7 Warning Signs You Should be Using a VPN
Over the past decade, the Internet has become one of the most valuable tools in human history, allowing us instant access to an almost unlimited amount of information, entertainment, productivity and connectivity with others. The Internet is an encyclopedia, a shopping mall and a meeting place all rolled into one, making everything from shopping for a gift to meeting the man or woman of your dreams accessible at your fingertips from the comfort of your home.
However, the Internet has also made it easier for others to monitor our activity, invade our privacy and commit crimes like identity theft, and blackmail. No matter what you use the Internet for, your Internet usage is being monitored, whether it’s by your job, school, search engines or even the country you live in. The Internet is not a private or safe space, and someone is always watching you.
One easy way to avoid these security problems is through the use of a Virtual Private Network or VPN. A VPN uses encryption to mask the signal of your online activities. It also manipulates your IP address making it appear that your Internet activity is coming from a different computer, location or even country. Use of a VPN is one of the best ways to safeguard your identity and information online, in order to protect your personal privacy.
If you’re wondering if you should be using a VPN, look for these warning signs.
• You use public Wi-Fi, at places like Coffee Shops or hotels. You may think your information is safe when using public wi-fi, but it isn’t. Few if any public wi-fi providers use encryption, even when you are paying for access such as at a hotel. Public Wi-Fi is one of the easiest places for hackers to intercept your data, using fake hotspots or Internet service provider tampering. If you like to work from your local Starbucks or travel a lot for business a VPN is a must have to keep your valuable information safe.
• You Upload and download P2P files. If you share files without a VPN, you are running a major risk of them being intercepted. Furthermore if you are sharing copyrighted materials, like movies or music, you are in danger of being caught, and prosecuted under copyright infringement laws. Law enforcement has been known to go undercover posing as other file sharers or to intercept IP information on file sharing sites. Even if you’re not sharing copyrighted materials you run the risk of competitors or rivals stealing your files when they are not encrypted. If you regularly share files you need to use a VPN in order to have confidence in the confidentiality of your sharing.
• You want to easily and legally Access out of country content. Lots of streaming content from Netflix to Amazon to television channel sites like Bravotv.com, are not accessible to those living outside of the united states. A VPN allows you to access this streaming content without having to download it illegally or wait for the country you’re in to settle the copyright laws that are keeping the content from being distributed. If you want full access to all streaming content across the web, a VPN is the way to go.
• You are subject to acceptable use policies. Depending on your job, school or country, you are probably subject to an acceptable use policy regulating what you can and cannot access online. Furthermore, some countries such as Egypt, China, Cuba and Saudi Arabia have very strict acceptable use policies limiting you from accessing sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Oftentimes employers will use their acceptable use policies to keep you from using instant messaging services and some even restrict you from accessing non company email services such as Gmail. A VPN allows you to “Tunnel out” of these restrictive networks and connect to the full array of sites and services available on the Internet. In addition a VPN will scramble your browsing content so that nosy governments and network administrators have no access to your browsing history.
• You make VOIP calls. Voice over IP services such as Skype, and Google voice are relatively easy for even inexperienced hackers to intercept. If you have private conversations about business, school or even share intimate conversations with your significant other over VOIP services you may be at risk for having your private conversations exposed publically. This includes video chatting as well. A VPN will keep hackers from being able to eavesdrop or record your chats and keep you safe from a variety of bad consequences from embarrassment, to corporate espionage, and even blackmail.
• You don’t want your searches logged by search engines. All Internet search engines from Google to Bing keep logs of your search history in order to customize advertising and update their predictive search algorithms. Your search history is catalogued and used to predict what you may be searching for in the future. Not only can this cause embarrassment, if someone else uses your computer, it makes you subject to annoying ad tracking and retargeting which will allow ads to follow you to different websites. Using a VPN allows you to cloak your search history and get away from those annoying ads.
• You search for highly sensitive information. If you are searching for highly sensitive information like doing market research on a competitor or running a background check on someone without a VPN, your search history is public and could lead to the company or person you’re researching finding out and confronting you. In the case of market research, without a VPN all your competitor has to do is use google analytics to find out exactly when, how and how often you’re researching their site. Using a VPN allows you to cloak your IP address making you virtually untraceable and making any possible retribution from lawsuits to physical violence, impossible.
To re-cap, if you identify any of these warning signs in your Internet usage, you may be at risk of everything from embarrassment to identity theft. Like any other tool, the Internet can be amazingly helpful, or incredibly dangerous. You wouldn’t operate a car or other heavy machinery without knowing the risk, and I encourage you to think about the Internet the exact same way. Responsible Internet usage includes making sure that you protect your information and identity, before during and after use. As they say a pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure and a VPN goes a long way towards preventing many of the time consuming, costly problems that can arise from having your information intercepted by hackers, competitors or identity thieves.
Every person has the right to privacy, no matter where, you live, go to school or work. If you want to make sure that your right to privacy is being respected, and that you’re safe from hackers, identity thieves, and other prying eyes investing 10-15 dollars a month in a VPN service is the best investment you can make.
Take an honest look at your Internet usage and if you see 1 or more of these warning signs, use a VPN to protect yourself before it’s too late!
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