You know that public and semi-public (airports, hotels, cafes, etc.) wi-fi connections may not be secure and your data may be fodder for hackers. If you have been wondering what to do under such circumstances, opt for Virtual Private Network (VPN), especially when you are travelling.
What is it?
A virtual private network or VPN is a private network that uses a public network (the free wi-fi that you often use to get connected) to connect the user with the remote site. By using VPN, you can send and receive data across shared or public networks in relative anonymity, preventing hackers from watching over your browsing habits, prying into your emails or snooping on your financial transactions.
What does it do?
There are many advantages of using a VPN while travelling.
VPN helps mask your IP address. Often internet service providers and web browsers, record your browsing or search history, and try to gather information about you by linking the information with your IP address. But a VPN has multiple servers (endpoints) across locations. So when you access the internet through a VPN, they will get the VPN’s IP address and not yours.
A VPN can help protect your devices from the prying eyes of cyber criminals by protecting your data that you send or receive on your devices. Although researchers say that there is no foolproof way to prevent identity theft, still, by using VPN while travelling, you decrease the chances of identity theft to a great extent.
Identity thieves or cyber criminals may steal your personal information to set up false accounts or commit crimes in your name. They can also steal your banking and debit/credit card details and passwords. But with data protection kicking in, you are relatively safe from cyber thieves when you use VPN. Sometimes, country-specific restrictions may prevent you from accessing a particular website or app. You can get around such internet filtering by setting your VPN connection to a country that allows the website or app you want to access.
So before you leave home download a VPN app.
Which one should I get?
There are many VPN apps available on the market and it is necessary to do some research to find which one is the best. There are both free and paid apps, the latter obviously giving you more protection than the former. Check if the app, especially if it is a paid one, allows you to use it across multiple devices (smartphone, tablet, laptop) because logging out of one device to log into another can be tedious.
Check the speed of the VPN app. Sometimes, the speed may be abominably slow. A slow internet connection can also create problems and you may not be able to log in or may get signed out of your VPN account. An auto connect feature comes in handy here.
Also choose an app that works across the countries you will be visiting. And of course, the app must be easy to install and to use. Before downloading a paid app for full-fledged use, see if you can use a free or a trial version. Also remember, sometimes wi-fi service providers may not allow you to use a VPN across their network.
However, technology expert and travel writer Dave Dean warns that VPN companies log the sites and services that a user connects to, alongwith their account and credit card information, so if required, they can share it with law enforcement agencies if situations demand. Therefore, it is prudent to stay within the law.