A VPN (virtual private network) is a server you use a piece of software to log in to, while you are online. While you are logged in to that server, all of your internet traffic is directed through it. So, when you check your email, buy things online, use facebook and twitter, watch youtube, or watch on demand TV, your requests for all of that data go out via the VPN server, and all of the data arrives on your machine via the VPN server.
The most crucial thing about this, is that traffic to and from the VPN is encrypted. That means that while you are logged into the VPN, nobody is able to spy on your activities online.
When you go about your business online without a VPN, all of your internet activity is unencrypted, and therefore could potentially be hijacked and exploited by criminals, governments or unscrupulous media organisations (think about the phone hacking scandal, only far worse). With recent revelations about newspapers hacking people’s phones, and governments spying on citizens, and criminals stealing people’s online identities to commit fraud, or steal money, it is clearly more critical than ever to ensure your own security online.
A VPN service encrypts all of your internet traffic to ensure you are safe from all of these potential threats. Every part of the internet you access goes through the encrypted VPN, ensuring nobody can spy on your activities, or capture your personal data (bank records for example).
I tell everyone I know to make sure they use the internet with a VPN.
There are many excellent VPN services out there. The two I have used are HideIPVPN and HideMyAss. Both are very good. But, if I had to choose one it would be HideMyAss, as they have a far larger number of Servers all over the world, which you can log into and protect your online activities from prying eyes.
One of the great side benefits of VPNs is that if the Server you are logged into is in a different Country, then for the duration of time you are logged on to that server, your computer appears, to the rest of the internet, to be situated in that Country.
So, if you log in to a VPN in France, your computer will appear to be located in France. If you log in to a VPN in the USA, your machine will appear to be located there.
This is very cool, because it means you can then access online services in other Countries, entirely legally, even if that service is usually blocked to other Countries.
So, if an on demand TV service in the USA doesn’t let people from other Countries access their service (this is called Geo-Blocking), all you have to do is log into a VPN located in the United States, and you can then access that TV service as if you were physically located in the USA.
So, how do you use a VPN?
First you have to register with a VPN company. I would suggest going with www.hidemyass.com. It costs about £5 per month. And they will give you an easy to use piece of software to download and install. The software lets you select which Server location you would like to log into, you just hit the “connect to VPN” button, and about ten seconds later, the connection is made, and you are free to browse the internet secure in the knowledge that your data and activities are protected, and you no longer have to be frustrated by Geo-Blocked services.
It probably seems quite complicated, but HideMyAss have a really helpful support staff, who will help walk you through the process, if you feel a bit lost. Once you log on the first time, you’ll get the hang of it. It really isn’t very difficult to use at all.
I hope this little overview has given enough information to help you get started protecting yourself with a VPN, and expanding your entertainment horizons at the same time!
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