What is a VPN? And why you should use a VPN on public Wi-Fi
Authored by a Symantec employee
A virtual private network (VPN) gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public Internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable. Most important, VPN services establish secure and encrypted connections to provide greater privacy than even a secured Wi-Fi hotspot.
Why you need a VPN
Surfing the web or transacting on an unsecured Wi-Fi network means you could be exposing your private information and browsing habits. That’s why a virtual private network, better known as a VPN, is a must for anyone worried about online security and privacy.
Think about all the times you’ve been on the go, reading emails while in line at the coffee shop, or checking your bank account while waiting at the doctor’s office. Unless you were logged into a private Wi-Fi network that required a password, any data transmitted during your online session was likely vulnerable to eavesdropping by strangers using the same network.
The encryption and anonymity that a VPN provides helps protect your online activities: sending emails, shopping online, or paying bills. VPNs also help keep your web browsing anonymous.
How a VPN protects your privacy
VPNs essentially create a data tunnel between your local network and an exit node in another location, which could be thousands of miles away, making it seem as if you’re in another place. This benefit allows online freedom, or the ability to access your favorite apps and websites from anywhere in the world, as if you were at home.
What should you look for in VPN services?
The VPN market is crowded with options, so it’s important to consider your needs when you’re shopping for a VPN.
Think about what is important to you. Do you want to be able to surf the web anonymously by masking your IP address? Are you afraid that your information could be stolen on public Wi-Fi? Are you a frequent traveler who wants to be able to watch your favorite shows wherever you are in the world?
A good VPN will check all three boxes, but here are some other points to consider.
How to choose a VPN
The best way to stay secure when using public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN solution. But what’s the best way to choose a VPN? Here are some questions to ask when you’re choosing a VPN provider.
- Do they respect your privacy? The point of using a VPN is to protect your privacy, so it’s crucial that your VPN provider respects your privacy, too. They should have a no-log policy, which means that they never track or log your online activities.
- Do they run the most current protocol? OpenVPN provides stronger security than other protocols, such as PPTP.
- Do they set data limits? Depending on your internet usage, bandwidth may be a large deciding factor for you. Make sure their services match your needs by checking to see if you’ll get full, unmetered bandwidth without data limits.
- Where are the servers located? Decide which server locations are important to you. If you want to appear as if you’re accessing the Web from a certain locale, make sure there’s a server in that country.
- Will you be able to set up VPN access on multiple devices? If you are like the average consumer, you typically use between three and five devices. Ideally, you’d be able to use the VPN on all of them at the same time.
- How much will it cost? If price is important to you, then you may think that a free VPN is the best option. Remember, however, that some VPN services may not cost you money, but you might “pay” in other ways, such as being served frequent advertisements or having your personal information collected and sold to third parties. If you compare paid vs. free options, you may find that free VPNs:
- don’t offer the most current or secure protocols
- don’t offer the highest bandwidth and connection speeds to free users
- do have a higher disconnection rate
- don’t have as many servers in as many countries globally
- don’t offer support
There are many points to consider when you’re choosing a VPN, so do your homework to make sure you’re getting the best fit for your needs. Regardless of which provider you choose, rest assured that a good VPN will provide more security, privacy, and anonymity online than a public Wi-Fi hotspot can.
Your device may not be secure.
Public Wi-Fi isn’t always safe. Without the right protection, your personal information could become public. Protect yourself with Norton WiFi Privacy. It encrypts the personal information you send and receive on public Wi-Fi to help keep it private wherever you want to log on.
Help protect your information with Norton WiFi Privacy.
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