How to find the best VPN service: Your guide to staying safe on the internet in 2020
What Is A VPN
A VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network and is a software package or application that changes your IP address and encrypts all of your traffic or search requests over the internet keeping them secure.
This keeps your internet traffic private, even if you have classified data no one can see or intercept it.
Maybe you just want your personal data kept private or to bypass online censorship imposed by the government, ISPs or any other organization - then using some form of VPN or VPN Router will protect you.
What are the benefits of using a vpn
Using any good VPN service delivers users lots of benefits including encryption these are as follows:
Prevents your internet provider - ISP - from collecting any data or seeing what you get up to on the internet
Now your regular ISP connection becomes secure. This also means you can prevent government agencies from spying on you. A virtual private network is very effective at stopping blanket government surveillance of the type performed by the NSA.
On top of this, the websites you visit cannot see your real IP address or even who your ISP is. All they can see is the IP address of the VPN router or server, which is usually shared between many VPN users to provide further protection for each individual user.
Now, this is key - ISPs keep logs, user logs - of you- but using a VPN prevents this. However when choosing a VPN you must choose a VPN provider that does not keep logs. Most of the top VPN providers comply with this fundamental benefit of using a VPN. No information about you, where you went can be used or retrieved later.
Further, most privacy-focused VPN services go further, and also make a point of deleting all metadata and connection log files which might be able to link customers to their activity on the internet.
Websites prevented from seeing your IP address
Internet Protocol Address or IP Address is how you are tracked and identified online. Using a VPN this is not possible and you cannot really be tracked as your IP address is replaced with the IP address of your VPN provider, making it more difficult for websites to identify you.
This helps in protecting your privacy when surfing the web. And it also inhibits and makes it difficult for advertisers to target you with advertising, or even retargeting.
Overcome And Defeat Country Censorship
A VPN lets you bypass country censorship, be it by a repressive regime, or even your school or office WiFi administrators.
By connecting to a VPN, you can access almost any blocked websites, simply by connecting to a VPN server located in a geography where the content is not censored.
Allows you to access streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and More
A VPN lets you access overseas streaming platforms that are blocked in your country often for copyright or licensing reasons, simply connect to a VPN server in that country, and as far as the internet is aware, you are in that country. See our article on the Best VPN for Hulu.
Protects you from hackers
How do you know the WiFi at your local cafe or food court is safe and secure? What gateways feature are they using? The problem is you don't know anything even about their security protocols. The same goes for any public WiFi free or even a paid service. The use of an insecure WiFi connection is a great invitation for criminals and hackers to steal your sensitive data.
A VPN will stop this and protect you when using all types of public WiFi because your data is very securely encrypted.
Safety and Protection when P2P torrenting
When you employ a VPN for torrenting your real IP address is made invisible from peers downloading the same torrents. It also masks the content of your download from your ISP.
Plus a VPN is handy for accessing any ISP blocked websites.
How Do you use and connect to a VPN for the first time
The steps for using a VPN are quite straightforward, and no matter what VPN service you use the process is similar
- Choose a VPN plan and Sign-up.
- Download the VPN software. Then install it - and today the steps to doing this are really simple - so do not be afraid, just follow the on the screen prompts.
- Some of the jargon is
- VPN software on a mobile or desktop computer is often referred to as a VPN client.
- Software for mobile devices is usually called a VPN app.
- However, they are just the same thing and you can treat the terms as meaning the same.
- Click on and run the client or app.
- Next, you will be asked to sign in with the login details you used when you purchased your VPN.
- Most VPN apps display an obvious “Connect” button. Simply click on or touch it on your phone and it will connect to a VPN server automatically selected by your VPN provider.
- Normally the VPN provider will choose the fastest VPN server available at that time.
- To use a server in a different country, most VPNs have a map or a list and you can simply click the country to want to connect to.
How does a VPN really work
Let's keep this straightforward and the diagram below explains it well.
When you run your VPN app, it connects to a server run by your VPN service provider. All the information and data in and out of your device are encrypted and routed through this VPN - commonly called a 'VPN tunnel”.
The VPN server, therefore, makes or acts as a gateway between you and the internet providing security. It prevents your ISP or anyone else from seeing your information and what you do on the internet. Also, it prevents websites on the internet from seeing who you are and also therefore from tracking you.
You still need an ISP to connect you to the VPN server, but because all information and data-packets passing through the VPN tunnel to the VPN server is encrypted, your ISP cannot see the contents of your data.
So like any good service, it is really quite simple.
Does a VPN make me Invisible or anonymous completely?
It is important to note that VPNs provide privacy, not invisibility. This is because the VPN provider and its server can see everything that you do.
But the key difference is unlike your ISP, top VPNs do not log or even keep this information and therefore provide much higher levels of invisibility than you normally would have.
