Choosing a VPN or Virtual Private Network is not as easy as 1-2-3, and requires a bit of thought on the user’s end, and consulting professionals for advice. After all, this is cybersecurity software that reroutes your entire internet connection and as such, is not a toy to be taken lightly. Using an unverified VPN can cause a lot more damage than not using a VPN at all, so using a verified VPN solution is key to optimally protecting your devices and maximizing your online privacy.
The VPN arena is now a huge marketplace and is vertically trending in the number of users using VPNs and the number of competing brands. Also, in terms of cybersecurity tools, VPNs have become more popular than antivirus or antimalware solutions. Celebrities, YouTube vloggers, and large organizations are taking on VPNs as sponsors, which is a bit unusual for a cybersecurity tool. This is because general awareness surrounding cybercrime and privacy intrusions has led people to be more cautious (even paranoid to an extent) about their online safety, and the safety of their devices. Also, people, in general, are looking for all-in-one solutions today that are fast, and easy to interact with.
Distrust towards big tech companies and the government (due to mass surveillance) is also another factor that has led to a vertical rise in demand for more security, and more privacy. This is exactly why we are seeing a massive move away from mainstream social media platforms such as Facebook, and even messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Even new attempts by Facebook’s parent company now called Meta are not doing well, as the company has recently lost billions in the process. People are now much more privy to cybersecurity, and do not trust “the man” anymore, and for good reason.
All of these scenarios are all the more reasons for an increase in the popularity of VPN software, which hundreds of millions of people have now installed and are using on their devices.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or Virtual Private Network to call it by its full technical name, is a tunneling software that belongs to the network security realm. The network security realm is a niche in the umbrella area known as information security. To make things even more confusing, cybersecurity is yet another realm within information security. VPNs are most often bundled together with the term cybersecurity when looking for reviews online, for instance. To be precise, a VPN is network cybersecurity software.
It is important to understand that VPN technology is not new, and has been around in a primitive form ever since Microsoft released its PPTP (Point-to-Point-Tunneling) technology decades ago.
A VPN is software in the form of an app that can be downloaded on any device nowadays for any operating system. A VPN can also be a hardware VPN that is installed on routers, but that is another story. VPN software offered for Windows and macOS, for instance, is offered today by several competing brands, and the top-tier are largely well-known to IT aficionados.
A VPN takes a user’s internet connection and re-routes it from the source to one of the user-selected proprietary VPN servers across the globe. This encrypts the connection and also replaces the user’s original IP address (which depicts the physical location of the internet service being used) with an address belonging to a VPN server.
By doing this, a user’s internet connection is both highly encrypted and anonymized. This means that hackers, the ISP (internet service provider), the government, and websites on the internet cannot intercept the internet connection. It would look like gibberish to whoever is sniffing the connection, or nothing at all.
A VPN also allows users to unblock digital streaming content, unblock censorship, as well as allow users to find lower prices on everything from online shopping to flights.
Most of all, people like using VPNs because, one, they maximize privacy and block any surveillance or data collection, and two they protect the connection from hackers.
Which VPN Should a User go For?
A user should go for the premium-tier VPN software, there is no question about that. It is not recommended to skimp on security. Just like it would be ridiculous to skimp on servicing one’s car, it would be equally so to skimp on something that could potentially harm a user’s device and his or her data. This is why it is not recommended to use unverified free VPNs which can be run by cybercriminals or, at the very least, data harvesting organizations. Some free VPNs are legitimate and verified, however, when it comes to features, speeds, and stability they pale in comparison to premium VPNs.
The premium VPNs in question are ones such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, Cyberghost and Surfshark. Of course, the list is not limited to these VPNs but they are the cream of the crop at the moment and have been tested/reviewed for years.
Which premium VPN a user chooses is up to the user. At the end of the day, premium VPNs differ in their features, but all offer good security and privacy. For instance, if encryption is important to the user then it would be good to go with NordVPN. If good unblocking ability for digital streaming services is the issue, then it might be a good idea to go with ExpressVPN, and so on.
With the amount of cybercrime and privacy intrusions taking place around the world, it is a good idea to run a premium VPN in the background 24/7 on all devices. This will minimize the potential for tracking, hacking, surveillance and will confuse data collection agencies looking to profile the user.