Surfing the web may feel straightforward, but the underlying technology powering the internet grows more intricate by the day. With constant changes, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to stay current.
So I won’t fault you for not knowing much about VPNs (virtual private networks), which play a vital role protecting your online privacy.
What if you could create a private, encrypted tunnel to shield your online activity? With a VPN, that possibility becomes reality.
But what do you really know about VPNs and how they safeguard you? Does a VPN make you totally anonymous? Does it guard against viruses and malware? Is it solely for illegal stuff?
Let’s demystify VPNs by tackling 7 common myths. I’ll relay little-known facts to clear up misconceptions. My hope? You gain clarity on what VPNs can and can’t do.
Myth 1: VPNs Are Mainly for Illegal Activities
Sure, you could use a VPN to download copyrighted stuff illegally. But legitimacy and legality represent the chief aims behind most VPN services.
By encrypting your internet traffic, you shield yourself from hackers, snoops, and untrustworthy ISPs. That’s neither shady nor unlawful.
Whether you mask your browsing or not, unlawful things stay unlawful. Some countries do outlaw VPN services due to strict censorship laws – North Korea and Iraq, for example. And places like China and Russia only permit government-approved VPNs.
But privacy shouldn’t be a crime. VPNs enable internet freedom.
Myth 2: VPNs Make You Totally Anonymous
Encrypting traffic and hiding your IP address does boost anonymity substantially. But total anonymity? Not quite.
Whoever runs your VPN can still see your real IP address and everywhere you go online. That means the company could potentially trace activities back to you.
I’d urge choosing a trustworthy provider with an ironclad no-logs policy. That prevents the retention of browsing data that could unmask you.
Moreover, law enforcement or other legal authorities can request user data from a VPN provider as part of a criminal investigation. Unless your VPN service has a strict no-logs rule, they may have to hand over your private details.
Total anonymity is unrealistic and unnecessary for most folks using VPNs for privacy purposes.
Myth 3: Free VPNs Work As Well As Paid Ones
To avoid yet another monthly subscription, you may feel tempted to use a free VPN instead. I urge you to think twice before doing so if privacy is a priority.
Free VPNs often lack the privacy commitments of paid counterparts. That’s because if you don’t pay, the company still needs revenue, likely from sharing user data. This could undermine your privacy and security.
Beyond privacy concerns, free VPNs tend to offer limited server options. That leads to slower speeds, especially during peak usage times. Paid VPNs usually prove faster and more reliable thanks to abundant global servers.
Opting for a free instead of paid VPN also risks poor customer support, bandwidth and data restrictions, pesky ads, and missing features you might need.
The only free VPN I’d recommend is ProtonVPN since they offer unlimited bandwidth and data.
Myth 4: VPNs Speed Up Your Internet
When you use a VPN, your data travels through an encrypted tunnel – a private pathway to the web via third-party servers.
Encryption takes time. And if VPN servers lie far from your location, latency and speed may dip below what you’re used to without a VPN.
But even if a VPN slows things down a bit, you might not notice when casually surfing or doing other low-intensity tasks. In that case, try connecting to a nearby server or other optimization tricks.
The exception? When your ISP throttles your connection. Then a VPN could actually accelerate things!
Myth 5: VPNs Bypass All Geographic Restrictions
By masking your IP address, a VPN lets you access content and services typically limited to certain regions. For instance, if you pay for a French streaming account and travel abroad, you may lose access unless using a VPN to spoof being in France.
However, this trick doesn’t always work. Some sites and streaming platforms use VPN detection to recognize if you’re using a VPN, blocking access unless you disable the VPN.
Myth 6: VPNs Are Too Complicated to Use
At first glance, VPNs may seem overly complex. But that’s often not the case with leading services. They provide intuitive apps for computers and mobile devices with easy setup guides.
Generally after installing a VPN, just a click or two creates an account, selects a server, and connects to the service. Subsequent connections require minimal effort – often one tap.
For added convenience, you can enable auto-connect to always remain protected without manually activating the VPN. Top providers also include 24/7 customer support if any issues emerge.
While the inner workings of VPNs grow more elaborate, usability and reliability continue to improve.
Myth 7: VPNs Guard Against Malware and Viruses
Although useful, VPN encryption and IP masking only supply part of the privacy equation. You still need standalone antivirus and malware tools.
VPNs yield indirect security advantages – like securing connections on public Wi-Fi. But they don’t replace software built explicitly to flag and eliminate threats.
For full protection, use a VPN to safeguard online privacy paired with antivirus/malware programs to catch infections. Defense in depth is the name of the game.
The Bottom Line
I hope demolishing those VPN myths helps you better grasp what VPNs can and cannot accomplish. They aren’t a panacea or magic bullet solving all digital woes. But as part of a sound online security strategy, VPNs earn their place protecting what matters most – your data and identity.
Have you used a VPN before? What stood out as biggest difference once you tried it? Let me know in the comments below!