The Biggest Misconceptions about VPN - VPN Myths DebunkedUpdated: April 24, 2019
Most people believe that VPN services are only used by criminals that try to hide their tracks. And this is only one of the misconceptions about VPNs.
Using a VPN is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your privacy and security while surfing online.
Still, lots of people fear to use a VPN because there are a couple of misconceptions about VPNs out there that make VPN sound like a bad thing.
Most people believe that VPN services are only used by criminals that try to hide their tracks. Another common myth about VPNs is that a VPN will highly slow down your internet connection. While cybercriminals do, indeed, make use of VPN services so they can run illegal online activities without being caught, in reality, VPN services are also used by honest individuals because they increase users' privacy and security while connected to the internet.
Actually, everyone should use a VPN service at least for part of their online activities to decrease their chances of getting hacked or having their online activity tracked by third parties.
In this post, we'll go over the most common misconceptions about VPN services so you can embrace the benefits of a VPN from now on to keep yourself safe online.
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to using a VPN (or other privacy methods such as proxies or Tor) is that you must be into criminal behavior if you're looking to hide your IP address and online activity. Because of this, less than 20% of North Americans use a VPN.
While criminals do, indeed, use a VPN to hide their identity, everybody should use a VPN for at least some of the time to improve their privacy and security.
Some don't want to use a VPN because they think the NSA or their ISP can still crack the encrypted data. While NSA supposedly has the resources to crack encrypted traffic if necessary, you must first raise a lot of red flags for them to actually do it as it is not an easy operation.
As with the ISP, the situation is the same. You must commit a solid crime for the ISP to struggle for getting their hands on your online activity. Without dedicated technology, the ISP can only see your location and that you are connected to the VPN server, but all your online activity when connected to the VPN is invisible.
To exemplify how your traffic is invisible to the ISP - if you enjoy watching Netflix, you might've noticed that after watching for a while, the stream slowly degrades. That's because ISPs love throttling. But when you use Netflix while connected to the VPN, the bandwidth will remain constant because the traffic is encrypted and the ISP has no clue about you watching your favorite TV show.
This misconception about VPN has actual solid grounds. It is true that some VPN providers keep logs of your online activity, especially those part of the 5 eyes. But there are a lot of other providers out there that don't keep any kind of logs. It is important to do your research properly before registering for a VPN service and find companies that don't store logs.
While a VPN will make you anonymous online by changing your real IP address, they can't stop ad trackers. Advertisers track you down through cookies more often than through your IP address because most of the websites nowadays have the Facebook Pixel or some Google product (AdSense, Analytics). This means that even using a VPN, you can still be targeted by ads.
Moreover, some VPN providers will log your browsing history and sell it to third parties for marketing purposes or even push their own ads. This behavior makes it crucial that when you chose a VPN provider to make sure they don't keep logs of your online activity.
If you're looking for ways to avoid ad trackers, you should use a private browser or install an extension such as Privacy Badger. We have a guide going over the most secure and private browsers you can use in conjunction with a VPN to make sure you don't leave any trace behind.
One of the biggest misconceptions about VPN is that you have to pay anonymously for the service so you're untraceable. This only makes sense if you're using private networks and devices that can't be traced back to you in any way. But for us, who use VPN services at home to strengthen our security and have a private online experience, it does not make sense.
Your ISP will know you're using a VPN no matter how you pay for it. They can see you're connected to the VPN, exactly when you use it, and the server you're connecting to, and they also know who you are. This means that even you hide your real identity from the VPN provider, someone still knows you paid for it. And if an entity that's not trustworthy (the ISP) has this information, why should you care if the VPN provider knows your real name? After all, VPN providers are working to help you keep your online activity private and secure. If the government wants this kind of information on you, they can go to the ISP, they don't rely on the VPN company.
The important thing when using a VPN is that all the traffic is encrypted and no one can see what you do online after connecting to the VPN server. What should be your biggest concern is that the VPN provider you chose to not keep records of your activity. That's what puts your privacy at risk.
