As we browse the internet we create tons of information that can be stolen and used against us for fraud or other crimes. This includes our full name, Physical Address, IP address, real-time location, personal contacts, banking information, fingerprints and personal conversations can all be accessed through our online conversations. Companies known as data brokers have a vested interest in collecting this information and selling it to other parties for a profit. It’s important that we take precautions to protect ourselves from organizations that may try to eavesdrop on our conversations or extract that information in other ways. One easy way to protect yourself while browsing the web is through the use of Virtual private networks (VPNs).
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network and it’s a service that protects the connection between your machine and servers on the internet. Here’s how it works: whenever you run a VPN on your machine, rather than your machine connecting directly to a server on the internet your machine will connect to the VPN service provider’s servers first and then the request will be forwarded through to the destination server. The VPN acts as a secure intermediary between you and all of the other machines on the internet. Most VPNs will use encryption to create a secure tunnel that protects you from outside eavesdroppers, this can be hackers, your local government or even nosey corporations. While it’s possible to still be tracked when using a VPN, typically any good VPN solution will significantly reduce the ability of outside parties to track your IP address, online activity and their ability to eavesdrop on your online communications.
What to look for in a VPN?
In this list I considered many factors when deciding what some of the best VPNs are. Here are some of the main things you want to look for when deciding on what VPN you want to use:
Geolocation: You want a VPN that will allow you to appear to be from different countries in the world. This way you can access geo blocked content easily.
IP address masking: This should be standard in every VPN but you want a VPN that will mask and protect your IP address as you browse the internet.
Malware and Phishing Protection: Some VPNs come with security protection that will help you keep you safe as you browse the web. While it’s not directly privacy related, it’s a good add on for a VPN to have.
Automatic Kill Switch: This simply means that the VPN will disable your internet connection if the VPN drops, this can be good if you don’t want to be caught not using the VPN.
AD Blockers: Ads are an annoying and consistent part of online browsing, having a built in Ad blocker is a good way to improve your online experience.
Zero Logging Policy: If you want complete privacy then you need a VPN that doesn’t keep logs of who is connecting to their servers and what their online activity is. A zero logging policy simply means your online activity won’t be captured and kept by the service provider.
Number of supported devices: If you have multiple devices or you plan on sharing this service with family/friends you want to make sure that the provider that you choose has a plan that will support all of your devices. Otherwise you will need to take out multiple plans and that’s not cost effective.
What are the best VPNs
Surfshark is a great overall VPN solution for a couple or a family. They offer unlimited devices under a single plan, have a zero-logging policy and it’s very cost effective. It comes with a built-in ad-blocker and provides protection against malware and phishing. You can configure it to have a kill switch that will disable your internet connection if your VPN connection drops. It also has over 30 Netflix libraries, this means that you can set your VPN to make it appear that you are in up to 30 different countries and this will allow you to get access to shows and movies that you couldn’t access before!
This is a great VPN solution for mobile devices.You can choose to connect to the best pre-selected server based on your location. They have over 3,000 servers in many different countries that will allow you to access geo-blocked websites or streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HULU, Amazon Prime Video etc. Additionally it comes with a 24/7 live support, a zero logging policy and a 30 day money back guarantee. However, it can only support up to 5 devices on one plan, but for most families that will be more than enough.
This VPN is best if you want good speeds while using a VPN. Anytime you route your traffic through a VPN you can expect slightly slower speeds. Using a VPN adds an extra step to the browsing process but some VPNs are faster than others and hotspot is known for having excellent speed compared to its competitors. Hotspot allows for up to 6 devices on one plan.