Avast Academy Privacy VPN Why Do I Need to Use a VPN?

Why Do I Need to Use a VPN?

Why use a VPN? A VPN (or virtual private network) is a must-have tool to access content and keep your personal data safe on public Wi-Fi and on your home network. Keep reading to learn about the benefits of using a VPN, including how they stop third parties from tracking you and let you enjoy your favorite content while traveling abroad.

Written by Elle Poole Sidell
Published on March 18, 2021
Reviewed by Mike Polacko

What is the purpose of a VPN?

The main purpose of a VPN is to hide your online activity. VPNs are often used to guard against hackers and snoops on public networks, but they’re also useful for hiding your IP address, browsing activity, and personal data on any Wi-Fi network — even at home.

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    The more digital our lives become, the more likely our privacy is at risk. From your ISP (internet service provider) to companies collecting data to monetize or sell to hackers looking to steal your personal details for malicious purposes, someone might be watching or tracking your online activity anytime you browse the web.

    A VPN helps you browse safely and securely by encrypting your connection and hiding your location. We won’t dig in too deeply here, but you should check out our detailed guide on what a VPN is to get a full definition and learn more about how VPNs work.

    Do I need a VPN at home?

    A VPN is less necessary at home than in public because your home network includes security protections like a username and password to sign in. But many people still use a VPN at home to prevent some forms of online tracking or stream certain types of content.

    On an unsecured public Wi-Fi network, hackers can easily intercept anything you send and receive. While most of your internet traffic is pretty uninteresting, it could include sensitive info like your bank account details, credit card numbers, or login credentials. Attackers cast wide nets, which is why the free internet at the public library or the airport poses a higher risk.

    By comparison, home networks are much safer. It’s much less likely that someone can walk in and join your network. Plus, if you take all the steps to protect your home Wi-Fi router properly — including changing the default username and password — using a VPN at home for protection against cybercriminals is probably not one of your top priorities.

    VPNs create a private tunnel that hackers, your ISP, and the government can't breach.A VPN creates a private tunnel so hackers, your ISP, and the government can’t see what you’re doing.

    But, even at home a VPN can help protect you from other types of privacy threats. Your online activity can be tracked any time you visit a website or open an online application. Companies collect information about you so they can improve their products or show you targeted advertising based on your online activity. A VPN, especially paired with additional anti-tracking tools, can strengthen your anonymity and help hide you from trackers.

    Using a VPN for your home network not only adds an extra layer of protection, but it also makes it harder for anyone to see what you’re doing, since they won’t be able to find your IP address.

    Keep in mind that with a VPN, sites can still track what you’re doing on their platforms, and even what you do elsewhere if you remain logged in to their site. That’s how companies like Google use your data to learn a lot more about you than you may realize.

    But, without a VPN, your internet service provider has access to everything you do online. And in the US, thanks to a recent Senate vote, your ISP no longer needs your permission to track you around the web or sell anonymized data about you.

    Besides monetizing your data, ISPs might throttle your connection speeds if you’re downloading or streaming a lot. Hiding your internet activity in a private tunnel makes your ISP blind.

    In fact, one of the most popular reasons to use a VPN at home is to access streaming conten that’s not available while you’re traveling in certain countries. VPNs are also great for getting access to better online shopping deals and cheaper flight tickets, because prices often change depending on your location.

    A VPN can make your IP address appear as your home region even while you're travelling.A VPN can give you an IP address in a different country so you can access your regular content even while traveling.

    It’s important to note that while VPNs are legal in many countries, using a VPN to do something illegal is not. A VPN may help to conceal your identity or hide your IP address, but copyright infringement or cybercrime will still land you in trouble with the law. Before choosing and setting up a VPN, make sure you understand the terms of use (this goes for any online service you use) and avoid any activity that might be considered a violation.

    What are the benefits of using a VPN?

    While increased online privacy and security are among the top reasons to get a VPN for PC or any other device, there are many other advantages of a VPN.

    Here are the main benefits of using a VPN:

    icon_01Stream content wherever you’re traveling in the world

    Video or other media content that’s available on your favorite streaming service might vary from region to region. That’s why if you’re traveling abroad, you might find that Schitt’s Creek has disappeared from Netflix, while another series like Star Trek Discovery has taken its place. Or, the big game might not be available. 

    A VPN allows you to connect to a US-based server (or a server in the country where you want to watch), so your streaming service thinks you’re in that location and lets you watch your favorite shows online.

    icon_02Ease your fears about using public Wi-Fi

    We’ve all spent a few minutes (or hours) online at our favorite local coffee shop, but it can end up being a little too crowded for comfort. The downside of public Wi-Fi is that it’s — well, public. And just like you enjoy connecting to a free hotspot, so do hackers. That means all the information you send and receive — including your passwords and other personal data — could be seen by cybercriminals if they’re spying on that network, or if you've unwittingly stumbled upon an "evil twin" Wi-Fi network set up by hackers.

