Over a billion people use VPNs worldwide. Thankfully, you don’t need to be a tech wiz to do so anymore. And yet, there are still a lot of misconceptions surrounding what they can and can’t do for the user experience. The following paragraphs aim to clear up any confusion and show the true benefits top quality VPNs can offer.
Will: Prevent Your ISP from Selling Your Data
It’s no secret that Internet providers in the US are pretty terrible overall. At least, judging by all the complaints you see online. Oh, and the fact that several major ISPs sued an entire state to protect their “free speech rights” to sell your data.
Fortunately, using a VPN will encrypt your network data (garble it, basically), making it virtually impossible for any outsiders to see what you’re doing online. Just make sure you use a trusty VPN provider, lest you want to join the millions of people that had their data leaked online by “free” VPNs.
Won’t: Help You Get Around Data Caps
Now, VPNs may be able to hide what you do online, but they can’t hide how much data you consume while you’re at it. Your Internet provider can still see you’ve used up X amount of data, just not what you’ve downloaded, streamed, or which websites you’ve accessed.
Will: Protect You against Hackers
Not only will encryption stop your ISP from profiting off your data, but it’ll prevent hackers from doing so as well. A US VPN is especially useful on public Wi-Fi, which is usually a prime target for hacking activity.
One of the things you need to watch out for are “Evil Twin” attacks. No, it’s not the title of a horror B-movie, but it’s still a bit scary. Basically, hackers set up hotspots that perfectly mimic legit Wi-Fi networks from places like airports, coffee shops, hotels, and so on. If you connect to one of these fake hotspots, hackers have free rein over your data.
Not even your home network or password-protected hotspots are safe. Why? Well, even the latest Wi-Fi protocols are subject to security exploits that allow hackers to steal the network password. After that, it’s only a matter of using network analysis software to harvest your sensitive data.
Fortunately, VPNs encase your network data in a layer of encryption before it leaves your device. As such, all the hackers will be able to see is a bunch of gibberish.
Won’t: Help against Malware, Cookies, and Tracking Scripts
Despite offering improved security in some areas and a certain degree of privacy, VPNs aren’t bulletproof. For one, they can’t protect against malware infections, such as those you’d get from opening suspicious attachments in phishing emails. However, some VPN providers automatically block known malware and phishing domains, so that’s a plus.
Second of all, browser cookies and other tracking methods can still be a detriment to your privacy, even while using a VPN. Take Facebook Pixel, which was deemed illegal by Belgian courts for tracking people who didn’t even have an account on the service. To fight against this kind of online tracking, you’ll need a privacy-oriented browser (like Brave, or even Firefox as of late), or a content-blocking extension like uBlock Origin.
Will: Prevent Bandwidth Throttling
US ISPs are notorious for throttling the bandwidth of their users even when networks aren’t congested, and especially when streaming video content. If you’ve ever wondered why your weekend binge sessions are interrupted by endless buffering, now you know the reason.
Luckily, you can avoid this practice with a US VPN. Since your Internet provider has no way of knowing what your traffic consists of, they can’t just randomly throttle stuff on your end and hope they get it right. Well, not without risking a potential lawsuit. Of course, keep in mind that you can’t prevent throttling if it comes as a result of going over your data caps for the month.
Won’t: Speed Up Your Internet
Aside from preventing slowdowns caused by your ISP, a VPN may help fix high ping or connection errors in online video games. However, VPNs won’t make your Internet connection faster. In fact, they tend to have the opposite effect, as your data needs to travel a longer distance to reach its destination.
It’s especially noticeable if you use free VPNs, which have low-performance servers most of the time. After all, maintaining a VPN and upgrading your specs to keep up with user demand can be expensive. In the absence of a subscription plan, free VPNs usually resort to selling user data to keep the lights on. And yes, it’s pretty much legal as long as they disclose the practice in their terms of service.
Will: Help You Get Around Geo-blocks
Pretty much the main reason people use VPNs nowadays. People abroad use it to unblock American Netflix, watch shows on exclusive US streaming sites like Hulu, and so on. You too can unblock foreign streaming services like BBC iPlayer, and make the most of your Netflix subscription by checking out its international libraries.
And yes, there are quite a few shows and movies that are unavailable in the US, despite it being one of the bigger libraries out there. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia comes to mind, which is only available on Netflix UK. A lot of anime content (like the highly acclaimed Studio Ghibli films) are only available abroad, for whatever reason.
Simply connect to a VPN server outside the US, and you should gain access to a whole new world of entertainment. Make sure to check out the lightning-fast VPNs linked in the beginning, so you get the smoothest streaming experience possible.