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Is it Safe to Use a VPN?

From something that’s basically designed to improve security, privacy and confidentiality – it’s often surprising that this question is asked so often. The problem I suspect is not so much suspicion about the technology but merely that often people have no idea how a Virtual Private Network actually works. Currently the numbers of people using this technology is rising at an exponential rate for a variety of reasons which include the following:

  • National/Political/Government Filtering – increasingly even moderate governments and security services are seeking to control access to internet sites to their populations. All across the world governments are using advanced controls to filter or block access to specific sites. From the extreme examples of North Korea and China to less obvious examples like Turkey and Australia, millions of web sites are blocked from various countries across the world. In most situations a secure VPN bypasses these filters.
  • Corporate/profit Maximization – companies seek to maximize profits online by operating something called price discrimination. This involves trying to sell the same product or service at the maximum price possible to different markets. This means that the same product will be offered at vastly different prices depending on your physical location. Users obviously don’t like this and using a VPN located in a different country will often allow access to the cheaper prices.
  • Licensing/Copyright Issues -similar to the above example thousands of websites restrict access based on your location due to copyright restrictions. Unfortunately this is due to a licensing model spread across the world which is simply not compatible with the global, internet enabled world. Pay for your Netflix subscription and then see it blocked or cut when you travel to another country, try and watch the BBC as a license fee payer and watch your access being restricted online because you happen to be on holiday abroad. Again a VPN bypasses these restrictions by hiding your true location.

This list is not complete, in fact there are many other reasons why people use VPNs including the desire for some basic privacy from the huge surveillance efforts of the world’s security efforts plus the risk from cyber thieves using similar techniques to steal your personal information.   It is not surprising that the demand is rising, but is a VPN safe – here’s a video.

So what are the risks? Well most of the issues with using a VPN lie with the supplier in both technical and legal competence. Unfortunately it is relatively easy to set up a VPN service and to sell that service onto to other users. However setting up a secure and safe VPN requires a high investment in infrastructure particularly in the servers that operate the network and technical knowledge to both set up the services securely and support them.

Remember when a VPN is enabled you are routing all your network traffic through those specific servers, potentially trusting your entire connection through the company who runs the VPN. Mostly this is not a problem but you should do your due diligence and ensure you’re dealing with a proper business rather than a group of college kids messing around with their University data centres.

A fast, secure VPN service provides a high level of both privacy and security online as long as it is configured and run correctly. It ensures that all your data is encrypted and also hands you to the ability to hide and control your digital location. Whether you just want to watch a different version of Netflix or watch your home News station online while travelling then a VPN is for you. A VPN is not insecure to use, in fact it’s exactly the opposite as long as it’s run correctly.

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