Security and privacy online is a hot topic. While most of us actively seek to secure the desktop and laptop devices we use – we’re often guilty of neglecting our tablet PCs and smartphones. The question is, how exposed are we when we use these devices on home, public or mobile internet connections?
Increasingly, the security conscious among us is opting to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a way of creating a private internet connection for your device, meaning that any information you share or receive is completely private; making it near impossible for any external source to intercept and misuse.
Behind the scenes, VPNs are a technical subject – but you don’t have to be IT-minded to find a decent VPN for windows tablets or any other device you’d like to make sure is connected to the internet safely and securely.
What exactly does a VPN do?
A VPN acts as a private internet connection for the device you’re connecting to the internet with – so, any information you share or receive is completely isolated from the general data that’s being handled by the connection; making it nearly impossible for any external source to intercept.
This encryption is especially useful if you’re accessing a shared wireless connection – such as a train, coffee shop or other publicly accessible networks. This level of security also absolutely vital if you’re handling any confidential information – such as work-related files – and need to make sure the data is 100% safe.
Of course, VPNs aren’t just about security. There are many instances where a website, online service or application is only available to users in one particular geographical location – and a VPN will allow you to connect to the service in a way that emulates that location – without the need for finding your passport!
To make sure the data you’re sending and receiving is secure, most VPNs create a ‘tunnel’; an enclosed route between the tablet you’re using the VPN service you’re accessing. Within this tunnel, your data is also likely to be encrypted – so you can be certain that it simply cannot be accessed by anyone or any service that might misuse your information.
Since the websites, services or applications you’re accessing won’t understand how to handle encrypted data, beyond the VPN server encryption is removed – but at this stage, the VPN has already hidden your identity and location – so you can go about your normal online business, safe in the knowledge your data is protected.
Why use a VPN?
There’s no single reason why people use a VPN – in fact, they can be useful in a huge number of ways, including:
Data protection is a big deal. In fact, with new data laws that have a potential worldwide reach, securing any sensitive data that you handle for your business or employer is essential. Data is only as secure as the weakest link over which it is transmitted – so making sure you’re operating with a VPN can be the difference between working inside or outside the law.
There are instances where certain online content – or even full services – are only available to people in certain locations. Whether you’d like to unlock online information that your government doesn’t allow – or simply stream a TV show from another country, a VPN is a good way to virtually adjust your location.
There doesn’t have the be a specific reason for hoping to stay anonymous or making sure no one has access to the information you’re sending and receiving. While there are plenty of services online that give you the impression you’re communicating or operating privately, in many cases, you’re leaving a distinct digital footprint.
Cookies are the tiny pieces of data that websites that are stored by your browser when you visit websites or use online services. Many cookies are completely harmless – but when collected together, they can create a very accurate picture of your browsing habits – something that many people prefer to keep private.
These examples are just the tip of a very large iceberg though – as the spotlight focuses on how our data is used, sold and manipulated, it’s becoming increasingly important for people to make sure their online activity is kept private.
Are VPNs safe to use?
Like many other internet services, the quality of VPNs can vary. While generally, they perform the same function, many free services are, understandably, quite limited – and, since limitations aren’t something that generally features on marketing materials – you might find that free VPNs cut a few corners; not ideal when your security is at stake.
Of course, there are VPN services that prevent websites and services tracking your activity – but then monetise your activity themselves. While this might not sound as intimidating as having your data accessed more widely – it can still mean that adverts interrupt your browsing experience – or that your connection is very slow, due to other users ‘piggybacking’ and using your VPN tunnels.
Generally speaking, a paid VPN will offer a far better and safer service than a free to use application – and that’s an especially attractive proposition when you consider that most premium VPNs cost less than the price of a pizza each month.
Should you use a VPN?
The debate about internet regulation rages on – and while there are worthy discussions being had on both sides of the argument, for now, the way many websites and online service operators do business can be seen as slightly dubious – or, at the very least, shrouded in mystery. Do you truly know what information you’re putting out onto the internet? Do you take the time to carefully dissect the terms and conditions that appear every time you input your email address into a website?
For most of us, the answer is a resounding ‘no’. Across the US and Europe, it’s suggested that the average person has in excess of 100 online accounts that they can sign into on their tablet PC – from email and instant messaging services to e-commerce websites and food delivery services – with thousands of more businesses logging your information in some way.
Using a VPN when accessing the internet on our tablet PCs and mobile devices is becoming a must. None of us would even consider walking through a crowded city with bank statements, transcriptions of personal conversations, private photos and your browsing history falling out of your pockets – so it makes absolute sense to afford our digital data the same level of security.