It Always Feels Like Somebody Is Watching Me… So Get a VPN!
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the easiest way to obtain a fast, private, and SECURE Internet connection.
Do you work online from coffee shops or hotels? Do you travel and take a laptop, tablet or smartphone with you to use online? Do you perhaps travel internationally? I often travel internationally, and I always use a VPN when traveling, whether I am in the U.S. or overseas.
Actually, using a VPN while at home is also a good idea. After all, do you know if one of your neighbors is possibly monitoring all the data you send and receive? Then again, we all know that the NSA is monitoring everything we send and receive online.
Unless you are using a VPN (virtual private network), nothing you do online is private. A VPN encrypts and protects everything you do online, and can be downloaded as an app on your phone or computer.
Protect yourself from people stealing your credit card info, your Gmail login credentials, or (worst of all) getting blocked from watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones.
You need to be using a VPN if you:
Visit sites you’d rather keep private
Make online purchases (don’t get your debit card hacked)
Watch Netflix movies or “Who Do You Think You Are?” UK edition or other video services while visiting countries that are normally blocked from those sites
Legally use bit torrent and want to keep your downloads private
Or travel to places with internet censorship
Don’t let your web browser’s incognito mode fool you. Incognito mode is a good thing, but it only offers partial security. You NEED to be using a VPN.
A VPN provides a secure connection between your computer and the VPN servers. All communications between your computer and the VPN are encrypted and sent through a secure tunnel over the Internet, preventing outsiders from spying on your web activity. You can securely connect to a VPN service and surf the web from the VPN service’s servers, using their IP addresses.
There are lots of reasons to use a VPN service, such as establishing a secure connection over an insecure network, accessing censored or region specific web content, or protecting your bank account information or credit card numbers when using them online.
NOTE: The monitoring by the USA government’s National Security Agency (NSA) may or may not be blocked by using a VPN. The NSA doesn’t describe its capabilities, so we don’t know exactly what the NSA can or cannot monitor. However, using a VPN can reduce the likelihood of government monitoring.
The use of a VPN to block NSA monitoring is a long and complicated subject with many unknowns. I will ignore NSA monitoring for the remainder of this article. If you would like to learn more about NSA’s spying, I suggest you start at https://www.eff.org/nsa-spying/how-it-works.
http://www.pcworld.com/article/2928340/ultra-popular-hola-vpn-extension-sold-your-bandwidth-for-use-in-a-botnet-attack.htmlI have used a number of VPNs over the years and can tell you there are a number of good ones available.
NOTE: Stay away from the so-called free VPNs, however. They usually fill your computer with unwanted advertising and may even spy on you. A few of the shadiest free VPNs, such as Obrona and Hola, can actually make your computer less secure than it was before installing the free so-called VPN. See https://malwaretips.com/blogs/remove-obrona-vpn-virus/ and http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/05/29/hola_vpn_used_8chan_takedown_botnet_or_not/ and http://www.pcworld.com/article/2928340/ultra-popular-hola-vpn-extension-sold-your-bandwidth-for-use-in-a-botnet-attack.html for details.
My current favorite VPN is called Private Internet Access (often called PIA.) However, there are several other very good VPN products available these days. You might check the reviews at https://www.pcmag.com/picks/the-best-vpn-services, https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/best-vpn/, and at https://www.tomsguide.com/best-picks/best-vpn.
VPN services work by creating encrypted “tunnels” to VPN servers, often called “exit nodes,” in distant locations, often to VPN servers in other countries.
Many of the VPN services I have used in the past (or tried to use but was unsuccessful) have very tricky set-up procedures. They seem to assume that everyone is a network engineer. Heck, I WAS a network engineer for several years, and I still had difficulties configuring some of those VPN products! In contrast, PIA is simple to install and configure. Download the software, install it, and answer a few simple questions during set-up. That’s it! You can be up and running securely within a minute or two.
Using PIA is simple. You first connect to the Internet in the normal manner you have always used. Once connected, you launch PIA. When the PIA screen appears, click once and your connection becomes encrypted and secure within 3 or 4 seconds.
PIA (Private Internet Access) is available for Windows, Macintosh, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and all Android smartphones and tablets.
Unlike some other VPN services, you can use PIA on up to ten devices simultaneously. That’s more than many of its competitors. For instance, you can use PIA on your laptop computer and on your tablet computer at the same time.
PIA is rather expensive if you pay for it monthly: $9.99 per month. However, paying for 36 months at once (which is what I did) drops that cost to $2.19 a month, a charge that I consider to be very reasonable. There is no free version or “free trial version.” However, HMA does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee. In my mind, that is almost as good as a free trial: you can try it for up to 30 days and then still get your money back if you find it doesn’t work for you. See https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/buy-vpn-online for all the pricing details.
All in all, I am happy with PIA’s VPN service and plan to continue using it for a long time. I use it every time I use my laptop computer online, whether I am traveling or not. I also have it installed in my cell phone and in my desktop computer and will then use it occasionally for online access to services that I wish to keep secure, such as online shopping or accessing my bank account.
I am not compensated in any way for writing this article. I am simply a satisfied PIA user, and I am using it at this moment to post this article to the newsletter.
For other suggestions for protecting yourself online, check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Surveillance Self-Defense Guide to defending yourself and your friends from surveillance by using secure technology and developing careful practices at https://ssd.eff.org/.