Just be careful there are cases of VPN providers being subpoenaed or issued a binding court order.
No VPN owner is going to risk jail for you!
Does this mean VPNs are useless? A court order is made against a named individual. So ordinary people are not targeted unless you are suspected of something wrong first.
If you are really paranoid then consider investigating and using the Tor Network. But this is out of scope for this article.
How To Configure Your VPN
VPN providers make their software to be easy to use, and it should “just work” without the need for any additional configuration.
If you are using an IPv6 internet connection many VPN apps may struggle to handle this new internet standard correctly. So make sure the VPN provider you use has good support and articles. See our best VPN review.
What is a kill switch?
Thanks to the nuances of today's internet, VPN connections can sometimes fail. Normally when this happens you would remain connected to the internet but without the protection of your VPN.
A kill switch protects you from this by halting connections in or out of your device unless the VPN connection is live.
Will a vPN slow down my internet
A VPN does route your information and data an extra step to a VPN server, which then needs to encrypt and decrypt the data you send. So it is logical that you will see a small decrease in your internet connection speed.
The key factors here are the distance to the VPN server plus how loaded the VPN server is at the time.
Typically when you connect to a server that is close to you and is not overloaded, then you can expect to lose about 5-10 percent of your internet speed.
This is why getting a good VPN is key as the Fastest VPNs spend heavily on fast servers and they are more than capable of streaming HD or even 4k video.
Do I need an ISP if I use a VPN
Yes you do - an Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides you with an internet connection used to connect to the VPN server. (Note - the connection is encrypted and secure)
Can I use a VPN on all my devices
Each VPN provider can permit you to install their software on as many devices as you like.
Most, will limit how many computers, tablets or mobile phones you can use all at the same time. Depending on what plan you buy - you will be given more device connections with a more expensive plan.
As most VPN plans are for 1-3 years to get the best value it is worth thinking who in your direct family you might like to share your VPN simultaneous connections with so that you don't have to upgrade your plan.
Most VPN companies typically permit three to five simultaneous connections.
The big VPN suppliers offer iOS VPN apps plus Android. For Windows and MacOS also there is no problem, but not all support Linux.
Can I get a free VPN
There are some providers who offer free VPN, but we have not found any that are good.
Basically you get what you pay for.
However VPNs if purchased for 2-3 years are not much per month.
Does a VPN make me safe
Yes is the quick answer.
A VPN will help to protect you from:
- Public WiFi hackers
- Your ISP spying or logging you data
- Mass government agency surveillance
- License or Copyright holders
Protecting Your Child Online in 2020
Most of the big streaming content providers have controls for restricting children's access or parental controls but some are more robust than others.
Also Your ISP (internet service provider) should provide free parental controls, as should most gaming consoles.
This is also something that many VPNs are looking into.
What is Policy-based routing
Policy-based routing (PBR) is a process whereby the router or device puts information packets through a route map before routing them.
Here Edward Snowden Opened Our eyes
Edward Snowden has described NSA and other agencies as a “supra-national intelligence organizations that doesn't answer to the known laws of its own countries.” Intelligence is freely shared between security organizations of other member countries, a practice that is used to evade legal restrictions on spying on their own citizens.
128-bit Encryption was in practice uncrackable through brute force. Until the Edward Snowden revelations showed otherwise.
However 256-bit is much better. The number of years required to brute force a 256-bit cipher is 3.31 x 10(56) - which is about 20000….0000 (total 46 zeros) times the age of the Universe!
VPN Routers - Another Choice to Consider
VPN-ready routers are one way to go and your protection for everyone that uses it is assured. Apart from getting a pre-configured router, probably the easiest option is to go with a router that can be used with FastVPN right out of the box, which I refer to as a VPN-ready router.
Asus offers a great lineup of VPN-ready routers – from cheap to high-end.
Will a VPN keep me safe on a social network
A VPN will help - but you need to be careful about what you actually post on a social network.
Do not post phone numbers, addresses or any identifying information. All social networks are inherently about sharing information and your information - do not go on them without using a VPN is my strong advice. Many people say the best way to maintain your privacy on social networks is to avoid them altogether, however in many cases this is not practical. But using a VPN will help to protect your privacy as long as you do not post identifiable information about yourself.
It is worth checking reasonably frequently the privacy settings on all your social networks just to make sure they are as tight as possible.
Should I Use Antivirus with a VPN
Many people are aware they should be using anti-virus software on their desktop or mobile computers, but many neglect their mobile devices. And using a VPN will help with Virus - but not stop the most sneaky ones - so I recommend using antivirus software also for your online activity especially if on a public Wi Fi, even if just to stop your collection of metadata.Fastest VPN - read the review