Today, in my humble opinion, you cannot use an Internet connection via Ethernet cable and WiFi (free or per pay) without having a virtual private network running at the same time. The era of hoping from free WiFi to free WiFi without a VPN is absolutely over.
Some of my readers are very well-versed in technical details, and others have never heard of the word VPN. Thus, I decided to navigate in the middle with this post, keeping in mind my not so techie readers. If you want to get into the ultra-technical details on how a VPN works, there is plenty of publicly available information on the topic.
What is a virtual private network?
Imaging that you have a virtual pipe running parallel to your Internet connection. In technical terms, we call this tunneling. This pipe has a different Internet Protocol (IP) address than your regular Internet connection, and the connection through this tunneling (pipe) is encrypted.
It does not matter who provides you with Internet services, you can always add a vpn service on top of that for your computer, phone and tablet.
How does it work?
You first connect to the Internet but your computer does not access the actual Internet until your VPN has engaged (if you use ExpressVPN.com with this option selected – highly recommended). Thus, you are using the public telecommunication infrastructure (Internet) but with an encrypted layer of protection that will not allow anybody to snoop on what you are doing while surfing the Internet.
Why do I need a VPN?
Every time you visit a website, the webmaster can see your visit because you are disclosing your actual IP address. Your Internet provider can see the sites you are visiting too.
Even though you might not visiting websites that are considered compromising, your privacy is the precursor of security. Thus, when all the companies are creating a profile of your Internet habits, your privacy ends up being the product they sell to whomever is willing to pay most. These buyers are marketers and also crooks.
The illustration below shows how you can be using your laptop (applies to phones and tablets) at a coffee shop (hotel, airport or your own home) to look at websites with a blue – non-encrypted connection and the red laptop along with the website master can see everything you do. On top of the illustration, you see how your IP address changes when you use an encrypted connection to look at the same website and the man-in-the-middle can no longer jump into your connection.
At home, you are probably embracing the phenomenon of the Internet of Things (IoT). You have many devices connected to your network, including cameras. When these cameras are not running on an encrypted tunnel (VPN), they can be accessed by anybody. Do you want to have fun? Take a look at this website that shows all unsecured cameras in the world. Do you want your camera to be listed in this website too? http://www.insecam.org/en/bycountry/US/ If the answer is no, then begin by changing the default passwords on all the devices you connect to the Internet and ALWAYS use a VPN.
What are the best VPN services?
A VPN company that offers the services for free is making you the product. This means, that the company is selling your private information. Encryption is very expensive, and we do not want anything lower than AES256. Thus, you need to expect to pay between $8.25 to $8.35 per month for a good VPN.
ExpressVPN.com has been voted by many reputable organizations as the best service provider, and it is the one that I highly recommend. The other four are Buffered, IPVanish, NordVPN, and VPNArea. You can read a well-written comparison here.
How do I configure it? Can I use it in multiple devices?
Asuming that you will go with my recommendation of ExpressVPN.com, you can have one account that includes one computer, one phone and one tablet. The computer can use the same account at the same time the phone or the tablet; but the phone and the tablet cannot share the same account at the same time.
To configure your VPN, go to Preferences, and ensure that you put a check mark on the two options under Network Lock. Under Protocol, select Automatic, and under Advanced, removed the check mark for the Diagnostic Data.
In your smartphones and tablets, make sure you select to Auto-reconnect, and that the Share Diagnostic Data is off.
That is all for now. Thank you for reading!
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About the Blog
This blog is updated on a bi-weekly basis and it will address a variety of topics concerning cybertechnology, privacy and ethics in the cyberspace domain.