A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a simple piece of software used to connect your device to a secure server in a remote location. This serves two main functions: to hide your public IP address and encrypt your web traffic.
Encrypting your data and changing your IP address opens up lots of possibilities for improving your privacy and security online. It also helps you access websites and services that are usually unavailable in your location.
For more detailed information on VPN software and its uses, read our complete guide to Virtual Private Networks. For now, here’s a summary of why you need a VPN.
VPNs are typically used for:
- Protecting sensitive data on public WiFi networks.
- Hiding your web traffic from Internet Service Providers (ISPs).
- Unblocking websites and international streaming content.
- Safeguarding your identity and activity while torrenting.
- Bypassing government censorship and internet shutdowns.
1. Encrypt Data on Public WiFi Networks
Cybercriminals take advantage of public WiFi networks without password protection to steal sensitive data like your bank details, passwords, and personal information.
if you use a public WiFi connection that doesn’t require a password, you are putting your sensitive data at risk.
VPN software can be used to protect your web traffic from hackers and other third parties. It encrypts your browsing activity and makes it almost impossible for criminals to intercept and exploit your data.
2. Hide Your Web Activity From Your ISP
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can monitor every website you visit and every message you send.
Depending on where you live, your ISP will almost certainly be required to record your browsing history for one year or more.
A VPN encrypts your website requests as they travel from your device to the VPN server. This means your ISP will find it much harder to track your activity and browsing history on the web.
By changing your IP address, VPN services also make it much harder for the websites you visit to identify you.
3. Unblock Geo-Blocked Streaming Content
Streaming websites like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer use your public IP address to limit the number of movies and TV shows you’re able to watch.
Every country has a different content library, and some streaming services are limited to users in one country altogether.
You can use a VPN to switch your usual IP address with an IP address from another country. This means you can ‘trick’ streaming services and unblock the full international catalog of Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and more.
4. Secure Your Connection While Torrenting
P2P file-sharing without protection can be dangerous. Your personal IP address is available to everyone you’re sharing files with, and your ISP can see everything you’re downloading.
A VPN works to hide your IP address, activity, and identity from both your ISP and other users. This protects you from all of the dangers associated with torrenting unprotected.
5. Circumvent Government Censorship
Governments around the world choose to censor what you can and cannot see online. Some governments even choose to shut down certain online services altogether in times of political unrest.
The best VPN services offer obfuscation tools, which is a special type of technology designed to evade sophisticated systems of censorship.
By scrambling your web traffic and changing your IP address, VPNs allow you to bypass government website blocks and access the global internet safely.