Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are one of the first security recommendations for accessing the internet today.
Without a VPN, internet users have an IP address that leads straight to their personal information, search history and location. A VPN accesses the internet through a different, spoofed IP address instead and guarantees that internet access is safer and harder to monitor by third parties.
But where should users be getting their VPN services from? The amount of VPN options is overwhelming – and choosing the wrong one can leave your devices like sitting ducks waiting to be exploited or just paying too much for nothing.
Here is how to pick the right VPN for your needs – and why choosing your existing internet security provider's VPN option could be one of the safest.
First, let us cover some VPN basics. What they are, how they work and why you cannot afford to be without one when accessing the internet today.
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) access the internet via bouncing the connection through safer gateways instead of unsafe and exploitable direct internet access.
Without a VPN, an IP address is public and easy to find. From there, a vulnerable address can be pinged and lead to the kind of personal information nobody wants a potential identity thief to have.
A VPN issues the internet user with another IP address other than their own gateway's. This means safer internet access that becomes harder to track by third parties.
Nope. Using a VPN for security reasons is completely legal. (Although sometimes hackers and identity thieves have used VPN services for illegal or sketchy things.)
A VPN-masked IP address is a useful protective measure for the average internet user; but it can also be used for anonymous internet access to achieve illegal things.
Many VPN services work through direct app access: click a button, go online. Others must be activated through the appropriate VPN tab on your device, usually with details you will get when signing up for the service.
If you are not sure, usually VPN settings are found under the general settings for Connectivity on smartphones and computers.
VPNs can be turned on and off. Double-check that your VPN is active before going online.
VPN services are everywhere.
You can choose one from the Google Play Store or the Apple Store. You can also choose one from any number of thousands (and probably more) that are made available through download links every day.
Some are paid, some are free; some are entirely legitimate and some of them are fake VPN services that do more damage than good.
It is important to be careful when choosing which VPN to go with; bad ones can be either expensive or unsafe.
Looking for a reliable VPN? Here is what you should know about picking a reliable VPN from a barrel of thousands.
It is easy to pick the first VPN out of the box. Do not.
VPNs are like any other software that you might choose; when downloading from places that are not legitimate app stores, you might be downloading a fake version that does not work or harvests your information instead.
Avoid fake VPN services by choosing only ones that have a reputation backed by good reviews and cybersecurity expertise.
Popular VPN services should not always be the default option, either.
While popular VPNs are a great way to stay secure, popular also means that they might be the default for the dark side, too.
VPNs from cybersecurity providers are the single best option when searching for a safe VPN service.
Free services (yes, like Facebook, too) compensate for offering a free service by making their money in other places. Sometimes, this involves legitimate advertising that brings in money – but it can also involve the third-party selling of your information, which can be a way to expose your private information anyway when you were trying to keep it safe.
VPNs can be like a box of chocolates: trust reliable brands.
When you choose something, you have never tried before (from a place you have never heard of and that nobody would recommend), you could get anything. It might be terrible.
Internet security and choosing a VPN is a lot like this.
Why are VPN options included with a larger cybersecurity or antivirus provider a better idea? Well, they are safer. Here is what else you should know before signing up:
Check your current antivirus or cybersecurity option. (That is, whoever protects you from viruses and other nasties on the internet right now?)
It is likely that they will also offer an option for an included VPN.
Bitdefender (and others) include a VPN with added protection: users are guaranteed that their VPN choice is a safer one.
A VPN that is included with your cybersecurity or antivirus provider is not just safer. It is more up to date.
Antivirus providers are at the forefront of keeping companies and computers everywhere safe for good reason. Antivirus databases are updated regularly with information that covers any new vulnerabilities that might be making the rounds on the internet – and that is how they work to defend against what is out there.
When choosing a VPN that's part of a service you already have, it could be cheaper per month or week than it is to subscribe to a separate (usually more expensive) VPN service. This is not always the case but might be when you compare available options.
What could it hurt to check?
Providers like BitDefender hire cybersecurity experts with training; simply, these options were put together by people who knew what they're doing – and how to do it safely. (If you choose a VPN that might just be something hacked together from source code by someone who has no idea, you are making yourself a lot more vulnerable to online identity theft than you realize.)
This is a guest post by Alex J. Coyne.