Demand for reliable, fast Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) is growing. No matter how you use the internet, cyber threats are real. Privacy concerns, data leaks, geo-restrictions, and online censoring is impacting our lives at alarming rates.
So, what’s the best solution? I’d argue that there are multiple best solutions, but a VPN is a great start.
VPNs provide users with secure, end-to-end encrypted data transfer that scrambles internet use to hide their identity and data. When you’re using a VPN, not even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can accurately track your internet usage. This boasts well for those who would like to remain completely anonymous online, and protect their sensitive data from being leaked (e.g. bank login info, passwords).
So, if you can tell already, the answer to “Should I use a VPN?” is yes.
Here are 3 reasons why you should be using a (paid) VPN, plus I’ll discuss my favourite VPN.
1. Data privacy, even on public Wifi
Even if you don’t care to remain anonymous online, the encryption provided by reliable VPNs will protect your sensitive information and will effectively deter privacy leaks.
This is by far the most important reason to use a VPN.
VPNs not only protect your online identity; they also ensure that all data you send is encrypted.
Public Wifi is typically the most effortless Wifi to intercept private data. You should never perform sensitive operations, like logging into your bank account, or entering any password whatsoever, over public Wifi.
Even with a VPN, many individuals would still opt to avoid entering sensitive data on public Wifi, and this is an understandeable concern. Luckily, most (possibly all, but I’d have to check) popular VPNs use end-to-end encryption. This ensures that even if data is intercepted, it will be encrypted. Just ensure that your VPN is connected before performing sensitive data entry!
2. HTTPS is great, but not every site has it
Ever notice that when you enter a website, it is prefixed with http:// or https:// ? These are essentially file transfer protocols for accessing web resources. For example, you request a website, and a server provides you with all the files you need to view and interact with the webpage.
HTTPS can be viewed as a better, more secure version of HTTP. Both protocols have the same end result, but HTTPS provides a more secure communication channel, and encrypts data transfer. HTTPS is most important for transfering sensitive information such as credit card numbers and passwords, but many websites are choosing to adopt HTTPS to provide their users with optimal security, at no extra cost.
The problem is, HTTPS isn’t mandatory, so many websites only use HTTP. Rather than manually trying to find HTTPS versions of your favourite sites, I highly recommend adding HTTPS Everywhere to your browser. It’s free, and automatically tries to serve HTTPS sites while you browse the internet. It’s a very simple, very powerful addition to your security toolbelt.
But as I mentioned, not every site has HTTPS. As a backup, I’d highly recommend using a VPN to supplement your online security. A VPN ensures that every bit of data you send is encrypted.
3. Find the best prices on certain travel deals
Dynamic pricing is clearly shady, even though airlines claim it is a neutral algorithm. By using a VPN and “travelling” to a poorer area, you may see drastic reductions on airline prices. I’ve read that for the best effect, book your tickets on a throttled processing-restricted Ubuntu virtual machine (or even an old PC, if you have one around), but I can’t say for certain if this will actually help.
Again, some may view this as unethical, but is it really unethical to steer clear from unethical business practices?
How do I choose a VPN?
It can be difficult to choose the best VPN. There are both free and paid VPNs on the market, but there are a lot of considerations with free VPNs. You will experience slower speeds and data transfer limitations, which will result in a headache in the long run. Additionally, free VPNs may not have robust encryption systems that come with the top paid VPNs, so there’s no guarantee that your data will be encrypted to your liking. Due to these limitations, I’d highly recommend using a paid VPN. Most of them won’t break your wallet, and some provide service for as little as a few dollars every month.
I recommend NordVPN for several reasons. First, their 2-year plan saves you 68% off the regular price, and at the moment, it breaks down to $3.71/month. This is an incredible price to pay for privacy, data protection, and if you’re interested, potentially enormous savings on flights. I signed up under an even better promotion, which you see from time to time. I payed about $3.20/month, if I recall correctly. A fantastic cost for the service you recieve. When connected, I see zero speed disruptions, which I have experienced with several other VPNs. NordVPN protects your data, and you barely know its there!
If you’re looking for an even better price, Surfshark offers a 2-year plan at $2.49USD/month. I tried it a while back when it was new to the market in 2018, and I hit a bit of a wall during setup. Unfortunately, due to its freshness, I had difficult finding a solution to my problem, so I decided to try NordVPN instead. I continue to see Surfshark in a positive light in cybersecurity news, so surely any problems I was having are now fixed. I may try Surfshark again in the near future, but for now, I can ensure that NordVPN provides an incredibly powerful service for less than a dollar more.