Your Guide to VPN and Online Security

Privacy on the internet. At times, it’s almost blasphemous to think we can attain it, right? We hear about company A getting hacked and service B scanning all of your outbound data for reasons they don’t disclose all the time, then you have the government who thinks It’s ok to know your exact location, thoughts and details at all times — but I digress. So what can you do to protect yourself? Should you only open private sessions in your favorite browser (which conceals NOTHING from your ISP or network admin — you’re only fooling yourself), should we be terrified of the technological world around us and never take advantage of these mind-blowing tools around us? No, don’t be silly. Although, there are a wealth of ways to be tracked online without your consent or knowledge, there’s also a wealth of tech and tips to help keep you flying under the radar.
What are two helps?  VPN and increased scrutiny of your online habits.

What kind of tool is a VPN, really?  Source Webopedia: ” A virtual private network (VPN) is a network that is constructed using public wires — usually the Internet — to connect to a private network, such as a company’s internal network. There are a number of systems that enable you to create networks using the Internet as the medium for transporting data. It secures the private network as these systems use encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that the data cannot be intercepted.”  Nowadays, with US citizens and those of other nations constantly being watched, a VPN is almost a must to maintain privacy and ensure that you can access the internet that YOU want to access — not one that your ISP or anyone says you should access.  What’s worse, now, is that many regulations that have been successfully put in place in the FCC to protect the privacy of consumers are on the brink of being reversed by politicians, who want to put more money inside these large corporations pockets.  Essentially, we are entering a state of extreme monitoring by government bodies that infringes on our rights in more than enough ways to count.
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So what VPN should you get?  VPNs come in a variety of “flavors” and tiers.  There are free options that can incorporate into your browser, via an extension, such as BetterNet.  In addition, there are other VPNs that require a yearly subscription, but offer far more server options (good if the servers you connect to are full of other users — more users equals more traffic going through that host, which can make your overall connection slower), more bandwidth, no ads and overall greater performance.  Some popular paid VPNs are PrivateInternetAccess, IPVanish, ExpressVPN, NordVPN and more (please find a valuable VPN article, Source: PCMag, here).

What’s an example of scrutiny?  Have you ever read a EULA (end user license agreement) to see how a company actually uses your data?  (Pro tip: Read every EULA you can, but do it efficiently.  Open the “Find” feature by hitting Ctrl + F on your keyboard and keyword search for things you are concerned about, such as “data”, “information”, “privacy” and “ads” to see what you’re really signing up for).  Companies are very clever and most people are so anxious to use the latest app or service that is free — they forget to read what they are giving up in order to get that service.  After all, it’s fun getting an inbox of unsolicited emails and having all moves you make on your devices tracked, right?  NOPE.

TLDR; We have officially entered an age where we all need to carefully watch what we do online, apps that we install and more.  It’s always been something to think about; however, at this point we are at the greatest risk of losing our right to privacy while traversing the internet.  The surveillance state is becoming something that could soon be upon us.  Please arm yourselves with the necessary tools to keep your data safe.
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