As a technology expert, I am often asked about Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). The questions range from ‘What are they?’, ‘Do I need one?’ and ‘Which one do you recommend for my home computer or personal devices?’ Since so many friends and clients have asked me, I figured others may be curious as well, so I decided to turn my recommendations into a blog post to help anyone interested in this subject.
Do you need a VPN for your home network or on your personal devices? My recommendation is yes. If you want to enhance the level of protection when you are online, a VPN should be an arrow in your security quiver. This article is focused on home users, for business users a VPN is a strict requirement that must be enforced always.
What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)? It is an encrypted connection that uses 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) encryption between the device it is installed on and the internet. This layer of security gives you three key security and privacy layers that everyone must use when going online.
- The encryption between your device and the internet gives you an additional layer of protection and security from open unencrypted WiFi, websites, social networks and any place you connect to that is not using encryption.
A quick explanation for people wondering why encryption is necessary. When you connect to the internet and type your username and password into your browser to access an unencrypted site/app, your login information travels on the internet in clear “txt”. Anyone who has inserted himself/herself in between you and your destination is getting your login information (and there’s a good chance they are sipping a latte a few seats away from you at your favorite coffee shop while you are surfing the web).
- It provides you with a different source IP address and location point of entry into the internet that shields your privacy. A VPN provider allows you to select and connect to a different country and point of entry, for example, a French server to surf the web with a French IP address instead of your local ISP, therefore protecting your location and privacy.
- Most VPN providers do not track and/or log what you do online compared to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) which does. This gives you an additional layer of privacy protection.
Which VPN solutions do you recommend? There are many VPN vendors and open source solutions to choose from. In this post, I will focus on commercial solutions and not spend much time on open source solutions that require a higher level of information technology (IT) knowledge and skill to install and operate. OpenVPN is one of the most secure and trusted VPN solutions available in the open source space, but as I said, I will focus on the commercial solutions that are easy to install and operate. Below are some criteria I considered in my recommendations:
- Security – Do they use 256-bits AES or higher encryption? The lowest bits must be 256 or higher – nothing lower.
- Ease of use – Is it relatively easy to install and operate?
- Monthly cost – How expensive is it and how many of your devices are covered in the monthly cost? The cost can add up if you roll it out to every one of your family’s devices.
- Number of servers and countries provided – How many countries and servers can you choose from when connected? You want an option that provides you with a lot of choices.
- Speed – Speed is key since encryption will reduce your speed a little, and the server you connect to also needs to be fast.
- Security maintenance – It is very important that the vendor maintains and releases security updates often and promptly.
- Support – You want good support to help you troubleshoot any issues you might have with your device and make sure it runs optimal
RESOURCES – REFERENCES
Listed below are the various references and resources I used for this post.
The Top 10 Sites – Best VPN for Mobile – July 2019
Best VPN deals
The Best VPN Services for 2019
RESOURCES – OPEN SOURCE VPN SOLUTIONS