Encrypt Your Stuff! Choosing a Secure VPN

It’s the latest ‘must have’ tool for anyone who spends a lot of time online – the client VPN.  A VPN doesn’t sound very exciting but it actually has a multitude of uses and makes it almost essential for many of us who’s lives consist of a large online existence.  It stands for a Virtual private network and is basically an encrypted tunnel down which all your internet data travels.  So instead of your emails and browsing travelling in clear text through the shared infrastructure of the internet, it is encrypted and protected from all those prying eyes.

Whilst a VPN is primarily a security product, many millions use it for an entirely different purpose – bypassing filters and web blocks.  Take for example the BBC iPLayer, possibly one of the most loved media sites in the world, but unfortunately it’s only accessible to those based in the UK.  However by using a UK based VPN you can fool the BBC about your real location and watch it wherever you are in the world.

Jealous of the US version of Netflix, well no problem just fire up a US based VPN and you’ll get redirected to the USA version (complete with thousands of more films!).  It doesn’t stop there, just about any major media site restricts access in some way or other, invest in a VPN with servers in multiple countries and you can bypass these at will.

However the VPN is still a security product and it’s important that it’s core function works correctly even if you only use it to watch Eastenders whilst on holiday in the South of France.  So how do you choose the most secure VPN, well watch this video for a start.

It shows how important it is particularly if you use the security features to choose a professional product which is run in line with international rules and regulations. A VPN which is not run securely could actually be more dangerous than using nothing at all. If the servers are not well managed, if there is no proper procedures for dealing with log retention (or actually log deletion) then this could introduce potential security risks to your personal data.

A well run VPN thought is an essential tool particularly for travellers, who need to access secure sites from insecure networks. For example how secure is that wifi network at the airport or that badly run hotel which you stay at. Do you need to access your Paypal account or check bank balances using these networks, it’s very inadvisable unless you protect your login some how.

Why People Use US VPNs

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is essentially an encrypted tunnel between a client computer and a VPN server usually over the internet. For years these have been used by global companies to enable their employees to connect back to their corporate network securely. Basically it means that people can access things like custom applications, document stores and corporate emails whilst travelling. The internet is extremely useful for this, however the VPN adds the layer of security which is unfortunately missing.

However there is another popular use for VPNs and the reason why millions of people use them all over the world. It is the fact that increasingly much of the internet is restricted based on your location. So someone connecting from a NON-US location would get blocked when trying to connect to something like Pandora or Hulu, or NON-UK users are not able to access applications like BBC iPlayer. Obviously this can get extremely inconvenient especially for people who travel a lot or have moved abroad. Here’s a demonstration of someone using a US VPN service that you can watch

In the video you can see that it is the location of the VPN server which is important. If the VPN service is run from the US then when connecting you can watch all US only content too. The software demonstrated allow you to switch VPN servers to different countries as required. SO press a UK button to watch the BBC and then switch to the US for access to US only sites like Hulu.

This means that with a subscription that covers lots of locations then you will effectively not be blocked irrespective of your location. It also allows the added benefit of keeping your connection secure which is essential for travellers forced to access the internet using wireless networks in places like hotels, airports and cafes.

Remember though that there could be a performance impact on your connection particularly if you route through a distant country. Using an Australian VPN will allow you access to Australian only sites but it will slow down your connection particularly from somewhere like Europe.