If you search the internet for a bit you'll see there's a notable amount of free VPN services out there that state they will keep your identity anonymous online and strengthen your online privacy. You might be tempted to choose a free VPN because, well, why pay for a service when there's a free alternative out there, right? The thing with free VPNs is they might not be as safe as they sound.
As with all free online services, there might be a couple of risks you're subjecting yourself to when registering to use them. Nothing is completely free and there's always a catch.
When it comes to free VPN services, you will find that you have no guarantee you can trust that those providers will actually keep your data private. Most free VPN providers log your online activity and will use it to target you with their own ads or even sell the data they collect to third parties. They usually sell this information for marketing purposes, but you never know how a hacker can get hold of this data and use it for malicious purposes.
If you're serious about keeping your online activity private and secure, you should never use a free VPN. The investment in a trustworthy VPN is small and affordable for individuals and it provides you with the privacy you deserve without logging any of your online activity.
While a VPN does a great job in making you anonymous online and enhancing your online security, it can't do it all.
VPN is an important tool in the privacy kit. If you want to make sure you're completely anonymous, you should also be really careful about the browsers you use, what they stored about your online activity so far, and what you do on those browsers online.
For example, you can leak your real identity even when using a VPN by connecting to a Google account with your real name. If you give this kind of hints, someone can follow the dots and trace the activity back to you.
You probably heard about Tor before. Tor is a browser that encrypts the data in multiple layers making your IP address and location invisible. It makes for a secure way to access the internet while keeping your privacy safe.
At first glance, the Tor browser does the same thing as a VPN - hides your real IP address, making you anonymous online. There's no wonder why there's the myth that if you use Tor you don't need a VPN anymore.
The biggest difference between Tor and a VPN is that Tor only hides your identity when you're using the browser, while a VPN encrypts all the data transmitted between your computer and the internet (including all the browsers and apps with access to the internet).
Moreover, the Tor browser might be enough for some quick online browsing that you want to keep private, but it's not suitable for tasks such as streaming, torrenting, or file sharing as the internet connection will be highly slowed down and because you can't choose the location of the server you're connecting to.
As we mentioned before, one of the biggest misconceptions about VPN services is that they are only used by cybercriminals. And it is not true.
You should use a VPN even though you're not trying to conduct illegal online activities because it will improve your online privacy.
Online privacy should be a concern for any individual with access to the internet. Everywhere you go online websites and services are logging data about your online activity. Your location, your browsing habits, your search history - way more information than you might think. While most companies collect such data to improve their services or for marketing purposes, giving them all the information about your online activity might not be the best idea. You never know who will get hold of this data. And you should know there are lots of cybercriminals out there looking to steal and misuse users' data for their own gain.
For example, do you know how many things Google tracks about your online activity? The amount of information Google stores about you might make you rethink using a VPN while surfing online.
Some people avoid using a VPN service because they believe the VPN will slow down their internet connection. While a VPN will make your internet run a little slower because it has to encrypt all the traffic exchanged between your computer and the internet, it won't make a huge difference if you choose trustworthy service.
The speed of your internet connection while connected to a VPN server is determined by your regular internet connection and the location of the VPN server you're connecting to. The further the server location, the slower the internet connection. This is why it is important to choose a VPN service with multiple servers locations so you can pick the location that's more suitable for your online activities.
The last, but not least, of the misconceptions about VPN services is that it doesn't matter what VPN you choose because they are all the same.
Like any other services, there are notable differences between VPN providers and you should be aware of them before picking the right service for your needs. Some VPNs are cheaper than others. Some keep logs of your online activities while others don't. Some will allow you to download torrents or unblock websites like Netflix while others don't. Some use stronger encryption than others, making them more reliable.
Before deciding on a VPN provider, you should first ask yourself what do you want from a VPN. Do you want to download torrents? Do you want to make sure no one tracks your online activity? Carefully review all the features before you decide so you make sure the VPN you pick is perfect for your needs.
As you've seen, a VPN is a tool that should not lack from your privacy and security kit if you are concerned about your online privacy. And with everything that's going on online nowadays and the huge amount of time we spend online, you should be worried about keeping your online activity secure. A lot.
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