Install a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

January 2019

 

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will allow you to browse the internet without your identity being known. A VPN ensures that you cannot be monitored, tracked, or recorded. Although you can install a VPN on your own, you may want someone with technical expertise to help you set it up.

First of all, what is a Virtual Private Network?

Think about your home computer network, if you have one. That network can be set up so that it is completely separate from the Internet. It can be set up as your own, private network. Or, alternatively, imagine the internal computer network of the company that you might work for. Again, a company network completely separate from the Internet and only allows those on the company network to connect with anyone else on that network, but allows no one from outside to connect to that network.

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to visit any site on the Internet as if you were connecting to a private network. In short, no website that you visit knows who you, unless your tell them, or is able to track you. You have turned the Internet into a private network.

So how, exactly, does a Virtual Private Network work?

A good VPN has thousands of customers who visit websites while using its identity to connect with those websites. Thus the only thing that is known is that particular VPN’s identity, which is shared by thousands of others and thus masks who goes where. And since a good VPN will also have hundreds of servers around the world, each one with their own Internet identity, it can also cycle those thousands of user through hundreds of different identities, to make it even impossible to discover the sites that any particular user visits. And since all data that is transmitted is encrypted, and good VPN’s keep no logs of those transmissions, or even logs of meta-data, your online anonymity is protected.

Now, if you do not have a VPN, there are two key areas online where corporations can easily spy on you.  Most people do not know this, but your internet service provider (your ISP) continually spies to gather information about you that it can sell. Also, those public Wi-Fi connections that you use, which also offer hackers an opportunity to hack you, also record everything you say and do so that they can sell that information. Free WiFi is not free.

However, if you use a trusted VPN, the VPN software on your computer or other device automatically encrypts your data before you send it to the Internet through your Internet service provider or your Wi-Fi connection. Because that encrypted data goes directly to your VPN, neither your ISP nor anyone accessing your Wi-Fi will have any idea as what that data is. Now once the data reaches your VPN, it will decrypt that data so anyone between the VPN and the websites that you visit can see what you are doing. But at that point, no one will know who you are. Only your VPN can spy on you directly, which is why you need to choose a VPN that can be publicly established to be trustworthy.

And a trustworthy VPN, after decrypting your data, will immediately delete that data and have no permanent record of it, as well as no permanent record of the meta-data surrounding that encryption. This is why the best VPNs are not located in any major country, including the United States, where security laws require the ability to record your decrypted data. The best are located in those small countries that do not have such laws.

Now the security limitations of a VPN company are based on three factors:

* The type of VPN protocol that is used (Most VPNs will use the OpenVPN protocol, which is the most secure).

* The company policies of a particular VPN company concerning the use of the VPN technology (in particular the policies concerning the kinds of logs the company keeps on you, including billing logs).

* The laws of the nation in which the VPN is located.

While there are free VPNs, which make their money by people upgrading to paid services, the monthly payments for a VPN is quite small (around $5 a month) and you are better off with a paid service. The free VPNs generally do not provide the same level of security. Indeed, in August of 2018, a free VPN called Onavo, which is owned by Facebook, was removed Apple’s app store because of violations of user privacy.

 

Miscellaneous data:

* VPNs can be used to watch services like Netflix and Hulu, but you need to check with your particular VPN to see whether this is possible.

* The best VPNs have mobile apps for Android and iOS phones. However, some free VPNs have phone apps that spy on you or contain malware. One point: phones that use VPNs also hide their locations.

* VPNs can be used on your smart TVs, which you must configure either on the TV itself or on your home Internet router. By configuring it on your router, you effectively configure it for your home computer and other home Internet devices as well. 

* You should pick a VPN that supports your home router and your mobile devices with the same account.

* Your VPN should always be on, you should not have to log on to your VPN.

 

To Install a VPN on a Router

If you install a VPN on your router, you are effectively configuring it for every device in your home that uses that router to connect to the Internet. Therefore this is the recommended point at which to install VPN software.

The first step is to check to see if your router is compatible with VPNs. The rest of the steps differ depending on the VPN service. Installation of VPN software is usually simple.

The only real drawback to using a VPN is that they will slow your Internet connection. In most cases, this will not be noticeable unless you already have a slow connection.

 

Recommended VPN Service Providers

The following VPN service providers are regarded as being among the best:

 

NordVPN

 

ExpressVPN

 

Private Internet Access

 

IPVanish