The rising popularity of virtual private networks raises a natural question: why use a VPN in the first place? The service can be beneficial in many ways, but, in its core, a VPN offers better privacy and security while also increasing access to content. Read on as we go into the spicy details about its powers.
Reasons to use a VPN in short:
- Hide your browsing activity from snoopers
- Protect your data from being stolen, collected, and sold
- Prevent phishing
- Bypass regional and network blocks
- Escape from targeted advertising
- Stay secure on public Wi-Fi
- Dodge price discrimination
What’s a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a technology that encrypts your web traffic (making it unreadable to spies) and routes it via a VPN server (giving you a different IP). This way, anything you do on the internet is more secure and private.
As studies show, privacy and security online are becoming increasingly important to the everyday internet user.
From data collection to hacking and identity theft, there are many things that leave people craving digital protection. While a VPN provides just that, you’ll find out it’s not the only reason to use a VPN!
Hide your browsing activity from snoopers
A VPN strengthens your digital privacy by sending your traffic through an encrypted, private tunnel, and by switching your real IP address for a new one. VPN users can surf the internet privately, not worrying about ISP tracking or prying eyes. That way, your ISP (and thus the government) can’t spy on you by observing your traffic, nor do you leave your very-personally-identifiable IP address behind.
Thinking you’re being tracked and watched online doesn’t make you into a conspiracy theorist. If you weren’t watched, there would be no countries restricting VPN usage.
Protect your data from being stolen, collected, and sold
Internet service providers (ISPs) in the US (including AT&T, Comcast, and others) are legally allowed to sell users’ data to advertisers. On top of privacy concerns, there are also worries about datasets leaking that would potentially put users’ personal information in such places as dark web forums. Not wanting to see your data appear in a massive data breach is a good reason why to use a VPN.
A VPN protects you by routing your traffic via the VPN server and by hiding your IP. This way, all of the internet believes the server IP is actually yours. Of course, when it comes to ISPs collecting your data for sale, you need more. You need encryption to make your data unreadable – and encrypting your traffic between your device and the server is what a VPN does by default!
Phishing – the type of online scam that relies on pretending to be a legitimate service or person is huge. Verizon has run a study to test the success rate of a phishing attack, and after gathering around 3 million users across more than 2000 organizations, they successfully phished 7.3%.
Success rates of a tailored phishing attempt (also called spear phishing or social engineering attacks) are about nine times higher.
A VPN in itself cannot fight social engineering attacks, but to some degree, it can help prevent phishing attempts from reaching you in the first place. If your data is available only via a combination of hiding your IP and encrypting your connection – then you are less likely to get swept up in a phishing attempt.
Bypass regional and network blocks
No matter where you reside, you’ve probably encountered website blocks based on location. Geo-blocking encompasses social media blocks (e.g., Instagram, Twitter), and sports blackouts. Luckily, a VPN can help you overcome these regional restrictions. By virtually transferring you to another country, you will be able to enjoy content that was previously unavailable to you.
Escape from targeted advertising
Targeted advertising isn’t as harmful as spear phishing, but you run into it every day, and it’s, at best, annoying. It is made available by all the data you put out online.
By using a VPN, you can seriously cut down on the number of targeted ads. Your IP is like your signature online, and it allows ads to track you from website to website – and for advertising companies to serve you ads that they think will be effective on you. But by routing your traffic via a VPN server, your IP changes every time you connect, making following you online much harder.
Stay secure on public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi poses lots of security risks: man-in-the-middle attacks, rogue spots, packet analyzers, worms, mishandled Wi-Fi setup, to name a few. By simply connecting to a public Wi-Fi network, hackers can get a hold of your personal data, including your full name, birth date, email, home address, bank credentials, medical information, and more. Stolen data can result in criminal acts like identity theft or fraudulent purchases.
If you often use public Wi-Fi networks, that’s a good reason why you should use a VPN all the time. By encrypting the connection between you and a VPN server, any data stolen via an unsecure Wi-Fi connection will be unreadable (i.e., useless) to the criminal.
Dodge price discrimination
Did you know that you can save money by using a VPN? Price discrimination is widespread, and especially in the travel industry. The price of plane tickets, rentals, or hotel rooms can differ depending on whether you live in Canada or Italy.
By using a VPN, you can manipulate your location and appear to be anywhere your VPN provider has servers. Easily change your online location by simply choosing a different server to connect to. Do your own fast price comparison and get the best deal.
BONUS: What do existing VPN users have to say?
Who better to ask why you should go for a VPN than those who already use it.
While motivations for having a VPN differ depending on the region, the overall tendencies look like this:
To protect privacy on public WiFi networks
To browse the web anonymously
To communicate more securely
To access restricted download/stream/torrent sites
To access better entertainment content
To access sites/files/services when at work
To avoid bandwidth throttling (ISPs limiting internet speeds)
To hide browsing activity from the government
To access censored websites/content
To get deals/discounts when buying online
To access a Tor browser
Surfshark does not encourage using a VPN in any way that would potentially violate the Terms of Service of other service providers.
Now that you know why, get a VPN
From the lack of digital privacy and online tracking concerns to geo-blocked websites to unsafe public networks and price discrimination — it’s clear that we lack a lot of agency on the internet. A VPN isn’t a one-size-fits-all tool that solves every privacy and security issue, but it does enough privacy protection to scare authoritarian-leaning countries into banning it. But even if that isn’t a concern for you, you now know quite a few other reasons why to use a VPN!