How VPNs Work
Just like a proxy, a VPN protects your privacy by routing your web traffic through a web server so that the destination app, service, or website does not know where it is actually coming from. The difference is that a VPN uses encryption to protect your data while it goes through the secure digital tunnel.
And once your traffic reaches the VPN server, you will be assigned a different IP address to hide your real location and identity. Masking the IP address turns out to have a lot of benefits, which we will discuss below.
Most VPNs route the connection through a single server, while others hop through multiple servers for additional layers of protection. VPNs are also equipped with a wide range of security features, including a kill switch, anti-leak protection, split tunneling, whitelisting websites, an ad blocker, malware protection, and others.
VPNs Help You Torrent Safely
Copyright issues have been a huge headache for content consumers, particularly in the digital era. Starting in the 2000s, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have intensified their crackdown on piracy, suing a lot of people for downloading and sharing content. As of July 2006, the RIAA had sued more than 20,000 music fans for illegal file sharing, and in just five years, between 2003 and 2008, it had more than 35,000 lawsuits.
Joel Tenenbaum. Source: www.twitter.com/joelfightsback
The fines were ridiculous. Joel Tenenbaum, a student, was fined $675,000 for downloading 22 songs. Jammie Thomas-Rasset, a single mother from Minnesota, was ordered to pay $1.92 million for infringing 24 songs.
In 2011, the producers of the movie Hurt Locker also sued around 25,000 BitTorrent users for sharing the movie through a P2P site. Although most of the lawsuits were dismissed in the end due to the difficulty of tracking the IP addresses, this incident proved that torrent users can be prosecuted for sharing and downloading pirated content.
We strongly advise against using torrent websites since downloading pirated content means violating privacy laws. Even downloading open licensed content from torrent websites may lead to legal consequences because you may unknowingly download a pirated file. Using a VPN improves your privacy, hides your IP, and makes torrenting safer.
Copyright trolls make up another group of threats users have to deal with when torrenting. Copyright trolls act like copyright holders, such as the RIAA and MPAA. They monitor your torrent activity through your IP, and if you download or share content they own the copyright for, they send fake threats, asking you to pay $1000-$4000 for not suing you officially.
Trolls even get support from attorneys and use copyright laws as legal grounds for suing their victims. Here are some of the victims of copyright trolls on Twitter: @ThatAnonDude and @DieTrollDie.
These cases highlight the importance of protecting your identity when torrenting. When you use a VPN to download content using BitTorrent or other torrent clients, everyone sees the IP address assigned to you by the VPN service provider and not your real IP address. So even if copyright trolls or government agencies do try to find the IP address you used when downloading content from a torrent site, they won’t be able to trace it back to you.
Torrent networks are not designed to be secure. In 2018, Tavis Ormandy of Google’s Project Zero found critical bugs in uTorrent Web and uTorrent Classic. These bugs allow hackers to execute malicious code on a user’s computer remotely through open ports.
All you need to do to expose your computer to malware is run uTorrent and visit any site without HTTPS encryption.
uTorrent vulnerability test. Source: https://bugs.chromium.org/p/project-zero/
A VPN will not protect from software bugs, but it converts all vulnerable HTTP sites you visit to secure HTTPS ones and thus reduces risks from torrenting itself.
VPNs Increase Safety When Watching Sensitive Content
Porn companies are now taking advantage of a new shakedown scheme to extort money from internet users who download or stream adult content. Porn vendors work with law firms and file thousands of lawsuits against users for downloading adult videos on their computers. They then profit from litigation and threats by abusing the copyright system.
For instance, two men were sent to prison for being involved in a shakedown scheme that earned them $6 million in settlements. In 2013, a judge in California issued a hefty $81,320 fine against porn copyright holders that were trolling Internet users.
XArt/Malibu Media LLC, a notorious copyright troll known for distributing adult content, has filed around 8,000 lawsuits since 2012. Strike 3 Holdings LLC, the company behind the websites Tushy and Vixen, has brought around 3,500 lawsuits in the last two years.
Former XArt attorney Paul Nicoletti. Source: www.fightcopyrighttrolls.com
Websites that distribute adult content are able to track those who download or stream their videos through the IP addresses of their computers.
So if you’re planning to watch some steamy videos for relaxation, make sure to protect your anonymity by using a VPN. This will prevent the porn trolls from knowing your identity and making you a victim of the shakedown scheme.
VPNs Make Web Surfing Safer
Hackers and Online Viruses
Did you know that cybercrime is more profitable than the international illegal drug trade? In 2018, the illegal drug industry gained around $400 billion in profits. However, cybercriminals earned more — pocketing around $600 billion.
