I've written about Virtual Private Networks (VPN) in the past. If you aren't using one, you need to do so immediately! It's a crucial part of staying safe online.
Here's the thing, there are some VPNs that are put out by some less than honest companies (such as Facebook) that can actually compromise your security instead of improve it.
WHAT IS A VPN?
The simplified description of a VPN is that it is a software program (or app) that you load onto your computer, tablet or phone. When you access the internet, the VPN creates an encrypted "tunnel" that will keep your internet connection anonymous and secure so people can't snoop on you.
WHY DO YOU NEED A VPN?
If you didn't know, the internet is a wretched hive of scum and villainy. People, companies and governments want to trick you, track you and steal your information.
The government recently passed a law stating that your service provider (such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, etc.) can track everything you do online and sell this information as they see fit. It's criminal.
If you are using WIFI, it's especially important to use a VPN because the average Joe with the right software can watch every little thing you do online. So if you're online while traveling, at a coffee shop or just sitting at home in your undies, you need a VPN.
WHICH VPN SHOULD YOU USE?
So now we get to the hard question; which VPN should you use?
Yes, a VPN is crucial, but like I said earlier, some VPNs have been created by unethical people to do exactly the opposite of what they're supposed to do. Instead of protecting you, they create a false sense of trust, then sell your information.
Unfortunately, it comes down to, "Who do you trust?" - and that sucks!
Here's how I decide...
FIRST, don't use a free VPN!!! Why would someone create a free VPN? Because they're nice? It's probably because they are making money in another way, such as selling your information. VPNs are cheap, so you don't need to choose free.
SECOND, don't just look for articles on the web that talk about VPNs. In fact, there are a lot of so-called VPN review sites that are actually owned by the VPNs themselves and they are designed to steer people away from competitive products and to their products, while pretending to be objective and honest.
THIRD, I acknowledge that I don't have the skills to determine the best choice, but I am good at finding people in the know who can successfully make this decision. One of my favorite podcasts is "The Privacy, Security and OSINT Show". This show is a deep dive into everything privacy and security related, and when I say "deep dive", I'm saying that they are a bunch of ridiculously paranoid, over-the-top privacy people who live and breathe this stuff (the podcast is not for everyone, but I like it). I trust what they say.
There are two VPNs that I would feel comfortable using myself...
Private Internet Access (PIA) is the one that the privacy experts mentioned above recommend, and it's the software that I personally use.
The second one is ProtonVPN. While I don't use this VPN, I do use some of their other products and I trust them.
As a final point, VPNs are cheap! It should cost you $5 or less every month for a good VPN!
Have questions? Please ask them in the comments below.