How do you use a VPN to stay safe online?
Your very own cone of silence, a Virtual Private Network shields your online activities from prying eyes.
Public Wi-Fi hotspots are everywhere these days, but you shouldn’t assume that they’re always safe to use. If you connect to a network called “Free WiFi” at the airport or in a coffee shop, you can’t be sure that it’s a legitimate network and not a spoof network generated by someone sitting at the next table.
If someone can trick you into connecting to their spoof network they can snoop on your online activities in an effort to steal passwords and other sensitive details such as online banking credentials.
Even if you are certain that you’re connecting to a legitimate Wi-Fi network, you still can’t be sure that it’s secure. If hackers have infiltrated the network then they might be eavesdropping on every connected device.
When you can’t vouch for a network’s security, you need to take matters into your own hands with a Virtual Private Network.
A VPN works by creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the VPN server, like a cone of silence. No-one in between your device and the VPN server can eavesdrop on your online activities, such as other people on the Wi-Fi network or the internet service provider.
The VPN server then connects you to the internet, which means if you’re in Australia and you connect to a VPN server in the US then the websites you visit will think you’re in the US.
Most VPN providers have VPN servers around the world. As a general rule you want to connect to the nearest server, to reduce the impact that using a VPN can have on your upload and download speeds. While you’ll find some free VPN providers, the paid services tend to offer more servers with faster connection speeds.
VPNs aren’t just for computers, they’re also for protecting your smartphone and tablet. They’re easy to set up, with a VPN “client” built into Windows and Mac computers as well as Apple and Android mobile devices. You just need to enter the login and server details supplied by your VPN provider, after which you can turn your VPN on and off with a click.
Some VPN providers offer their own preconfigured apps, which are easier to set up and include advanced features such as the ability to easily switch between different VPN servers around the world.
With your VPN ready to go, you can use public Wi-Fi hotspots without fear that your safety and security might be compromised.
Written by Adam Turner on 13/4/2018.