Why encrypt your online traffic with VPN ?Hackers, the MPAA / RIAA, Government, and your ISP snooping on your online activities ?
2013-07-15 (updated: 2022-02-18) by Philip
Tags: VPN, secure, remote access, SSL, PPTP, IPSec, L2TP, OpenVPN, TLS, P2P, ISP
VPN, or a virtual private network, is an Internet privacy technology that allows you to surf anonymously by encrypting all your online traffic at the IP level. In essence, VPN is a group of computers networked together over a public network (namely, the Internet). Businesses use VPNs to connect and use network resources remotely, when they're not physically on the same LAN, as a method for securing and encrypting their communications over untrusted public networks.
Anti-virus software and firewalls may protect the information on your computer, but a VPN is invaluable for protecting your data while online. Your IP address leaves a trace on every website you visit and reveals information about past websites you've visited, your ISP, and even your location. Even if you have not considered using a VPN, at some point in the future you probably should, and it may become as important as choosing an Internet provider if you value your privacy and the security of your online traffic.
More than 2 billion people are regular Internet users currently. Typically, this includes transferring some very confidential information such as banking info, business communications, passwords and general account data. What many people don't realize is that the majority of the time, this information is passed over a public and unsecured Internet. It's very easy, even for a novice, to set up programs to catch all this information as it passes over the open Internet (think "Free Wi-Fi" scams where travelers in an airport or cafe patrons fall victim to a fraudster's "free Wi-Fi hotspot" connection).
One simple and cheap solution to this is using a VPN, or virtual private network. This is a secured network that you sign into with your Internet-enabled device, which in turn encrypts and tunnels all your online traffic as it's carried over the public Internet. In short, it allows your computer or mobile device to send data over the public Internet as it were on a private, secure network, making it practically impossible for even the most sophisticated criminals to uncover your Internet traffic.
The most important aspect of VPNs
In short, a VPN secures your computer's Internet communications to guarantee that all of the data you are sending and receiving is encrypted and secured. It is a group of computers networked together over a public network. It allows you to get secure remote access to network resources over a public network, such as the Internet.
Sample VPN uses
Even if you do not specifically fit in any of the above categories, any combination of the above is a good reason to protect sensitive data online.
Additional Benefits of using a VPN
In addition to providing an encryption layer to pass all your Internet traffic through, VPNs offer a number of other benefits:
Bypass Region Restrictions - access blocked sites
As an end user, you should probably not worry much about the different encryption protocols (PPTP, L2TP/IPsec,SSTP, SSL/OpenVPN), as most of them have their benefits and drawbacks. It is probably enough to say that there have been some vulnerabilities found in the PPTP protocol, however, the most widely used ones are IPSec, SSL and OpenVPN. There is some variation in speed between the protocols, as newer ones may require more processing power, or have more header overhead.
To read more about the different options, check out our VPN Protocols article here: VPN Protocols Explained and Compared
How to Choose a VPN Provider
There are many VPN service providers out there, and they all were not created equal. Many will try to throttle your speed and will limit you to the number of times you can switch IP addresses. The best VPN providers should offer most of the following list of key features:
It is probably worth mentioning that there are even some free VPN providers. A word of caution, however, is that free VPN providers have very weak commitment to your privacy, they offer fewer exit points, log your activities, serve contextual ads while you're connected, and track your usage to tailor future ads to you. All this defeats many of the key features in using a VPN service in the first place.
With all those considerations in mind, and short of rolling your own VPN, below is a list of some top VPN providers.
Top VPN Providers
Below is our take on the current top VPN providers that offer solid servers in multiple locations, OpenVPN/SSL, all major OSes support (Windows, Linux, as well as Android/iOS mobile devices), and all the key features mentioned above.
Namecheap VPN - Namecheap's new VPN service seems to share the same network as IPVanish VPN at a very competitive price for longer term periods. Both providers seem to use the wlvpn.com servers. Prices vary between $5.88/month and less than $2/mo for a 3-year plan. Namecheap is one of the biggest registrars on the Internet managing over 10 Million domains, so they stand behind their services.
VyprVPN - a Goldenfrog partnership with Giganews, a well-known Usenet provider. The service costs as little as $10/month for the basic PPTP service, a bit more for OpenVPN/SSL and L2TP/IPSec support.
StrongVPN - a solid company, the PPTP service is cheaper, however, you can get OpenVPN for about $10/month. Solid service, servers in 20 countries, supports all major OSes and Android/iOS mobile devices.
Hide My Ass! - UK-based VPN provider with servers in 53 countries, OpenVPN, L2TP and PPTP support. Cost is between $7 and $11 per month.
PureVPN - operated by Hong Kong-based GZ Systems, Ltc. Good VPN services since 2006 and often ranked as a top VPN provider. Costs about $10/month for their "personal" plans.