If you think that you’re safe just because you have a firewall and security software installed on your computer, you are gravely mistaken. Antivirus and anti-malware apps, as well as traditional firewalls, are considered irrelevant or obsolete by 73% of black hat hackers.
Twitter XSS worm. Source: www.twitter.com/zzap
More importantly, there are many malicious entities that can infect your computer even when you simply browse the web. Here are some of them:
- Exploit kits are viruses that use vulnerabilities in Flash players, web browsers, and Java applications to download malware on your computer without your consent. Exploit kits typically run on insecure pages.
- Malvertizing includes ads, links and banners containing malicious script or leading to an infected webpage.
- XSS worms are malicious payloads that exploit cross-site scripting vulnerabilities (XSS) on popular social or commercial websites, such as MySpace, Yahoo!, Facebook, and Twitter, thereby giving an attacker the ability to steal personal information provided to the web site, such as passwords or credit card numbers.
Aside from these facts, hackers are also getting more skilled. According to Crowdstrike, Russian hackers are able to infiltrate a computer network in just 18 minutes, North Korean hackers can do it in two and a half hours, and it takes about 4 hours for Chinese hackers to perform the same attack.
If you want complete protection against cybercrime, you need to equip your computer with a reliable VPN service. VPNs have a lot of security features to protect your data from hackers and to prevent malware from infecting your computer. Most importantly, top VPNs use strong encryption technology to keep your data out of the hackers’ reach.
VPNs Help Protect From Phishing Scams
Phishing is probably the oldest scam in the world, but it is becoming more and more creative every single day as Internet users find themselves the targets of new tactics. Researchers found that 71.4% of all targeted attacks had involved spear-phishing emails. Studies also revealed that 93% of social attacks had been phishing-related and 90% of incidents and breaches had included a phishing element.
Phishing emails include bogus notifications from banks, online payment systems, email providers, social media platforms, gaming websites, and other legitimate entities. Phishing scams are now so realistic that most users find it hard to differentiate the fake from the real email. What’s more dangerous is falling victim to a targeted phishing attack, and 28% of all phishing attacks were targeted towards specific organizations or individuals.
Phishing messages combine effectively with malware: every time you open an attachment from a suspicious sender, you may get malware on your PC. A simple move like opening a Word, Excel, or PNG/JPEG file may cause malicious scripts to run and infect your PC.
Using a VPN makes it difficult for hackers and scammers to send you targeted phishing emails and get your personal information. This means that you won’t be able to get a seemingly legitimate email from your bank asking you to update your information or notification from PayPal saying that your account has been blocked and you need to log in again. Although some phishing emails might still be sent to your email address, at least they won’t be as believable as those that were personalized for you.
VPNs Help Protect From ISP Monitoring
Bandwidth throttling is an internet service provider’s reactive response to users’ heavy data usage. It is commonly used to limit internet usage when users are streaming video, torrenting, downloading content, or playing online games, which helps to regulate network traffic and prevent bandwidth congestion.
In 2007, three organizations (Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the Federal Communications Commission) filed a lawsuit against Comcast based on several subscribers’ claims that the internet provider had been interfering with their use of peer-to-peer networking applications. The Commission accused Comcast of discriminating against peer-to-peer communications, therefore ordering the internet service provider to adopt a new system of managing bandwidth demand.
Protestors advocating for net neutrality rally, 2018
In 2011, the Canadian Gamers Organization filed a complaint to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) against Bell Canada because of bandwidth throttling. To get out of the hot water, Bell Canada announced that 50% of its customers would be throttle-free by June 2012, promising to spare the rest from throttling by the end of 2012.
Although there are ISPs that do not throttle their customers’ bandwidth, there are still a lot who do. So if you’re unlucky to be using the services of an ISP that throttles bandwidth and you use the Internet heavily, one of your options is to use a VPN to hide your activities. Your ISP won’t be able to monitor what you’re doing and how much data you’re consuming. Of course, you also have the option to switch to a different ISP, but that would be more troublesome.
VPNs Allow You to Safely Access the Dark Web
Browsing the dark web is like sliding into the abyss of the digital world. Here, regular internet rules don’t work and everything is filled with mystery. Beyond the regular sites that you visit is a world that is not easily accessible to regular internet users.
According to experts, this is how the internet is divided:
- 4% is the Surface Web, which is what we see every day.
- 90% is the Deep Web, which can’t be accessed by ordinary search engines.
