Do I need a VPN at home?

A man researching if he needs a VPN at home.

Are you tempted to invest in a VPN service provider for home internet access? You could, but learn whether it’s a wise financial move for you.

A virtual private network — better known as a VPN — is an essential privacy tool when you’re logging onto the internet from a coffee shop, library, hotel lobby, or any other spot that offers access to free public Wi-Fi. A VPN can block your online activity including the links you click or the files you download, from being visible to cybercriminals, businesses, government agencies, or other snoops.

But what if you’re logging onto the internet from your home? Do you need a VPN?

Probably not. When you established your home Wi-Fi network, it is likely that you protected your network with a password. Because of that, you may not need the added security of a VPN to shield your online activity.

Investing in a VPN for home use, then, might be a waste of money, unless you want to keep your web surfing private from your internet service provider (ISP) or if you choose to access streaming content or sports coverage that you couldn’t otherwise access from your location. However, if privacy from your ISP is a concern or you want to access geo-restricted content, then a VPN for your home PC or a VPN for your personal mac could be a valuable investment.

Tempted to invest in a VPN service provider for home internet access? You could do that, but it might not be a wise financial move. It’s worth noting you might consider a free VPN, but those services may cover their costs in other ways such as selling your data to third-parties for marketing purposes.

How VPNs work

VPN use is important for online privacy whenever you’re logging into the internet from a public spot because cyber snoops could track your online activity when you are using public Wi-Fi, whether it’s on your computer or your mobile device.

If a cyberthief intercepts your online activity when you are using public Wi-Fi, they could steal the usernames and passwords you use to log onto your credit card or bank accounts. They could also gain access to your email accounts and other personal information. They could also potentially see what files you download or links you click.

A VPN, though, provides a secure connection for users through which to send and receive data, which can make cyber snooping more challenging.

When enabled, A VPN creates a private network through which to access the internet. Consumers can sign up for a VPN either for free or for a monthly or annual charge. If you’re using a VPN, your computer or mobile device will first connect to this outside VPN server before it connects to the web. A VPN also encrypts the data you send and receive while searching online.

This combination — your connection to the outside VPN server and the encryption of your data — helps keep your browsing private. The only people who will know what sites you visit or links you click are you, your VPN provider, and the people or companies running the sites you visit.

This protection can help take much of the danger out of connecting to the internet through public Wi-Fi.

Why you don’t need VPN at home

When you log onto the internet from home, you are typically doing so through your private, secured Wi-Fi. Your private Wi-Fi network should have a password, which keeps outsiders from seeing your internet activity. And you get this protection without having to take that extra step of first logging into a VPN service before accessing the web.

This only works, though, if your home Wi-Fi is protected by a complex and unique password. Your internet service provider, or ISP, probably required that you choose a password when setting up service. Make sure that password is a strong one so others can’t guess it.

Worth noting: Most Wi-Fi routers come with default passwords, and those passwords can often be easily found online, so it is wise to change your default password to something unique and complex.

Another issue related to using a VPN at home? Your online browsing could become more frustrating. Because you first connect to another outside server when using a VPN, your browsing speed could slow.

There are exceptions where you might consider using a VPN at home. You might want to use a VPN if you’re worried about your ISP tracking your online activity. If you connect to the internet through a VPN, the provider of your internet services won’t be able to see what you’re doing online.

However, the company that provides your VPN service will. If you trust that company more than your internet service provider, then using VPN at home might make sense.

Another solution? A no-log VPN can help if you’re concerned about privacy. A no-log VPN means that the VPN provider does not collect, or “log,” any information transmitted through the network. That means they don’t save information about your personal details and your online activities. With a no-log VPN, your online privacy and anonymity are likely protected from everybody — even your VPN provider.

There’s another reason to use VPN. It can help you stream content or watch sporting events that aren’t available in your location. Keep in mind you should understand any contractual agreements you’ve accepted with your streaming provider. Further, governmental regulations in other regions or countries might make this a bad idea.

Even so, here’s how it would work.

Maybe you subscribe to a streaming service that offers different movies or TV shows depending on whether you’re in the United States, Britain, Spain, or Germany. You might want to access a movie that’s only available in Britain. Problem is, you’re based in the United States.

One way to do this is to first log into a VPN service that is based in Britain. You could then log into the streaming service, because that service may think — based on the IP address that identifies location — you’re based not in the United States, but in Britain.

Be aware, though, that many streaming services recognize this trick and will block it. Others, though, won’t. In any case, keep in mind that you might be violating certain regional rules.

Why you may need a VPN as a cyber-safety tool when not at home

Most people won’t need to log into a VPN service when accessing the internet from home, whether from an Android phone, a Windows computer, or other connected device. That doesn’t mean, though, that VPNs aren’t important online privacy tools, particularly when you’re accessing the internet on the go.

Many of us rely on public Wi-Fi to get online, whether we log on from our favorite coffee shop, the local library, or in hotel lobbies across the country. Using a VPN connection when accessing the web from public Wi-Fi hotspots is an essential way to protect your privacy when online and to keep your most important data away from prying eyes.

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Dan Rafter
  • Dan Rafter
  • Freelance writer
Dan Rafter is a freelance writer who covers tech, finance, and real estate. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Fox Business.

Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you. Our offerings may not cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat we write about. Our goal is to increase awareness about Cyber Safety. Please review complete Terms during enrollment or setup. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime, and that LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses. The Norton and LifeLock brands are part of Gen Digital Inc. 


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