How To Use a VPN for Internet
I've learned a lot while on the road and some things have come up that I wouldn't have originally thought of. One of those lessons is purchasing and utilizing a VPN whenever I connect to the Internet over public wifi. So let's talk VPN!
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN allows you to connect to the internet through a secure server provided by your VPN service.
Why do I need a VPN?
Think of how often you connect to public wifi spots: Starbucks, airports, cafes, hot spots. When you connect to these public wifi spots without a VPN, the information you are exchanging over the internet can be available to anyone, including hackers. This could include bank passwords, social media passwords, browsing information, and more.
Subscribing to a VPN service and then turning on the VPN whenever you are using public wifi allows you to "hide" your data. The VPN scrambles and encrypts your data.
What can I do with a VPN?
Let's be real here. The reason I purchased a VPN subscription was so that I could have a United States IP address no matter where I was in the world, which would allow me to watch American TV shows over Netflix, Hulu, NBC, ABC, and more. These services are usually only available to those in the States, so I couldn't watch This Is Us on NBC when I was in the Philippines because the NBC website could immediately tell that my IP address was not, actually, in the US.
But when I switch my VPN on, and select the location I want my IP address to be in, the VPN encrypts my data and switches my location from the Philippines to the US (or whichever location I select).
Basically, having a VPN ensures I can watch Game of Thrones while abroad. Done and done!
But there are more benefits to purchasing a VPN. According to an article by Best VPN, having a VPN allows you to:
- Hide your internet activity from your internet service provider
- Evade censorship
- "Geo-spoof" your location so you can access services denied to you based on your location (ie, American TV shows)
- Provide protection against hackers when connected to public wifi
- Download P2P services securely (ie, downloading pirated movies)
A good example here would be if you were in China, which censors much of the internet, but you wanted to access YouTube (which is censored by China). You could use your VPN service to change your location to the US and access any website you want that way.
Can I use a VPN on my smartphone?
Yes! You can download an app through your VPN service, which will allow you to turn on the VPN at anytime. This is very useful since most people connect to public wifi spots over their phones. This is how easy it is to turn my VPN on and off on my iPhone:
How do I buy a VPN?
Customers usually subscribe to a VPN service by paying a monthly fee or signing up for a 6-month or year-long subscription. I have a 6 month subscription with VPN Express, which cost me $60 total.
Is using a VPN legal?
From the research I've done, yes. The main problem VPN providers seem to encounter is when users use VPNs to download pirated movies and music. Downloading pirated movies is illegal due to copyright (we all know this by now), but using a VPN is one way to get around that. Your VPN provider will hide your IP address and scramble your data, which makes it nearly impossible to determine who is doing the actual downloading.
Is it easy to use?
Yes! Once you subscribe to the service, it's just a click of a button to turn your VPN on and off. I typically leave my desktop VPN on all the time since I am always using public wifi as I'm traveling.
What VPN providers should I consider?
I use VPN Express because that was the service that seemed to be most prominent as I was searching for a service. Here are some other services to consider.
I hope this information helps!