connect to private servers, this reduces the risks of data leakage.
How does a VPN work?
When you connect your smartphone, tablet, or laptop to a VPN, your device acts as if it’s on the same network as the VPN. This means all your online traffic is subsequently sent over a secure connection to this VPN.
Because a VPN hides your IP address, your internet providers and other third parties can’t see which websites you visit and what data you send and receive on the internet. Your search history remains hidden because all your activities are associated with the VPN server’s IP address, not yours.
So when you’re browsing while connected to a VPN, your VPN creates a data tunnel between your local network and an exit node in another location. This makes it seem as if you were in another place. It also uses encryption to scramble your data when it’s sent over a WiFi network, making your data unreadable and useless for anyone who can get their hands on it.
How to use VPN?
Every journey starts with good research. Because all VPN services come with different apps, you’ll need to research what service fits your specific needs thoroughly. Once you’ve picked a VPN service that suits you best, you can start signing up for it.
In most cases, you’ll need to set up using an email address. While most VPNs guarantee your email address won’t be passed on to third parties, it’s always wise to create a new account for an extra layer of anonymity.
When you’ve opened your app, you’ll probably see a connect button you can tap to start your VPN. This feature automatically helps you find the best available server. The server closest to you, or the server your VPN chooses, generally has the fastest speed. You can also click on a country pin or scroll the server list and handpick the server you want to connect to.
When you’ve come to the settings section, you should first activate the kill switch. This feature blocks any internet activity and traffic in case your VPN connection is disrupted. Sometimes you come across the option to choose the VPN protocol. In that case, OpenVPN is always the best and most up-to-date option.
Finally, VPN services offer more advanced features, such as ad removal and malware protection. A VPN like NordVPN is an excellent choice if these things are important to you.
Tip: always remember to start your VPN immediately once you’re online. Only when your VPN is up and running can you surf the internet freely, as the VPN will protect your data!
Best anonymous VPN
One of the best VPN services in our book is NordVPN. Not only do they use the safest and most secure encryption in the world, but they also maintain a strict no-logs policy. This means none of your online activities and browsing habits are tracked and logged in a user profile.
Furthermore, they have integrated their kill switch automatically into their provider and allow you to control which apps are blocked when a connection fails. And even though NordVPN is one of the safest services available, they do not trade speed for security. They automatically find the servers with the fastest speed levels and connect you to them.
Leak protection is also an important feature of NordVPN. They have one of the best leak protection features available, so your data is always safe within the encrypted walls of your VPN connection. You don’t have to worry about unwanted ads, either. Because of their top-notch adblocker, you’re perfectly safe from trackers, phishing scams, and online profiling.
Chrome VPN extension
Most of the best VPN providers will also offer a Chrome VPN extension. This extension differs from a typical desktop VPN because it specifically works as a web browser extension.
When you consider using an extension, you should first think about what you need from it. If you only need the basics, you may find that a free VPN for Chrome suits your needs perfectly. However, if you’re looking for extensive features or streaming support, you might want to consider a more premium extension.
A strong Chrome VPN extension has the advantages of functionality and power. For example, they sometimes let you control the desktop app from within Chrome itself. Others offer in-browser extensions, which can be useful if you’re using a device that doesn’t allow VPN clients to be installed.
The best on our list is NordVPN because it’s fast, powerful, and extremely user-friendly. It’s a full-on extension, not just a proxy, and it guarantees you full online protection. Other top extensions for Chrome are ExpressVPN, Windscribe, and Private Internet Access.