What About A VPN?

VPN - it's another geeky-sounding TLA (Three Letter Acronym) that seems to throw a lot of everyday computer users into confusion. So what does it mean for you?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a method of masking or obscuring your Internet activity. Available to us mere mortals in the form of software, it can help hide both your public IP address (indicating essentially who you are and where you are) and the actual content of your Internet traffic.

The Cliffs Notes version is that, instead of your Internet connection taking you directly to a website (gray dotted line below), it travels first through an encrypted (scrambled) "tunnel" to a VPN service (red line below), where it then goes to the website.

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As we start to become more aware of just how much we are tracked, scanned and categorized online these days, you can perhaps see the case for using something like a VPN.

More specifically, if you use public networks like airport, mall, or coffee shop Wi-Fi services with any frequency, that's a good reason to use a VPN - as those are all notoriously prone to snooping and hacking.

Also, if you just don't like the idea of being tracked everywhere you browse on the web by your Internet Service Provider (ISP), then a VPN becomes an attractive option. Basically, a VPN can offer more security and more privacy when working online.

Unfortunately, just searching for "free VPN" or "VPN reviews" may not give the best results; a lot of the "hits" you will get are probably from paid review sites and so may gloss over individual VPN features. 

I would offer the following site as a good starting point:

It gives a good overview of the what's and why's and then presents a rather comprehensive feature comparison of dozens of VPN products, both free and paid.

VPNs are not a perfect protection, but regularly using a reputable one will at least lift you out of the crowd of "low hanging fruit" that gets picked off first by the Bad Guys.

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