When it comes to modern technology there is one thing that everyone should seek; privacy online. Almost everyone who goes online goes on with the impression of “I have nothing to hide” or that they don’t realize their movements are being tracked. Therefore they aren’t worried about anonymity while surfing the Internet. Unfortunately, those who have the previously mentioned mindsets are those more likely to have their identity stolen or have their personal information blasted on the Internet. It’s better to error on the side of caution than to have it happen to you.
This series of articles will help guide you in the proper direction to obtaining privacy online. Each part of the series will focus on a different aspect of online privacy; whether it is VPNs that don’t keep logs or search engines that don’t track you.
You might ask yourself, why should you take advice from me. How do we know this guy is a creditable source? I’m currently attending college to receive my Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence Studies. I think that online anonymity is such an important thing that everyone should strive for. I also believe that it’s a lot easier than people think to get started, so I decided to put my ideas out there. My side projects include; learning code, finding better ways to stay private online and video games.
This week’s series will cover: Virtual Private Network (VPN)
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a service that encrypts and redirects all connections to the Internet that originate from your computer. This means that all data leaving your computer has an added layer of protection against anybody trying to snoop. It makes your data enter a secure tunnel and it’s encrypted so nobody can see it, not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP). The only connections that are authorized to see your data are the connections on either end – such as you and the website you are accessing. Keep in mind that VPNs might slow down your connection since it’s being rerouted through a secure connection. However, I don’t seem to notice any connection issues. I don’t recommend using any of the free VPN services as they are usually from an untrustworthy company who might try and sell your private information.
Benefits of VPNs
- As long as your VPN service doesn’t keep logs it is a very secure way to keep your anonymity online
- They are good for unblocking websites that are geographically restricted. The main suspects would be Netflix or Hulu blocking IP addressed outside of the USA, Australia or New Zealand.
- They add an extra security if being used on a public WiFi hotspot
Cons of VPNs
- It is obvious if you are using a VPN
- It has a reoccurring fee, whether it is annually or monthly – money is money.
- You must find a VPN that is trustworthy as it will be your source of “privacy”.
Editor’s Choice – Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access (PIA) is the VPN that I personally use. I have used many in the past however this is the one that I have stuck with the longest. Private Internet Access is regarded as the VPN to use if you’re priority is privacy-oriented. More benefits of Private Internet Access are that its’ service is rated as one of the best VPNs for unblocking Netfix and Hulu, allows torrenting. It is developed to include solid applications for Apple and Android. Private Internet Access is supported on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, iOS and Android. The VPN service allows for 5 devices to be connected simultaneously. Their service is based in the USA but stretch out to over 26 regions in over 16 countries, to include the US, UK, Canada, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
Private Internet Access is also one of the least expensive VPNs on the market, with rates at $39.95 annual or $6.95 per month.
ExpressVPN is considered one of the fastest VPNs on the internet today by many. They have excellent customer service and supposedly faster gateways than other services. They provide 97+ regions in 78+ countries to access your VPN service. They are so confident in their service they offer a hassle-free 30 day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. There are a couple downsides to ExpressVPN though. Unlike Private Internet Access, they only offer one computer and one device to be connected simultaneously. They are one of the more expensive VPNs on the market coming in at $99.95 annual or $12.95 per month.
I’ve tried ExpressVPN and the reason that I do not have it as my top choice is because I didn’t like the service quality for the price I was paying. When you put it side by side with my top choice, which is nearly a half of the price, the service has to be much better.
IPVanish is another VPN that consistently ranks high across the internet for their customer service and great value. They state that they are the only provider for true tier 1 level network speeds with servers in 59 countries. Their software is straight forward and offers all the essential features needed in a VPN. IPVanish will run you either $77.99 annually or $10.00 monthly.
VPN-capable routers are another option towards keeping private online. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of a VPN client every time you connect to the internet, then you might want to think about these routers. The benefit to routers such as these is that you do not have to install your VPN on any devices that you may want to use because it’s already built-in to the router. The router makes it possible to connect to devices that are incapable of running a VPN – such as gaming consoles.
The most convenient way of obtaining a VPN-capable router is to purchase a pre-configured router for a specific VPN service. However there are DIY options, however they are for the technologically inclined folks.
I was not paid in any way to write this to advertise for any of these companies. This is strictly my own opinion from experience and researching that I’ve done.
This concludes Part I of the series “A Complete Guide to Privacy Online”. Check back for part II as we’ll be discussing how your browser and search engine are tracking your every move. Let us know what you think of Part I in the series and if you have any questions about online privacy.