I’m curious about VPNs. I’m a pretty normal guy. I would say I’m reasonably tech-savvy, but I’m not a computer engineer or a “power user” or anything like that. I just use the internet in the ways that everyone does. I use it a lot, of course, but it’s not like I’m working for the FBI or have corporate secrets I need to protect.
So do I need a VPN? Would having one do me any good? It seems like a lot of people have VPNs these days, but I’m still not sure that my regular-guy sort of internet traffic really merits one.
VPNs are powerful tools for protecting internet privacy. They’re used (along with other major security and privacy tools) by the FBI and other secretive organizations. But they’re also used by “normal people” — and why shouldn’t they be?
After all, the internet has access to a lot of our secrets and private thoughts. You use the internet “in the ways that everyone does,” but that is quite a lot of ways indeed. In the modern world, we use the internet to do everything from order our food for dinner to get our date for Friday night. Do we really want others to spy on this?
VPNs can help prevent prying eyes from seeing what we’re up to on the internet. But, before we go any further, we should explain how VPNs work.
A VPN is a “virtual private network.” A VPN uses the internet in a very secure way to connect you to a server somewhere else in the world. The connection between your computer and the server is analogous to the one between your computer and your own router — that is, the two are so closely connected that it’s as if they’re on the same (local) network. So when you then connect to the internet, you can do so through that remote server, effectively hiding the location of your actual computer.
Which leads us to the first of many things that VPNs can do: hide your location. A VPN service with servers all over the world can allow you to swap the apparent location that your internet traffic originates from. This feature allows users to bypass location-based filters that censor content or keep copyrighted content region-locked.
Having your internet traffic appear from another server also keeps your internet service provider (ISP) from spying on what you’re doing. There are plenty of reasons why you might not want a monopolistic corporations keeping an eye on your internet traffic, so this is a welcome feature for many internet users.
Since your region is hidden and and your traffic is effectively anonymized, browsing the internet through a VPN will also keep websites from targeting you with advertisements based on your region and browsing history. That information simply won’t be available to the websites that normally track you!
So do you need a VPN? Well, that’s up to you, but there are clearly plenty of reasons for “average” internet users like yourself to want one. VPNs keep our activities private, shutting out the prying eyes of websites and ISPs and banishing those creepy targeted ads. It’s another layer of privacy and security, making us a bit less vulnerable to the companies who want to know more about us (and, to an extent, protecting us from hackers, too).
If you do decide that you want a VPN, you’ll find that getting one isn’t too tough. There are lots of great VPN services out there. Most of the highest-quality ones are subscription services, so choose wisely before you pay. You’ll find reliable VPN reviews online, like this Avast VPN review from Best VPN Rating.
Once you have a VPN, you should find that your service of choice is pretty user-friendly. Just launch the VPN app and log in. You will likely be able to fine-tune things like where in the world your traffic appears to be coming from, and you should also be able to turn the VPN on and off at will.
A VPN may not be strictly “necessary” for everyone in the same way that it is for those who work with highly confidential information, but anyone can benefit from its basic features. After all, who wouldn’t want to protect their own privacy a bit better? Your security matters, too — no matter how “typical” you may consider yourself.