Privacy

Setting up a VPN on your router

Want to keep the websites you visit, the online videos you watch, and the message boards you favor private? Then it’s time you invested in a virtual private network, better known as a VPN. And if you want a whole lot of online privacy for the least amount of hassle, you should consider installing a VPN on your router at home or work.

But what if you think you don’t have the computing skills to install a VPN on your own? You can always buy a router that comes prepackaged with its own VPN firmware. If you don’t know, firmware is software that is downloaded to a small memory chip. This chip is then inserted into a device. A VPN-equipped router will have one of these chips inserted into it.

Don’t know what a VPN is? At its most basic, it’s a private VPN server that you sign up with — either for free or for a fee — that keeps your online activities private. When you search the internet or go online, your computer will first connect to your VPN before it connects to the web. Your VPN connection is a bit like a wall between your actual connection and the internet.

If a government agency or private company wants to track your search history, it will only uncover the IP address of your VPN, not the IP address of your own computer or mobile device. If you make an internet connection through a VPN — including using public Wi-Fi — the only snoops who will know what sites you visit, files you download, or links you click will be your VPN provider and the companies behind those sites, links, and files. Even your internet service provider — your ISP — won’t have a record of your browsing data.

Benefits of setting up a VPN on your router

There are many ways to access a VPN. You can access VPN providers online, using their web-based services to connect first to a VPN before you browse the internet. You can also download a VPN service directly from a provider to your computer. You would then open this download before going online.

There is a disadvantage to this approach, though. For the best VPN services, you’ll have to pay a fee. This means that you’ll have to pay to install VPNs on all your devices if you want to be completely protected. You’ll need a VPN on your phone, tablet, laptop, and desktop computer, for instance. This could be expensive, although some VPN products cover more than one device.

If you don’t work with a VPN on all your devices, you won’t be completely protected. Maybe you only search the web from your laptop after connecting to a VPN. That will help protect your privacy when you’re using that device with your VPN connection. But what if you spend time each day searching the web through your smartphone? Not having a VPN protecting that device could expose your search history, clicks, and downloads to cybercriminals, government agencies, or private companies.

You could install VPN software on all your devices. That could be a bit cumbersome, though. A more efficient solution is to install VPN service on your home or office router. If you do this, every device that connects to the Internet through this router will be protected by a VPN.

Protection throughout your entire network of devices

Think of how many devices in your home network are connected to the internet, everything from smart TVs and voice assistants to your smartphones, laptops, and tablets. That’s a lot of devices to protect. By installing VPN firmware on your router — or by purchasing a router that already comes with VPN pre-installed — you’ll have protection for all these devices instantly.

Once you install a VPN on your router, the data flowing to and from any of the connected devices in your home will automatically be encrypted, providing you further protection against cybersnoops and tracking.

Less steps for you

When you install VPN on your router, you won’t have to remember to turn on this protection each time you log onto the internet from your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. This is an especially important benefit for anyone who routinely forgets to activate their VPN service when logging onto the internet.

If VPN firmware is connected to your router, it’s automatically working, no matter which device you use to surf the web. Your router setup is ready to go.

You’ll enjoy online privacy on all of your connected devices

Most VPN providers offer services that work on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms. Most also offer services that work on mobile devices powered by the Android and iOS operating systems.

But no VPN service works with all of the devices today that can connect to the internet. There are simply too many niche operating systems for that to be possible.

By installing VPN on your router, though, you won’t have to worry about this. You’ll automatically receive privacy protection on every device served by that router.

How to set up a VPN on your router

Installing VPN on your router is not the easiest of tasks. You’ll need some tech skills. And be warned: If you install VPN incorrectly, you could damage your router.

First, you must figure out what your router’s internet protocol — better known as IP — address is so that you can log into your router’s administration page from your computer. How you can find your router’s IP address will vary depending on the operating system of the device you are using to log into your router.

For a device running on Windows 10, for instance, click the Start menu and type in “Command Prompt” before clicking Enter. Then type in “ipconfig” and click Enter again. This will bring up an onscreen box that, near its bottom, will have a heading for IPv4 Address. The numbers following that header — in a format such as 192.178.14.101 — are your router’s IP address.

Open your web browser and type in your router’s IP address in the URL bar. That will bring you to a log-in page that will then allow you to access your router’s administrative features.

If you’ve never logged into your router before, and you have never changed your username or password, you’ll need to enter the default username and password that came with your router. This should be listed on the manual that came with your router. If you don’t have that manual and you don’t know these settings, you might have to call your router’s support number for help.

Logging onto your router will bring up an administrative page on your screen. From here, you’ll need to find the button that allows you to install a router-firmware update. This process will differ depending on your router, which is why it’s best to call the customer-support line with your router to have a technician walk you through the process.

Or, better yet, you can simply purchase a router that comes pre-installed with VPN.

VPN routers: The easier alternative

As the name suggests, a VPN router is a router that automatically connects you to a VPN from any device in your home or office that is served by this router. A growing number of manufacturers offer routers that come with a VPN pre-installed on them.

Yes, this might mean spending money on a new router if your home’s existing version doesn’t come with VPN protection. But ask yourself if you are tech-savvy enough to install VPN on your existing router. If you have doubts, it’s probably better to shop for a router that comes with this protection already built in.

Drawbacks of setting up a VPN on your router

There are potential pitfalls to installing VPN on your router on your own. The biggest? If you do this incorrectly, you could damage your router, rendering it inoperable. Then you’d be responsible for spending the money to purchase a replacement router.

Another problem is speed. The more devices you have connected to a router enabled with VPN, the slower your router will be. In fact, with each device that you connect to a VPN-enabled router, you will have to sacrifice at least a bit of speed. Keep this in mind before you install VPN on your router.

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