VPN Services, Protecting Your Identity

When you think about a VPN in the traditional business context, you think of connecting your remote computer or multiple locations together via a virtual private network (VPN), using the Internet or some other media.  The VPN piece of the solution creates a secure connection over a non-secure media, such as the Internet.

The term VPN has been expanded to include the ability for users to send and receive data while remaining anonymous and secure online.  There are many VPN service providers out there, some are free, and others charge about $3 to $7 per month.  If you are truly concerned about security, you should not use the free service providers.  For the most part, they have very limited features and with the price being free, you need to consider how they are making money, and how serious they are concerned about protecting you.

How Do These VPNs Work:  Typically, you have to install client software on your computer.  The client allows you to securely connect to another network.  Once connected to this third-party network, your traffic will be sent to the Internet through one of many (often many thousands) of IP addresses from all over the world.  When you surf the web or access any web services, all your traffic will appear as if it was coming from the third party.  The technical term for this is obfuscation (to make things confusing or ambiguous, hide or conceal).

Key Performance and Protection Items:  The more IP addresses a VPN service has, the harder it will be for your identity to be discovered.  Network speed performance is based on the performance of the VPN servers to receive and resend your traffic.  These two items typically drive the cost of the service.  The process of selecting a VPN service provider must include reviews that include performance, support, and privacy.  You need to spend the time to   understand what you can expect from these service providers.

Another key item to consider is, what country the VPN company is in and what country the servers are located in.  Each country has their own privacy laws and based on where the company is located and where the servers are located, it will affect the overall privacy of the traffic you will be sending through these providers.

Potential Issues with VPN Services:

  • Performance: If your VPN service provider has issues, you will be affected by their performance (meaning slow Internet browsing and responses).
  • Access to Sites and Services: You may get blocked from sites you usually visit or need.   Many firewalls are being configured to do Geo blocking/permit.  If the IP address you are assigned to surf from is in a range that belongs to a country that the firewall is programmed to block, you will be denied access to the site (you can typically override the client if necessary).  More advanced service providers will let you choose what country you want your traffic to originate from.
  • Privacy: If you are seeking the service of a VPN, you are most likely doing so to maintain anonymity.  As mentioned earlier, every country has their own privacy laws.  The privacy of your traffic going through the VPN will be based on the country that the VPN service provider is located and the physical location of the servers they are operating.

For a recent review of current VPN service providers follow this link to cnet.com’s “The Best VPN Services for 2019” written by David Gerwirtz, July 11, 2019 https://www.cnet.com/best-vpn-services-directory/?ftag=CMG-01-10aaa1b

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Posted by Jack Gerbs