- 6% is the Dark Web, the most mysterious and anonymous part of the web.
Are you planning to read news and secret articles on the Hidden Wiki, buy a new iPhone for bitcoins, rent a hacker, or sign up for an anonymous version of Facebook? Unfortunately, the dark web is neither for the faint of heart nor for the naive. You need to be fully prepared if you want to venture into this unknown and dangerous digital world.
One of the ways to access the dark web is by using the Tor Browser. This browser has been designed to provide users with anonymity by routing their traffic through the Tor network. Unfortunately, browsing the dark web while going through multiple nodes can greatly affect your browsing speed. Plus, the traffic is not encrypted and the possibility of data leakage is high.
If you want to browse the dark web with peace of mind, you need to use a VPN along with Tor. Your first layer of protection comes in the form of the encryption technology used. Most top VPNs use military-grade encryption, which is impossible to break right now. A VPN that uses a good protocol adds another layer of protection for your traffic. Most importantly, you’re not using your real IP address when browsing the dark web since you’re using a temporary one assigned by the VPN provider.
VPNs Help You Get Better Prices
Is there currently a discount on Amazon for customers from Japan or Korea? Or there might be an online sale on the US website of your favorite online shop. Unfortunately, since you’re located somewhere else and you’re automatically redirected to the website version corresponding to your location, you don’t get to enjoy these discounts.
There are also services that offer different prices depending on the countries they are targeting. For example, an individual Apple Music plan costs $9.99 per month in the US, but it retails at only 99 rupees per month in India, which is equivalent to around $1.30. A student account, which costs $4.99 per month in the US, retails for 49 rupees ($0.65) per month in India.
The same is true for YouTube. YouTube Premium will cost you $11.99 per month in the US, but in India, you only have to pay 189 rupees, or $2.50, per month. See the difference?
So if you want to save some money on subscription fees, you can use a VPN to create an account while using an Indian IP address. This way, your location will be identified as India and products and services will automatically get the corresponding price tags.
5 Best VPNs in 2020
NordVPN provides a great balance between security and speed. A strong choice for security-conscious internet users.
- It is secure: NordVPN is located in Panama, which is a Privacy Haven known for its strict privacy and data protection laws. It uses AES-256 encryption, IKEv2/OpenVPN protocols, has a strict no-log policy, a kill switch for emergencies, and has no leaks. NordVPN has dedicated p2p servers to protect you while torrenting.
- It is fast: NordVPN has over 5000 super-fast servers in 59 countries to choose from. It saves 94% of your internet connection speed, which is the best results so far.
- It is easy to use: NordVPN works well with major platforms, such as Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows. It also has apps for Android TV, Chrome, and Firefox. You can enjoy up to 6 simultaneous connections.
One of the cheapest VPNs that offer top value: fast connection speeds, top security, and optimized for streaming Netflix and BBC iPlayer.
- Surfshark saves 80% of your speed connection allowing comfort surfing and browsing.
- Based in the British Virgin Islands, Surfshark keeps no logs and doesn’t share records with authorities. No DNS and IP leaks, military-grade encryption make it perfect for privacy.
- Surfshark’s servers are located in more than 61 countries. It has 1040+ servers.
A popular VPN with top features. AES-256 encryption and the cutting-edge OpenVPN protocol provide good security.
- CyberGhost is one of the fastest VPN services in the industry today for surfing the net. Users experience a measly 8% drop in connection speed
- CyberGhost’s torrent tests resulted in a massive drop of the download speed. It cuts almost 80% of torrenting speed.
- CyberGhost is available on Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, and Windows devices. There is also an app you can use for your Amazon FireStick, Android TV, Chrome, and Firefox.
Affordable and secure VPN service that works even in China. Offers stealth VPN option for extra security and provides excellent customer service.
- PrivateVPN allows you to use only 66% of your original internet connection speed
- PrivateVPN is located in Sweden, which is part of the 14 eyes alliance. This means the authorities may look at your VPNs logs.
- You can download your favorite torrents using up to 69% of your original internet speed with PrivateVPN. It also has dedicated P2P servers.
Good VPN for everyday streaming and regular internet use. Compatible with most major platforms.
- IPVanish is based in the US, which is a member of the 5 eyes alliance. This means the authorities may look at your VPNs logs.
- When you use IPVanish, you might experience up to 49% drop in internet connection speed. This speed is sufficient only for light browsing and internet activities
- IPVanish can be used on Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows, and WindowspPhone. It also has apps for Amazon FireStick, Android TV, Chrome, and routers.