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Why choosing a safe VPN is super important

person on laptop using a VPN

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A Virtual Private Network or a VPN is a way for remote users to connect to private networks. The way this is achieved is by extending the private network across the public network and allowing users to operate on the public network as if they were part of the private network.

Although this might sound complicated and many people don’t understand the intricacies of the technology, they have learned its uses and there are millions of people around the world using VPNs for various purposes. Because the users that run VPN also benefit from the functionality of the private network, many on the internet use it to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship as well as hide their identity.

There are some safety issues that need to be considered when choosing the best VPN and this article will list some of the main points on what to think about when making these decisions.

What can make a VPN unsafe?

To understand where the concerns about safety lie with VPNs, it is important to have a general idea on how they work. When you are using the internet to visit different websites you are communicating with servers that are in a different location and are operated by others. To request from them a website page your browser has to send them certain information. On open networks, this information undergoes minor encryption by the browser.

Using the VPN, these files are encrypted so that even if someone is able to intercept them, they won’t be able to read the information. These encrypted files then are sent to another computer also operated by the VPN network where they are decrypted and sent to request the website. This way, the IP of the initial sender could be hidden which is why it is possible to circumvent geo-location restrictions.

Large corporations which use VPN to allow safe communication between branches have control over both ‘ends’ of the VPN network which is why their transactions are completely safe. For consumer VPNs, there are private companies that set up these tunnels to let others use them. In such cases, safety issues arise. The end of the VPN channel where the information is deciphered is the determinant of whether the VPN is safe to use or not. If the company operating the VPN decides to harvest your information for private gain it is absolutely able to do so. In fact, for many companies that offer VPNs for free, selling private information is likely the main source of income.

How to choose the right provider?

It is important to choose the right VPN mainly because of the privacy issues. If you are not sure about the company that provides the application, you might not be better off using the VPN than not using it at all. Many people feel the need to safeguard their private data when using public Wifi, but if they don’t choose the right VPN provider, their efforts might be in vain. In order to make the right choice, a little research is required. Nowadays, there are review websites set up for all kinds of products and VPNs aren’t an exception. Before making any final decisions on which app to download it is probably a good idea to read user reviews and double check if anyone else has had concerns about the safety of the VPN you want to use.

Besides reading user reviews, there are other things to consider when deciding which VPN to use. The first step, in this case, is to determine what are your goals. Most people that start thinking about downloading a VPN application have some reason for doing so. For people whose main concern is security and privacy issues, a VPN that emphasizes these features would be a better fit. Others, that want to install a VPN at home for the whole family, might consider router-based options. If you want to sidestep the geolocation restrictions of streaming services, speed would be a priority as well.

Another issue that many people have with these products is the difficulty of navigating the applications. Although VPNs are fairly popular, they are still largely used by the relatively more tech-savvy segment. As a result, many providers don’t try to make the user-experience fitting for people who know less about the technology but still care about the privacy. When choosing a VPN this is another aspect that needs to be considered. 

Price is of course very important for most people, but in the case of VPNs, it is a double-edged sword. Of course, the less a customer has to pay the better but if a VPN is suspiciously cheap or free of charge altogether, it is likely that the provider has another source of revenue. As the providers have access to your private information, they can sell this information to various digital marketing companies to make a profit. So when choosing a VPN, you should be suspicious of the offers that sound too good to be true.

Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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