In the age of digital invasion over privacy, data security has never been so fragile. Sophisticated services have been updated and modified to provide maximum security and, above all, guarantee safety. But what does safe even mean these days and does it step inside the boundaries of illegal?
Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) are the go-to services that basically steer clear your private information on your PC from hackers, traffickers, and even network administrators. This is achieved by changing your IP address, controlling your location, having access to restricted content, and downloading freely without being traced. Is it truly possible to be untraceable, though? More importantly, how is it legal?
Here are some common reasons why VPNs seem too good to be true and the answers to the most important questions about its safety and legality.
How does it work?
Simply put, a VPN server acts like a bodyguard assigned to your private data, 24/7. Without a VPN connection, your access to the World Wide Web is enabled by an ISP (Internet Service Provider) that basically labels you with a unique IP address.
Everything you do on the internet is visible to your ISP since your network provider has access to your internet activity through your IP address. This means you are completely exposed to snoopers, intruders, and hackers that have no major obstacles in reaching your photos, emails, contacts, bank accounts; your life. Furthermore, an ISP basically has a digital portrait of your data that can be sold or simply forwarded to governments or those who need your information.
Connecting to a VPN means you can access the internet from somewhere other than your ISP. These virtual secret tunnels route your computer’s connection to a server that is located somewhere else, which then enables you to access the internet. This makes your internet traffic heavily encrypted, meaning your ISP is no longer able to follow your network activity, except for the amount of uploaded and downloaded data.
Why should I trust the server?
An average user may have some difficulties trusting the system altogether. Although the idea of perfect anonymity sounds great, it is still impossible to avoid some kind of control and checking. While your ISP is not able to follow your internet activity directly, it can monitor the traffic during the process of delivering the internet to the VPN service when you are connected. There are, of course, certain safeguards VPNs use to deal with this situation properly.
One of the ways to secure anonymity is by introducing shared IP addresses. Different users on various locations are given the same IP address, thus tracking internet activity back to a single person is virtually impossible. This clever solution is simple but very effective in keeping the authorities away from your data.
Another efficient solution to privacy problems is the so-called no-log policy that most VPN service providers practice. This means that your VPN server won’t save any logs you make that contain your personal information. This virtual filter lets only the necessary information out in the virtual world and keeps your privacy safe and sound.
Is a VPN safe to use?
By all means, yes! They are designed specifically to keep you safe from intruders and data exposure. You may feel comfortable with your private network provider, but what about public wifi hotspots? Identity theft and different examples of internet crime are not rare and are complicated nowadays. With a VPN service, you can stay anonymous if you want to and be sure that no one has access to your device via the internet.
The ability to change your IP address is a nifty tool that not only provides free and safe surfing but also opens doors to restricted and blocked content you can’t access in some countries. When you change your IP address, you also erase any information about your location, meaning you can virtually be in China and freely browse through content you wouldn’t normally have permission to do so.
So far so good, but is it legal?
As with almost everything else, with great power comes great responsibility. A VPN service is as positive as you, the user, make it.
Many countries, like Iran or China, have strong restrictions on VPN use, mainly due to broader issues of internet censorship and control methods. If used in countries where these services are not banned by law, however, VPNs are perfectly legal.
In fact, big corporations and companies are regularly using VPN services for safety and privacy measures to ensure a safe and successful business. As mentioned above, if you’re looking for virtual anonymity, a VPN is a great option.
On the other hand, if your internet activity involves illegitimate action, illegal browsing, and piracy or downloading banned content, a VPN can easily turn into a weapon rather than an aiding tool. All in all, it depends on the user, not the VPN company. On top of that, hackers, frauds, and spammers are criminals with or without a VPN, therefore, be informed about the actions you would like to perform on the internet and your VPN usage will stay legal as long as your virtual behavior is.
Is it necessary to use a VPN?
If you live in a country where VPN services are not banned, really consider using one! Not only will you feel safe and protected, but also be able to experience much more than regular internet surfing.
If you are still not sure about the amazing benefits of VPNs, there a lot of resources that explain the advantages, disadvantages, and how it all works in detail. In the sea of good VPNs on the market, check for the features mentioned in the text and you certainly won’t make a mistake. Also, if you feel like VPN services are high-end solutions to privacy issues, there are plenty of websites where you can read reviews of free VPN services.