The Reassura Guide to VPNs – What they are and why you need one

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network and they exist to provide security and privacy as you use the internet.

Ok, that’s what is stands for but what is it?

The internet was built to allow open access and the ability to transmit blocks of information quickly, whether that’s an email, a film or your credit card details. Some apps are more secure than others but nearly all are built around getting the data there as the priority. So, criminals can potentially intercept that data, record it or even inject nasties into it. A VPN creates a “private tunnel” over the internet so that cyber criminals cannot listen in, steal or change the data you are receiving or sending.

I thought all traffic on HTTPS or sites with padlocks were safe?

Yes, but no! HTTPS encrypts your connection between your device and the website and is a good thing but there are a lot of websites which are only HTTP and even with HTTPS you are relying on the website being properly configured. Fake websites are also frequently HTTPS and so this alone doesn’t mean you’re safe. Also, HTTPS only encrypts your web traffic, other internet activity such as web-based gaming isn’t encrypted, this often has password and credit card information within it.

So, what does a VPN do with my data?

When you use a VPN your data is encrypted on your device, that is why it is particularly useful if you frequently use public Wi-Fi. Given that you never know how secure that Wi-Fi is or even if it is the genuine airport Wi-Fi etc having a VPN adds a great layer of security.

Aren’t VPN’s used by criminals to hide their identities?

Yes, but no (again)! All VPN’s offer “IP address obfuscation”, the address recorded for you will be the VPN one not yours. This can be used by those wishing to hide their identities for nefarious reasons but is also essential for those worried about stalking or other identity worries.

Does it cost a lot?

No. There a number of free VPNs, here is a great article reviewing the best. And, like most things in life the paid for versions offer even more, here is an article reviewing the best of those.

Conclusion

As PC Mag wrote recently, “Everyone ought to be using a VPN”. It is an extra layer of security which is simple to use, virtually or even free and keeps you safe.