Before we get into how to load a VPN, let’s review what a VPN does and why you need it.
7 Reasons Why You Need a VPN for Your Router
Here are use cases and 7 reasons why you need a VPN for your surfing safety:
- VPN firmware loaded onto your router secures every device served by the router.
The security is through an encrypted connection through a VPN “tunnel.” Your router becomes the protective barrier between your entire network and intruders who are after your personal identity and data.
- You no longer need to install a separate VPN app for every device you use.
A VPN-protected router is your security guardian for each device on your network. Those devices only have to be connected to your router. No special settings are required; everything is compatible.
- VPN lets you bypass geo-restrictions.
Geo-restrictions block users from outside a particular area from website access. VPNs bypass those blocks by disguising the user’s IP address. By redirecting your internet connection through a secure remote server, your VPN hides your IP address. It is as if the user is logging on in the authorized geographical area.
- VPN gives the user access to any Netflix library restricted to local area users.
Netflix streaming choices vary from region to region, depending on local licensing. What may be available to Australian viewers may not be for Netflix subscribers in Canada. Surfshark unlocks streaming services provided in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Japan, Italy, Denmark, and India Netflix libraries.
- VPN bypasses usage logs and ISP snooping.
Many providers keep logs on user behavior and sell the data to marketers. Without VPN, your net activity and data downloads can become the permanent record on sites that you visit or servers that you log into.
- VPN defeats net censorship.
Some governments block access to political or controversial sites they don’t want their citizens visiting. Geo-blocking can go beyond just protecting copyrights and licensing to become censorship. VPNs disguise the users’ location and defeat censorship by redirecting the user to a server beyond the control of the censoring authority.
- VPN offers another layer of user protection.
With VPN servers like Surfshark’s CleanWeb™ feature, your system is protected from:
- phishing attacks
- block adds
- internet activity trackers
How a VPN Router Works
A VPN router is really a normal router that has a VPN client software installed on it. Its main advantage, is that it encrypts every device attached to it—computers, tables, smartphones, etc.
A consumer-grade network router cannot carry the security load for the average user and for growing businesses. With the growing threats on the dark web, an upgrade to a VPN Gigabit router adds the extra layer of security in these dangerous times. VPN routers create a hidden tunnel within a public or unprotected network. It changes your real IP address to one that is anonymous and encrypts the information you send and receive over the Internet.
In addition to the convenience of securing every device on the network, a VPN router:
- is compatible with every WiFi enabled device
- automatically connects to the Internet through VPN service without the need for separate connection actions by the user
- secures non-native devices not normally supported for VPN use—e.g., Apple TV, PlayStation 3
- bypasses geo-restrictions and foils net censorship (see above)
Time to Upgrade? Which VPN Routers are the Best?
Installing a VPN-ready router is the quickest way to secure your network. The following are brief descriptions of three industry-grade VPN routers. Information below is from PC Magazine wireless router reviews:
Linksys WRT 3200 ACM router
Priced at around $250, this is the latest addition to the Linksys inventory of WRT routers. You can substitute the router’s firmware with open-source VPN code and customized settings.
- This WPA2 encrypted device brings ultra-fast WiFi to users
- It is equipped with a unique open source WiFi Tri-Steam 160 and premium MU-Mimo technology
- This is a truly fast wireless device
- Comes with a one-year limited warranty
- Only middle-of-the-road 2.4GHz throughput test scores
- No 160MHz clients available
Setting up a Linksys router: See the Surfshark Linksys router tutorial.
Asus RT-AC86U router
With a list Price of around $200, this powerful router is designed for online gaming, 4K video streaming and network safety. This router also provides powerful parental controls in a management console that is user friendly.
- This is a dual-band gigabit wireless router which PC Magazine rates as solid
- Along built-in network protection and excellent prioritization controls, this router has robust features and management settings
- Rated as just “middling” in its file-transfer speeds
- The unit only mounts vertically
Setting up the AsusWRT router: See Surfshark’s image-rich AsusWRT router tutorial.
D-link DIR-885L/R router
D-Link Ultra WiFi routers have a reputation for speed and unique design. At $279.99, this bright-red angular dual-band router has a management interface that is user friendly and has a the I/O ports and support open-source firmware.
- This nice-looking router has fast throughput performance and is a top choice for midrange routers
- With an MSRP of about $280, this unit is pricier than most
- It only offers middling file-transfer speeds
Setting up a D-Link DIR-885L/R router: D-Link has published a comprehensive user’s manual with detailed instructions for setup.
Setting up VPN on a Non-VPN-Ready Router
If your router supports a VPN client, setup is typically easy. If not, you need to install custom firmware such as:
DD-WRT is Linux-based firmware for wireless routers and access points. Originally designed for the Linksys WRT54G series, it now runs on a wide variety of models.
DD–WRT is an open-source router firmware, and it was originally designed to run only on the Linksys WRT54G series, but as of now, it supports a wide array of routers available in the market.
Switching between DD-WRT and Tomato DD-RT is a relatively simple process. See this web article on myopenroute.com for a step-by-step walkthrough.
Checking for DNS and IP Leaks
A DNS leak occurs when a system reverts to the default DNS server. When this occurs, the serving ISP can see observe the user’s web activity, thus defeating the purpose of VPN.
DNS leaks occur when a Windows user has recently reset system preferences or has set up a VPN manually. It can also occur when the user is signed on to a VPN service that fails to offer adequate protection or simply does not own its DNS servers.
Run a quick DNS leak test to determine if servers have the ability to associate your personal IP address with the names of all the sites you connect and store your address data forever.
If you are connected to a VPN service and any of the servers listed on the test results are not provided by the VPN service, you have a DNS leak.
3 Final Tips
- When logging into a VPN service, connecting to the nearest server will ensure the best speed.
Geo-restrictions notwithstanding, there are benefits to choosing your actual geo-location. If you can choose a server in your area, you will experience faster web service. The VPN server requires the user to tunnel the connection to the server and back. Accordingly, there will always be a reduction in Internet speed.
- When selecting a VPN service, choose the latest and fastest encryption standard.
Surfshark was graded in the top 3 of vpnMentor’s list of the Top 10 Best VPNs in the USA. Reviewers noted that Surfshark provides:
- Easy access to US Netflix
- User-friendly apps on all major platforms
- Unlimited device connections
- Free VPN services are not your best bet.
While there are a number of free VPN online services that provide basic VPN encryption, “free” can come with a cost in:
- slower performance
- intrusive ads
- activity logging and selling your usage data to others
If you must go with a free VPN service, insist on one that is “log free.” When shopping around, consider a VPN service like Surfshark, which provides a free, no-obligation trial.
When installing a VPN on your router, remember:
- VPN provides the perfect security pairing to your network router.
- When upgrading, look for the VPN-ready routers for easiest VPN firmware activation.
- Be sure to periodically check for DNS and IP leaks to maintain VPN security.
- Consider the benefits in speed by logging onto a server in your geo-location.
- Finally, remember that free VPN services don’t offer the best options in speed and security.
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