Many of us spend multiple hours a day using the internet to do everyday things like watching videos, shopping, gaming and paying bills, all the way to managing complex work projects and having confidential video calls. A virtual private network (VPN) is one of the best ways to stay private and secure online, and keep your personal data protected.
How do VPNs work?
A VPN is a tool that allows you to access the internet securely wherever you are. A VPN works by creating a secure “tunnel” between your device and your VPN provider, and it protects you in two key ways:
- Concealing your IP address, protecting your identity and location.
- Encrypting your traffic between you and your VPN provider so that no one on your local network can decipher or modify it.
In the past, VPNs were mainly used by corporations to allow secure remote access to their internal services and proprietary data. Now, however, VPNs are available to anyone who wants to protect their connection to the internet, especially when it’s over porous networks like public WiFi, but it’s even useful on a home network.
A VPN will protect traffic that you send between you and your VPN provider, whether through your browser, apps or other services. To set up a VPN, you’ll need to create an account with a VPN provider and install the VPN software on your computer or phone. When enabled, a VPN will handle traffic from all apps and software running on your device, so you can browse and communicate freely over a secure private network connection.
A VPN provider typically offers a number of connection gateways in different global locations, which allows you to use an IP address from a locale different from your own. That way, the place you’re connecting to sees the VPN’s IP, not your actual IP address, as the source of your traffic. Mozilla VPN routes your traffic through a secure server and lets you choose a location from more than 30 countries.
When should I use a VPN?
Connecting to a public WiFi network is at times convenient, like when you’re without internet service or can’t get any bars on your phone. On the other hand, connecting to public WiFi can be a risky endeavor. It’s impossible to be sure that someone else isn’t connecting to the same network to snoop on what you’re doing. Even if your traffic is encrypted they can still see which sites you are visiting. And if you’re using an app that doesn’t have encryption — and even today, many don’t — then they can see everything you are doing.
When you’re at home, the risk of bad actors showing up on your home network is lower. However, your internet service provider (ISP) can track and share your online activities because all the data that you access on the web is routed through your ISP’s network, some of which may not be encrypted. A VPN can prevent ISPs from spying on you by encrypting your traffic to your VPN provider no matter where you are.
Wait, I thought my internet traffic was already encrypted with HTTPS…
It’s true that most connections to websites these days are secured by HTTPS, which means the content, but not the source or destination IP address, is encrypted. A VPN offers additional privacy by preventing websites and third parties from learning your IP address.
Why would I use a VPN?
Hiding your identity and cloaking your web traffic can seem like something only the super tech savvy or shady actors do. However, there are a number of legitimate reasons you may want to use a VPN, including:
- Keeping your online activity private.
- Keeping your home location or commonly visited places private.
- Protecting your connection to a public WiFi network, like at a cafe, airport, store or library.
- Ensuring the confidentiality and integrity of your access to the internet.
- Make it more difficult for ad networks to use your IP to create ad targeting profiles that track you across the web.
What are the downsides of using a VPN?
Some service providers block visits made through VPNs, making their content inaccessible when a VPN is turned on. Some VPNs can slow you down, or they might restrict your bandwidth. And some VPNs rank poorly in terms of respecting user privacy and security.
Are VPNs safe?
It’s very hard to find a trustworthy VPN. VPNs are intended to protect users while they’re online, but not all VPNs are equal in the service they deliver. When shopping around for a VPN service, be sure you understand the terms you’re agreeing to. Many claim to be great and focused on privacy, but a large number of them fall short on their promise. Some VPNs will log your online activities so they can sell your data and information to marketing firms themselves. Other VPNs will try to convince you to install malware on your devices.
We’ve done the legwork to ensure that the Mozilla VPN actually respects your privacy, and it’s something we’re willing to stake our reputation on. Mozilla has a reputation for building products that help you keep your information safe. We follow our easy to read, no-nonsense Data Privacy Principles which allow us to focus only on the information we need to provide a service. The Mozilla VPN technology is lean and modern to offer users a fast connection with full VPN protection and security. And since the makers of this VPN are backed by a mission-driven company, you can trust that the dollars you spend for this product will not only ensure you have a top-notch VPN, but also are making the internet better for everyone.
Can VPNs protect me from cybercriminals?
While a VPN provides a secure connection to the internet, it doesn’t protect you from all bad actors out there. Any time you’re online, with or without a VPN, you should be wary of suspicious links, misinformation campaigns, phishing scams and other threats. Staying safe online is an everyday mindset.
Are VPNs legal?
Installing and using a VPN is currently legal in most countries, including the United States, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, but some countries may regulate their use. If you choose to use a VPN, it is your responsibility to check the country’s law to determine whether using it is legal or not.
Are VPNs only for computers?
VPNs can be used to protect all your devices — computers, laptops, tablets and phones. If you access the internet through stand-alone apps beyond the browser, a VPN is a good choice for protecting your privacy and security on any device. You will need to install a VPN on each device for it to be effective. Mozilla VPN offers an unlimited connection for up to five devices when you connect to the internet from any app or browser.
Mozilla VPN is a service that you can trust to keep your connection to the internet safe on all your devices. We don’t keep user data logs, and we don’t partner with third party analytics platforms who want to build a profile of what you do online. In a world where unpredictability has become the “new normal,” we know that it’s more important than ever for you to feel safe, and for you to know that what you do online is your own business.
Also published on Medium.