You might not know much about Virtual Private Networks (abbreviated VPN), which allow your internet traffic to appear to come from somewhere else. If you do, it might be how you connect to your office when you work from home, making your computer seem to be part of the work network. While that is very useful, it is only one of many more ways you can, and should, use a VPN for your web browser.
VPNs give security against the people around you. Most dangerous is open Wi-Fi networks, the type that don’t even require a password to connect, as they are very weak to possible eavesdroppers. More recently, Internet Service Providers have come under suspicion, sharing data with the NSA or otherwise collecting it, and you may not want them to know that much about you. A VPN will get your internet traffic past those, keeping yourself secure from those possible weak points.
VPNs also allow you to get around region restrictions. There’s a good amount of content on the internet that is restricted based on where you’re coming from, such as the BBC or other broadcasting networks trying to keep their content within their country. A VPN will make your internet traffic appear to come from somewhere else, and if your VPN gives you other countries as an option, you can often get around those restrictions. A small word of warning: This is a bit of a legal gray area, so while it can be used for this purpose, it may or may not be legal to do so.
You can also get speed boosts in case of network congestion. This is an odd one, given that VPNs usually slow down your connection. However, in cases where the internet is slowed down due to congestion on the network around you (such as everyone in your building watching Netflix in the evening at the same time), using a VPN can route around the congested parts of the network, and speed up your connection considerably. It’s not a perfect solution, and does not always work, but it’s worth a try.
There’s a lot more to using a VPN than just knowing when to use them, but hopefully this has given you some incentive to learn more and maybe use one yourself.
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