VPN ads are everywhere today.
These ads imply that a (their) VPN will make your life better.
" Our VPN will protect your privacy and thwart the bad guys from tracking and hacking you!"
One would need to go much deeper than a simple VPN to be completely anonymous online - although a VPN does play a role.
So, what exactly is a VPN and when would you want to use one?
At Kibosh I have setup and operated our VPN Server for our Mobile VPNs, going on six years. During my day career I have setup and operated corporate VPNs for over 20 years. I have a pretty good idea about what a VPN is, and when it's needed. The following are my opinions on the matter.
- VPN = virtual private network
A VPN is a point (ex: a PC) to another point (a VPN server) encrypted tunnel that runs 'virtually' through the Internet.
A VPN has two pieces:
- VPN Client - this is what you install.
- VPN Server - this is what the client connects to.
After you install a VPN all of your internet activity will now source from the VPN Server, not your PC / ISP. I.e., Google's server logs will show the VPN Server, and not your PC / ISP, as the source of internet activity. This feature is how your identity and location is hidden (although there are other ways to ascertain your location from packets) by using a VPN.
If all your internet activity goes over the VPN, this makes hosting a VPN Server expensive. If 100 people are using a single VPN Server, said VPN Server must have enterprise hardware and plenty of bandwidth - neither of which are free. Bandwidth is especially expensive. This means a VPN services should cost $. If you're not paying $ then you are the product.
A VPN will encrypt all of your Internet activity on your PC. This feature is how you prevent being hacked at public Wi-Fi's.
VPNs are mostly used in Businesses, for many years, to enable remote employees the ability to make a secure connection from their PC (aka workstation) to the Central Office which hosts the VPN Server.
No, you do not need a VPN for the home.
Don't listen to all the marketing hype - a VPN will give you nothing but grief (a VPN is an extra layer of complexity & software you WILL have to spend time troubleshooting) and which you will pay $ for. Plus they (the VPN Server) will have all your data. Not a good deal.
Privacy - see above, the VPN Server has all your data. Do you trust them over your ISP? For privacy in the home use a DNS service like Kibosh's, or OpenDNS. DNS logs are how your ISP is tracking you / us ( which is why they don't like it when you change the DNS on their equipment).
Security - all internet routers do NAT, which is a great firewall by default. A VPN will provide no additional security to the NAT'ed router.
Speed - a VPN will hit your Internet speed. When you click on a link the website data must traverse over the VPN, to and fro, and this will impact overall speed.
Usability - a VPN is software and as such it will need to be installed, re-installed, updated, etc, etc.
A good security related DNS service is the most important security feature you can add to your home / business network: no malware, no porn. A good DNS service will not impact your Internet speed, if not make it faster. DNS is how your ISP would track you - by changing your DNS provider you remove a big window into your home activity.
CAVEAT: a VPN to the home (you want to connect TO your home...) is a scenario that makes sense for some and this would fall under remote access, not security.
Yes, mobile scenarios are where VPNs shines:
- Protection from being hacked at Public Wi-Fi.
- Provides a private connection to another network (usually your company office).
- Can be used to enforce a malware / family safe Internet.
Yes, VPNs are very important in the corporate world. In fact, I would guess most if not all companies use them.
Remote worker - a VPN will give you secure and private access to services hosted at the company network.
Tunnel through firewalls (that are not configured to block VPNs).
Hide location (ex: watching a US only streaming service from Costa Rica).
Enjoy a clean Internet (which the VPN will provide).
If you've read the above then you know that the VPN provider you choose will have access to everything you do online.
So first and foremost - choose a VPN provider you trust.
Second, a VPN costs money. There is no 'free' VPN. If you're not paying then you are the product.
Second, choose a VPN provider that charges a reasonable rate (for mobile is should not be much) and promises your privacy.
There is only one VPN that I recommend and that is Kibosh VPN because it's the only VPN I know does not track or monitor or record (the log files are routinely flushed) and the Internet is default family safe (no porn/malware).
A VPN will give you security while using Public Wi-Fi.
A VPN will hide your identity and / or location.
A VPN Server, if properly configured, will deliver a Family Safe Internet.
A VPN will add one more think you'll need to manage (updates, re-installs, new versions, etc).
A VPN will break some websites.
A VPN will impact overall internet speed.
A VPN will give another party access to all your data.