Someone Is Watching You: What Are the Dangers of Using VPN Services
Internet users are increasingly trying to protect their personal data. One way is to use a VPN.However, this is not always enough. Attempts to maintain privacy and anonymity on the Internet are becoming increasingly popular.
Users are more careful about using geolocation on their phones and register on sites with the help of a password manager. Sometimes they even cover cameras on laptops and choose private messengers for correspondence.
Still, the most popular way to ensure your anonymity on the network is to use a VPN. Are VPNs reliable enough?
What is a VPN and how it works?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. "Virtual" - because it does not need to create a physical connection. VPN runs on a worldwide network. “Private” - because it cannot be accessed by third parties. VPN is an additional "envelope" or "tunnel" in which the user puts his data so that nobody sees his contents. VPN allows you to hide your online identity and physical location, protect data, guarantee the security of information. With a VPN any user can visit web sites blocked in his country. There are many VPN providers out there. You can read for example this Surfshark VPN review to know more. You can even find a VPN for Firestick.
How do free VPNs make money?
There are no absolutely free VPN services. By downloading an app to a smartphone or computer, the user already pays a certain price. Someone is forced to watch an advertisement, someone makes In-App purchases, someone shares his personal details with app owners.
The first two methods are transparent monetization ways. The service earns either by asking a fee or by selling ads. The third option is tricky. If a VPN service does not offer advertising and its use is free, there is a high probability that the service sells personal information to their parties.
One more option is possible that is even worse than others. Governments may be interested in the information that VPN services have and there is the risk of shadow collaboration between VPN and law enforcement agencies. To reduce this risk, you can choose a different country's VPN service.
Paid services alleviate the risks of personal information leakage, but nothing actually prevents them from selling your private data.
Is an unverified provider dangerous?
The VPN service hides the connection from a third-party eye, but it sees everything itself. If the service is hostile, it will collect all user information.
Attacks inside VPN can be divided into two types: passive and active. Passive attacks involve the collection of data without interference in the information transfer process. VPNs keep logs related to the history of websites’ views. Active ones are distortion and theft of transmitted data.
Recent sad cases like the Facebook one show how low the liability of companies which have access to personal data can be. Facebook is a great player with big public attention. But what about small companies that offer VPN services?
How to choose a reliable VPN service?
There are several ways to distinguish good and bad applications. First, you need to pay attention to the owner of the VPN service. The description of each application should contain the author's name and digital signature verified by the control bodies. It is also worth checking out user reviews. Next, you need to pay attention to the number of servers and countries that this VPN offers, the more they are, the better.
If there are more than 50 countries, the company is not registered in an offshore area and is present on the market for more than ten years, it can be trusted.
Is it possible to replace VPN with anything else?
There are many tools that can replace VPNs: TOR Browser, Freenet, I2P, GNUnet, SOCKS proxies, HTTP proxies, CGI proxies, etc. It all depends on your needs and goals. The most anonymous is the Tor browser. Its disadvantage is the low speed of data transmission.
VPN services are different by nature. There are VPN browser add-ons. There are public services we describe above. And there are private VPNs that you can create with your own server. The later is the most secure one. You can rent a physical or virtual server and deploy your own infrastructure that will combine several computers.
However, it is not enough to use only VPNs and be sure your data is protected from computer virus infections and cyber attacks. The VPN server will be powerless if the user downloads unverified applications, uses the same passwords and accesses suspicious web pages.
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