7 Essential Facts to Know About Virtual Private Networks
Many people are confused about VPNs. Some think they give a magic cloak of invisibility. This isn’t totally true, but a VPN does help. Here’s seven things you should know about using one.
1. The No Logging Policy’s Fine Print
Look into your company’s actual terms of service. Many times, they state they reserve the right to still record certain pieces of data. They say they are recording to improve the quality of your service.
This data doesn’t directly identify you. A government can issue a subpoena to get their hands on it. With enough digging they could cross reference the billing information and the network data to find someone they’re looking for.
A VPN certainly isn’t a license to be stupid. Members of the hacking group known as “Lulzsec” were famous for hacking companies and dumping user data. They were also known for taunting the company with internet memes on their Twitter accounts.
Lulzsec was busted after their VPN provider turned over logs. The group turned on each other in order to get a deal. You can read more about their fascinating story security mistakes.
2. You Still Leave A Footprint
Websites can still trace you by your web browsing habits. Your browser and operating system are still able to be uncovered by the headers in the packets you’re sending back and forth. Websites can also fingerprint you by recording the following:
- Browser Plugins
- Operating System
- Screen Size and Color Depth
- System Fonts
- Time Zone
- User Agent
Free VPN services almost certainly are recording your information to pay their bills too. They can package up your information and then sell it to advertising companies.
All VPN services also have to keep your billing information. This includes your name, billing info, and IP address. Most of the time this doesn’t pose a big problem.
3. Many Rent Their Servers
You may picture a room of servers that are in a secret bunker. That usually is far from the truth. The majority of VPN servers are rented from larger hosting providers.
Your VPN is usually located on a Virtual Private Server that is segmented off of a larger server. A “VPS” is virtually segregated from the rest of the host’s other customers on the server.
This is a step up from shared servers that are all directly connected. However, there still are ways hackers can bypass a VPS’ protection and inflict damage.
4. VPNs Don’t Make You Invincible
It’s true that a VPN makes attacking your home IP address much harder. Packets on your network will also gain an extra layer of encryption. This makes it harder to perform man-in-the-middle attacks on your network.
A VPN doesn’t protect your social media or email either. Many attacks harvest your social media info so that they can call and email your associates. This lets a social engineer set a pretext to pose as someone trying to do their job.
5. VPNs Help You View Blocked Content
Most services on the web use IP addresses to determine who can access certain content. This can be due to government censorship or copyright issues. Many people use a VPN to watch blocked streaming services and play games online.
6. You Can Prevent Lagging
Some hosts have very powerful server networks to be stronger than their competition. Many of them don’t throttle traffic the way internet service providers do. They also offer hundreds of servers across the world to be competitive. The higher-end VPNs tend not to lag at all.
7. Many Countries Ban Them in Some Form
The power of a VPN can be intimidating for people with something to hide. Censorship on the internet has increased as people have used in the Middle East to topple governments. The countries blocking VPNs are North Korea, China, Russia, Syria, and Iran to name a few.
A VPN hides the origin of your traffic and makes it harder to intercept. Many nations block the use of VPNs in their nation. They seek to control the flow of information and content.
A VPN can serve you well if you know what you’re doing. It can give you boosts in network performance and privacy. Using one will also make you more secure than the average user. Just remember to use common sense about how you surf the web.