A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a cheap and easy way to protect your data. You should get one. If you’re convinced, go here to pick one. I am currently using NordVPN; I previously used PIA.
Not convinced yet? Read on.
In short, information does not go directly between your computer and your online destination. While in transit, your data hops between routers, servers, and network devices. Along those hops it can be captured.
Those free, open Wi-Fi zones at your nearby coffee shops? Unsecured. Airport Wi-Fi? Unsafe. The neighbor’s Wi-Fi that you use for free? Yeah, that one too.
A VPN creates a virtual “tunnel” of encryption for your data. Your information is obscured during every step of the journey. Someone could still capture it along the way, but with modern encryption technology it would take hundreds of years to decode it.
There’s another good reason for using a VPN: privacy. Without a VPN, your service provider can track how you use the internet. Websites and advertisers can track your IP address and trace it back to identifying information about you. Adding that secure tunnel prevents that sort of tracking.
Plus, it’s cheap. The best VPNs now cost around $3/month if you buy a year or two of service. And it’s easy to set up — just download and install on all your devices.
Yes, on all your devices. Phones, computers, tablets. Because you want all your information protected.
One caveat: a nefarious VPN provider could actually track your information. Look for one whose service policy clearly states that it keeps no stats or records of use. NordVPN and PIA both say this. You’ll never know for sure that they’re telling the truth, but PIA actually was subpoenaed and could not produce records of use by its clients.
Ready? Go get a VPN.