You know what a VPN is, but the question remains—why do you need a VPN?
There’s one good reason. Your privacy. Because it’s a commodity on today’s internet.
For starters, you have advertisers and internet service providers (ISPs) that want to know what you’re doing, when you’re doing it, where you’re doing it, and even for how long you’re doing it. They gather and use this information to create targeted ad profiles. And sometimes, they sell that information to third parties.
Next, there are the hackers and identity thieves out there. They take an even greater interest in what you’re doing online—like your shopping, banking, and finances. Even your insurance and medical matters. Primarily they want that information so they can turn a buck by hijacking your accounts or impersonating you to get medical care. In more extreme cases, they might use stolen information to impersonate you in other ways. That might include opening entirely new lines of credit or getting a driver’s license in your name.
A VPN can prevent this kind of snooping from happening.
VPNs and privacy—blocking ads and data collection
As for data collection and ads, that activity should come as no surprise. Particularly for anyone who’s seen uncannily targeted ads follow them around on the internet. Search for “summer cargo pants” one time and suddenly the sites you visit are full of ads for pants, pants, and more pants.
Aside from gathering your online activity for advertising purposes, ISPs might also sell the data they gather to third parties. They can gather that data while you’re on your home network, and they might gather it while you’re using public Wi-Fi. (Some ISPs provide free Wi-Fi in public places that allows them to collect data from people who aren’t their regular customers.)
This practice varies by region and the data privacy laws that are in place in each one.
For example, the European Union has strict data privacy laws that prevent this type of sale. (Thanks to the enactment of the GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation.) However, there are few such protections in the U.S. There, an ISP can sell the browsing history of an internet user to a third party—provided the data has been anonymized.
“Anonymized” is a key term here. It refers to the process of stripping away personal identifiers that connect a person to a set of stored data. It might also include adding “noise” to the data, which obscures personal identifiers. For example, that might remove an exact birthdate and replace it with a broad range of dates. So, “March 31, 1957” becomes “January – June 1957.”
At issue is that this anonymized data can get de-anonymized rather easily.
Researchers in 2019 found that “99.98% of Americans would be correctly re-identified in any dataset using 15 demographic attributes.” And when you consider how much data is collected about you, 15 attributes are only drops in the ocean.
Marketing and analytics companies collect hundreds and hundreds of data points on people and their households. That might include information about their mortgage, if they are allergy sufferers, whether they own cats or dogs, where they do most of their grocery shopping, and more—in addition to other information like their age and address.
What happens when that information gets breached, or published accidentally, as it did when 123 million records of U.S. households were made public back in 2017? It gives bad actors plenty of data that can potentially harm others.
Internet browsing activity doesn’t account for all the data points that these companies collect. However, the thought of your ISP tracking your time online and selling it to others might leave you feeling uncomfortable. Whether that data gets anonymized or not.
VPNs, privacy, and identity theft
The other threat to your privacy online comes from bad actors—like hackers and identity thieves. By targeting insecure networks, lurking on unsecured public Wi-Fi, or setting up phony public Wi-Fi hotspots themselves, they’ll snoop on the people using it.
On insecure networks, bad actors can watch as you log into your bank account, read your email, and see what you’re doing on the internet in general. They can steal any passwords and logins you’re using along the way, giving them access to those accounts.
In truth, this kind of snooping is more than a threat to your privacy. It enters the realm of identity theft, making the risk to your data and personal information that much greater.
Three reasons to use a VPN
With your privacy and personal identity in mind, here are three specific examples that make the case for using a VPN:
1. You value your privacy.
As outlined above, the internet has increasingly become less private. Advertisers and ISPs will track you when and where they can. When you use a VPN, you can hide several things from your ISP, like the websites and apps you use, the time spent on them, your search history, and downloads. As for websites and apps, a VPN can hide your IP address and your location, all of which can thwart ad tracking on those sites and apps.
2. You work remotely.
Many larger businesses and organizations offer (and sometimes require) a VPN for their employees who work outside the office. Smaller businesses use them less so, which makes them subject to attacks like data breaches. According to FBI reports, the average cost of a data breach for a business in 2022 was well over $150,000. Moreover, cybercriminals increasingly wage these attacks against businesses with revenues of $500,000 or less, which makes the thought of a six-figure loss even more devastating.
A VPN encrypts and protects company data in transit, whether you’re connecting from home, the airport, or anywhere outside the office. Using one protects you and the business or organization you work for.
3. You want extra protection while you bank, shop, or handle any sensitive matters online.
A strong VPN service like ours uses bank-grade encryption to keep your data and information secure. With a VPN, a snoop bad actor would only see garbled content thanks to your VPN’s encryption functionality.
Another popular reason for a VPN—streaming shows and content
If you’re traveling, you can access the sites and services you typically use at home. For example, some video streaming services aren’t available in foreign locations. By using a VPN, you can still access content by connecting through the proxy servers that VPNs use. These are servers in other locations that can make requests on your behalf. So, even if you are out of the country, you can connect to a proxy server in the U.S. and access your services as usual.
Where can I get a VPN?
If you have online protection with us, like our McAfee+ plans, you have a VPN ready to go. If not, McAfee+ offers a great way to get one.
It’s completely private and independently audited to ensure your sensitive info stays secure. We don’t log or track what you do online, so your online activity remains private.
By design, we made it simple to use. You can set it to automatically turn on if you’re on an unprotected network. Or you can also choose to keep it on all the time for an even safer online experience. With nearly 50 server locations worldwide, you can get a fast and stable VPN connection wherever you go.
And because it comes with our online protection software, you get other identity, privacy, and device security features that can keep you even safer online.
Bottom line, a VPN makes you more private and secure.
And that kind of protection is called for nowadays. Ad trackers, data collectors, hackers, and thieves—they all want to know what you’re doing online. And with a VPN, you can keep all that to yourself, making your time online more private and secure than before.
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