Only accessible in the past to corporate workers and university research members, VPNs today are available almost everywhere for anyone to use.
What is a VPN?
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) are a way of safely creating encrypted end-to-end communication between a client (your computer, for instance) and a server to offer an entrance into a network that can be private or public. Frequently, the endpoint of the connection (servers) provides access to the internet network of a specific geographical region. There are free and paid VPNs available worldwide, being the last ones more reliable and safe to use. Some VPNs are known to keep logs of their clients' traffic, but you should expect the best ones to keep none.
1) To preserve your privacy
Even when you open an anonymous tab on a browser, it's still easy for your internet provider to access data about you, like personal information sent via non-encrypted websites and your navigation history. The only real way to protect yourself against the risk of having your data disclosed is by using a VPN service. Just be careful to choose a provider that doesn't keep logs if you're aiming for the most privacy.
2) To access country-specific content
Some companies only guarantee access to their products and services to specific countries. Hulu, for example, is only available in the US and Japan. VPN providers commonly offer servers for you to connect to in many countries, so you can easily choose which server to connect and virtually change your practical location to any country that has an available server, making it possible to bypass those restrictions.
3) To safely use public wifi
Public available wifi hotspots are everywhere, from supermarkets to airports. Some don't even ask for a password to connect. Just click on "connect," and you're good to go. But despite being easy to use, these networks are very far from providing the necessary safeguard for your data. That's because many of the wifi encryption protocols in place today can be exploited by hackers to disclose the internet traffic of a public wifi network and access sensitive information. But if you use a VPN, even though the offender could have access to your data, he won't be able to access the information it carries because it would be encrypted. It would still be technically possible to try to break the encryption key, but that would probably take thousands of years, making the action not viable.
4) To analyze search engine results on a local context
Sometimes you need to see the outcome of an interaction with a website from the perspective of a user of a specific geographical region. For example, if you own a business website dedicated to selling a product in India, and you live in the US, you might want to know how your website is ranking on Google India. By using a VPN, you can virtually position yourself as someone using Google in an Indian city, search for your website, and analyze the outcome.
5) Avoid government scrutiny or bypass firewalls
Some countries like China enforce a strict rule of traffic auditing and control over the internet leading to some travelers and citizens choosing to use VPNs to avoid government officials scrutinizing their internet traffic. Other countries don't state that they analyze internet traffic, but most citizens do believe that some level of control is applied. VPNs offer protection because they keep all the communication encrypted, so even though government officials have access to data, the information within remains unavailable to them. It is essential to keep in mind that in some countries, including China, using a VPN is considered illegal.
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