VPN: A Must-Have for Anonymity

The content of this article can be associated or mapped to CompTIA Security+ Exam Objective 1.0 “Network Security”.  The internet is a scary place. The reason it is so scary is because of everything; even casual users, broadcast when surfing the net. While many of you basic users out there in the world just want to keep in touch with friends, shop, or just watch cat videos there are many other users who seek to do harm. Just being on the internet and updating social media can put you at risk because most of what you do is unencrypted. As a comparison think about everything you do in your car on the way to and from your destination. Now imagine your car being completely see-through and not only can everyone see what you might be doing other than driving but for those who listen hard enough can hear everything as well. Makes you think twice about picking your nose at that stoplight huh? Parents with kids, this message is also for you if you let your children use the internet for school or to play video games. Someone who can see every move you make on the internet can not only deliver malware such as viruses and worms but they can more directly target you.

Enter the Virtual Private Network or VPN. These awesome tools can make us all so much safer on the internet regardless of your level of use. Essentially VPNs do for us (going back to my see-through car comparison) what the opaque features of our cars do for us just imagine your car now also has blacked out windows and is completely sound proof and nearly indestructible.  The VPN encrypts everything you do on the internet and makes it nearly impossible to be targeted directly for malware and other types of cyber-attacks. It is not fool-proof but suffice it to say it’s damn close. Truth be told there is no excuse not to be using a VPN.  For starters they are easy to implement. I’m not going to go into all the details here but do an internet search for videos on how to install and use VPN and you will become an expert in no time. If you shop around for different VPN solutions and have a “brand name” in mind you can search for that and get specific instructions. Once it is setup it really is as simple as making sure you turn it on BEFORE you jump on the internet. There are dozens of options some free and some not and all things considered they are all very similar in operation. I personally recommend paying for the service though as paid VPNs are usually easier to use and are supported or maintained.

I am not paid or sponsored by anyone for the content of this blog (wish I was) but I personally use Private Internet Access or PIA and it’s so easy even I can do it so that means you can too. Why did I choose that one? Because a trusted colleague was using it and recommended it so I did and have no complaints. The cost is roughly $5 a month and I pay every quarter so $15 and I can use the same account actively on 3 devices at a time. So my work laptop, my personal laptop, and my PS4 can all be logged in and protected at the same time. One of the key things I recommend is make sure the VPN service you choose does not log activity (defeats the purpose of staying anonymous and protected) and that the service provides full protection and does not leak your IP address through what is known as a WebRTC Request leak. If you want to know how to test this just go to ipleak.net after you turn your VPN on and see what the results are. Let’s say you set your VPN to give you an IP out of Romania and ipleak.net shows your real internal IP anywhere than the service is not completely protecting you. So be safe out there and get yourself a VPN.