Anyone doing personal or financial business on the web needs a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN connection reroutes internet connections into a private, encrypted tunnel, masks the IP location, and bypasses geographical roadblocks as if the user were in a different country.
The following are 5 VPN use cases that have real-world applications
1. Circumvent geographical restrictions with VPN
Access blocked streaming services
Geo-blocking consists of local web restrictions that limit access to online content based on geographical location. For example, programming on Netflix varies from region to region. The variables depend on local licensing. Movie and TV show producers, in turn, license the access rights territory. So, what is available in the U.S. is not always available in the U.K., and vice versa.
The best way to circumvent Netflix geo-blocking is through a VPN. For example, a person living in the U.S. wants to see Netflix Australian offerings. Connecting to a VPN site based in Australia will display an ISP address recognized by Netflix as an “authorized” Australian server.
Sports fans can likewise be geo-blocked from streaming their favorite local teams on the internet. Leagues and owners exercise exclusive distribution rights that blackout local games, even for users willing to pay for the service. VPNs can bypass those blackouts.
Avoid abusive sales practices
Some e-commerce vendors use geo-restrictions to the detriment of online customers. Those vendors could, for example, display higher product prices for more affluent areas. Comparison shoppers can use a VPN for online price comparisons as well as access to geographically specific special pricing and discounts.
2. Ensure Blockchain and Bitcoin mining are totally secure.
Bitcoin relies on blockchain
As the online crypto-economy spreads to Wall Street cryptocurrency transactions, speculation, and investments in cryptocurrency Bitcoin will continue to rely on blockchain technology. Blockchain is a distributed and secure network protocol, but hackers have been successful in stealing access keys through phishing scams and other fraud.
VPNs offer second-tier security
A VPN offers an encrypted and additional anonymous layer of protection against:
- Trojan attacks that steal Bitcoins from offline wallets
- compromises of publicly available blockchain addresses
- government surveillance of online Bitcoin transactions.
Even though blockchain is closed and secure from tampering, once a Bitcoin is stolen or lost because of a key falling into unauthorized hands, it is irretrievable. VPN is extra insurance for Bitcoin owners, dealers, and eCommerce need. VPN ensures that all Bitcoin transactions are encrypted and anonymous.
3. Protect access to public Wi-Fi hotspots
Public Wi-Fis are hazardous.
Some experts advise to never, ever connect to a public Wi-Fi. Those unsecured connections require no secure login and are in thousands of local coffee shops, airports worldwide. The problem is that the encryption standard for even the most secure Wi-FI networks opens the door to snooping by anyone on that network.
With unsecured public Wi-Fi connections, users are vulnerable to so-called “man-in-the-middle” attacks where hackers position themselves between the user and the connection point. The hacker gains access to everything the user sends over the web, from emails to credit cards and business data.
All those free connections are target-rich opportunities for hackers to inject malware into users’ devices. The malware can lie dormant for future eavesdropping and exploitation. Also, hackers can set up fake networks and rogue hotspots spoofing the name of the legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot. Connect to one of those fake networks and the hacker/snooper becomes a “host in the middle, up to no good.”
For example, the following information can be at risk while using public Wi-Fi:
- passwords and other sensitive information
- login credentials for websites, such as banking websites
- the user’s location
- websites visited
- personal communications and the identity of message recipients
- any files or photos transmitted
…but you can connect safely using common sense and VPN
There are measures to protect user privacy on a public Wi-Fi network. They include commonsense precautions like adding viruses and malware to the device. However, the best and safest precaution is to use a VPN.
The VPN encrypts all the user’s internet connections and routes the connection through a secured tunnel. The hacker cannot see anything the user does during the connection session.
4. Avoid ISP and website user tracking
There are other players who track their users’ web activity. They monitor that use for most reputable or at least non-sinister purposes. That monitoring includes activity logging.
An ISP or web host, for example, will collect user activity data for a variety of business intelligence purposes. Some collectors market or sell user data for online marketers. Websites regularly track the user’s location, a history of other sites visits, along with downloads and the devices used online.
VPNs protect against those practices by ensuring the users’ privacy and anonymity. Those benefits translate to advantages for business owners in the following ways:
- Sensitive business data remains secure.
- VPNs are cost-effective and have an attractive return on investment. A VPN is affordable and instantly available.
- Businesses can share resources from remote locations with encrypted security. Employees and partners can stay mobile as well as secure, making the business more agile.
5. Overcome Internet censorship
VPN is a tool that helps promote the original intent of the internet: universal and open access to everyone. Geo-blocking, discussed above, can go beyond just protecting copyright and licensing restrictions.
Some governments prevent access to controversial websites for political reasons. Even democratic nations use sophisticated monitoring algorithms to spy on their citizens. VPNs can bypass that censorship by taking the user to a server outside the control of the censoring authority.
Paid VPN services are better than the free varieties
There are a number of free VPN online services. They do provide basic VPN encryption, but “free” comes at a cost of slower performance, intrusive ads, and activity logging. Some VPN services sell the data they collect, which ironically circumvents the main purpose of a VPN.
So, when looking for a subscription-based VPN service, make sure it is “log-free.” Also, consider a VPN service like Surfshark, which provides a free, no-obligation trial.
Summary and Conclusion
VPNs have real-world applications in protecting user privacy, bypassing geo-blocking, and circumventing censorship. As a business proposition, VPNs add another level of security, which protects the most precious product of any business: its proprietary and irreplaceable data.