If you’ve spent any amount of time looking up tutorials for how to do stuff on the internet, you’ve probably seen something like “protect yourself with a VPN.” You may have even gone so far as to think to yourself, “I should look into that sometime” before promptly forgetting as you go back to what you were doing. But when you start diving into the question “what does a VPN do for you” it’s amazing how many levels of protection it provides.
A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. In its simplest form, it allows you to mask your IP address because all of your data goes through a server somewhere else.
Think of it like living in a gated community. A stalker can see your car entering and leaving through the front gate, but they can’t tell which house is yours or what you are doing in the privacy of your own home. They can’t steal your stuff or spy on you because you’re protected by that gate. (Although in the case of a VPN, that gate could be on the other side of the world.)
Firestick Security warning: Your location is: (Ashburn, VA). Your trackable IP address is (220.127.116.11).
What Does a VPN do for You? The Specifics
A VPN masks your specific identifying information from the rest of the internet. It protects you from your Internet Service Provider (ISP,) your government, and hackers. There are a whole host of tricks you can do with a VPN, but here are the major draws for most people.
Protecting Yourself While Torrenting/Streaming
Some people using torrents, streaming, and file transfers may send each other copyrighted material without the express permission of the owner (i.e., piracy.) Most of the time governments go after the content providers. But they still occasionally pursue people with outrageous charges and threats of prison.
You may remember when music piracy became a huge deal in the 90’s. There were all kinds of stories about the government going after sweet old ladies for $50,000 because of music piracy. That turned out to be awful press, but they still have the right to pursue legal action.
VPNs mask your IP address, so this won’t happen to you.
Protects You While Using Public Wi-Fi
Public wi-fi is great. You can work from your local coffee shop or get stuff done in the airport. The problem is that it has become a minefield of security issues. The more you read up on the dangers of public wi-fi, the more terrifying it becomes.
A VPN encrypts all the data you send so that even if a bad guy sees the IP address of your VPN (because they can’t see your personal IP address), they can’t see any of the data you send over the internet.
Stream Region-locked Content
If you are a NFL fan and live in a city with a team, you may be familiar with the local game blackouts. The stadium wants to sell more tickets, so the NFL blocks the broadcast of the game to the home city, even if you pay for the special NFL package. (It’s not just the NFL that does this. Some shows/channels you just can’t get in certain countries.)
A VPN lets you spoof your location. Want to watch something blocked in your area? Set your VPN to a different region and you are all set.
Bypass Your Country’s Censorship and Surveillance
No matter where you stand on censorship and mass surveillance, it’s hard to trust the government has your best interests in mind when they try to watch everything you do and censor the things they fear.
A VPN lets you skip over the whole mess. By masking your IP and location, you can wave to all the attempts at control as they skim right over you.
Google trackers are lurking on 75% of websites. Cover your tracks to protect yourself.
Bypass Your Work/School Restrictions
Webmasters can block access to specific websites for all the computers on their network. This can get both inconvenient and lame if you can’t get to your favorite sites on your break from your personal phone or tablet.
VPN to the rescue again. Mask your location and IP address, so the network is none the wiser.
Search Engines & ISPs Can’t Save Your Searches
One of the first things that many police departments do even in minor investigations is to check your search history. They can do this even if you clear your browser history on the regular. Search engines save searches and the associated IP address. Worse, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) saves everything. They have information on what websites you visit and when.
If you have a school project on a touchy subject, that research gets saved. If you work in journalism or writing, all the research and what IP addresses your contacts with gets saved. Even if you have an inquisitive mind and want to know how things work, you might end up in some weird corners of the internet with information that most authorities would rather you not have.
Your VPN encrypts all the data because what you look up is your own business.
It turns out that VOIP calls aren’t very secure. It doesn’t take a super hacker to listen in. This isn’t limited to Skype. If your cell phone defaults to wi-fi for phone calls, that counts too.
Remove Travel Inconveniences
China doesn’t like Google. Iran doesn’t like YouTube. There is a ton of censorship all over the globe. Waltz right through those walls when you’re on vacation or away for business. Just because a government doesn’t like something, doesn’t mean you have to put up with them infringing on you.
Notice: Hackers create fake WiFi hotspots to steal your passwords when you log in to Starbucks WiFi. Secure your data.
What Doesn’t a VPN Cover?
Two things often surprise people about VPNs. You know those ads that follow you around the internet after you look at something? Those are usually cookie based. A VPN will not prevent cookies from attaching themselves to your computer.
A VPN also doesn’t make you anonymous in the truest sense of the word. If you want to erase all of your identification, you should combine your VPN with a service called Tor which bounces your info around between a bunch of different servers, scrambling the tracking.
Keep in mind there are different types of VPNs. Some are free. Some ask for a small monthly subscription. (Less than a Netflix subscription.) There is a new adage that goes, “If you don’t pay for the product, you are the product.” Some free VPN services sell their users data to advertisers. What’s the point of having one if you don’t get all the perks?
Are You Someone Who Needs a VPN?
You may need a VPN if you are someone who believes that, “those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Privacy is sacred. If your government and the companies operating within its boundaries won’t respect your privacy, then it is time to take steps to protect yourself. Here at KodiFireTV, we are big fans of the features of IPVanish. At the same time we believe everyone should make their own informed decisions and research what’s best for them.