    While creating strong passwords — and using one of the best password managers — goes a long way toward protecting your activity, you should get into the habit of using a VPN to protect your connection any time you use a public network. This also includes using a mobile VPN when you connect to free Wi-Fi from your iPhone, Android, or tablet. After all, we don’t just use our computers online, and you’ll need to secure your connection no matter which device you use. To learn more, check out our review of the best privacy apps for iPhone, including VPNs.

    icon_03Add extra security to your online banking

    You probably already take precautions to keep your bank account information private, but is checking the security of your internet connection one of them? We all love the convenience of online banking, but it won’t feel so convenient if your identity gets stolen. While banks have strong internal security measures, they can’t protect you from every threat out there. 

    Avast SecureLine VPN adds an extra layer of encryption to your online banking that no one else can break into — not your ISP, not your bank, and especially not hackers. You get bank-grade, 256-bit advanced encryption as well as airtight protection against the most common online threats, so your data always stays safe and secure.

    icon_04Stay safe when you shop online

    Today, you can buy everything online. And online shopping is rapidly becoming the most popular form of shopping. When you see an “HTTPS” or a lock icon in your browser’s address bar, this means the website has security protocols in place to protect your personal data and credit card information. 

    Always practice website safety and avoid online shops without HTTPS. Then add some extra encryption with a VPN. After all, there are lots of sneaky ways that hackers can steal information off websites. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

    icon_05Unblock websites at school, work, or abroad

    Have you ever been at school or the office and needed to access your social media accounts or other websites only to discover you’re blocked? Many companies, schools, and even countries restrict access to certain websites or online services. Whether it’s for censorship, saving bandwidth, or trying to increase productivity, content blocks are frustrating.

    Blocked content hinders people from accessing the information they need to complete projects, homework, or improve their daily lives — even social media sites have become vital tools for communication. A VPN is an essential tool to unblock the websites you need, no matter where you are.

    icon_06Get better shopping deals

    VPNs cloak your identity and keep companies and other third parties from collecting data about your online activity. But there’s another reason you might want to stay anonymous while browsing online — you can save money.

    When you shop for flight tickets, hotel rooms, or car rentals, these websites often track your activity and hike up their prices on your next visit. Online shops also change their prices depending on your location. That’s why using a VPN combined with a browser with anti-tracking features enabled can let you compare prices and snag the cheapest offer.

    icon_07Other things to consider when using a VPN

    There are many reasons you should use a VPN, but what about reasons not to use one? By and large, the positives outweigh the negatives when it comes to VPNs, but there are a couple things to keep in mind. 

    One of the main disadvantages of a VPN is that it can potentially slow down your internet speed. Since using a VPN means that your web traffic goes through additional steps like encryption and connecting to another server, it’s common to experience a slight decrease in your browsing speed. But premium VPNs are designed to mitigate any slowdowns, and there are several useful tips to speed up your VPN connection until any lags are barely noticeable. 

    Another important consideration is privacy. While a VPN blocks others from seeing your activity, the VPN provider does have access to your browsing data. If privacy is your primary concern, you don’t want to go from being tracked by your ISP to simply being tracked by another company. 

    That’s why you should always choose a VPN that doesn’t keep logs about what you’re doing while you’re browsing. Avast SecureLine VPN doesn’t log the websites you visit, the apps you use, or any of the content you consume. We make sure your online activity and identity stay completely anonymous — even from us.

    So, do I need a VPN?

    The answer to whether or not you need a VPN comes down to what you want and need. Many people probably won’t need to secure their private networks from cybercriminals, but there are many other good reasons to use VPNs.

    If you use public Wi-FI a lot, worry about your ISP and other third parties snooping on your online activity, or just want to access streaming content from somewhere else in the world, a VPN can help. On the other hand, if reduced browsing speeds frustrate you, this might not be the tool for you. But it’s worth researching what the speed impacts actually are. For example, choosing a VPN provider like Avast that offers a wide selection of server locations can ensure you don’t have to compromise between security and speed. 

    The importance of a VPN depends on your online habits and preferences. Investing in a VPN can make a huge difference in keeping you safe and secure online — but only if you actually use it.

    Put your trust in Avast SecureLine VPN

    Wondering what VPN is the best for you? Avast SecureLine VPN secures your internet connection and offers powerful features for online privacy and blazing-fast speeds. With the OpenVPN protocol and AES-256 bank-grade encryption, your online activity stays hidden on any network, whether you’re at home or on public Wi-Fi. Say goodbye to content restrictions, score better online deals, and make sure your private stuff stays that way.

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    Elle Poole Sidell