The internet is a great place to find entertainment, learn new things, meet new people, stay connected with the world, and discover all kinds of wonder and excitement. However, the internet is not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a place where malicious people prey on the ignorant, where those looking to make a quick buck steal from others, and where true “privacy” is always in question.
Fortunately, there are ways to equip yourselves for the worldwide web, and make sure you don’t fall prey to the traps and pitfalls you most commonly see today. Educating yourself on how the internet works can be a solid line of defense, and employing tools like antiviruses and firewalls can keep you from most malicious intent, but lately, the true perpetrators of internet dishonesty are those that track your behavior, monitor where you go and what you do, and then use that information against you and others like you. In order to combat this emerging new threat of spies and data thieves, countries around the world are developing an all-new kind of defense – VPNs.
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are tools that were like masks online – concealing your identity and protecting your information from those who would try to use them against you. They cover up your digital fingerprints with smoke to keep those malicious intent always guessing and never knowing who you are or where you are in the world.
The way it works is that it allows users to create their own virtual private networks using public networks, thus affording them anonymity and virtualized geographic freedom online. IP addresses are masked with other IP addresses, making anything you do – from your online behavior, to your personal information – virtually untraceable as long as you’re using a VPN.
Here are some examples of what a VPN does.
Most websites today employ trackers – little pieces of code that follow you around while you browse and surf the web, all the while collecting information about your online habits, the sites you visit, and everything else you do online. Does it sound like a dystopian conspiracy? Yes. Is it also 100% true? Absolutely. Companies like Facebook and Google have been doing it for years. How else do you think they manage to give you targeted advertisements for products you were literally just talking about or looking up? They follow you around and those trackers tell them what you’re interested in. It seems harmless, but imagine what else they can do – especially out of the public eye – with all of the personal information that’s floating around on the net. A VPN lets you lose those trackers, allowing you to maintain anonymity and security while you browse.
Another popular use of VPNs is to bypass regional restrictions. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, you can use a VPN to get rid of region-locked content, thus allowing you to browse and enjoy the entirety of the Netflix catalog for free, even the ones that aren’t necessarily allowed in your location, by masking your geographical location with that of a server on the other side of the world.
One other way this becomes useful is for when you live in a country where there is little to no internet freedom. Through proxies, VPNs can let you access websites, apps, and platforms that are otherwise blocked in your region.
In the same way as it allows you to bypass geographical restrictions, VPNs also allow users to mask their physical locations, providing them with an extra layer of security and anonymity to keep them safe from any online users with malicious intent.
If you’re a fan of torrenting files directly to your computer for free, you’re going to want to start using a VPN. Some file torrents log peers, making it easier for copyright authorities to crack down on pirates and their supporters, which – depending on where you live – could mean fines, criminal records, and possibly jail time. That’s not going to be a problem if you use a VPN.
Featured in Forbes, Lifehacker, TechRadar, and other authorities, TunnelBear is arguably one of the best VPNs out there for home, business, and personal use. Their easy to use app works natively on Mac OS, Windows, Android, and iOS, so you can enjoy all the security of your VPN across all of your devices.
TunnelBear is especially popular because of its high-speed performance with no throttling, optimized for a great internet experience on a global scale. They also employ tough to crack AES 256-bit encryption on all of their traffic to give you several layers of top-notch VPN security. On top of all that, TunnelBear is the only VPN in the world that publishes regular security audits of their platform to show the world how secure their service is.
TunnelBear is used by millions of people around the world with ease and convenience thanks to their massive network of servers. With proxies available in hundreds of locations across 23 different countries, TunnelBear provides users with unparalleled VPN flexibility no matter where they are or where they go.
You can get TunnelBear for free as a trial, but after the first 500MB of bandwidth used, you can upgrade to the Unlimited Plan for as low as $3.33 per month. The Unlimited Plan gets you unlimited secure browsing, plus TunnelBear access for up to five devices and priority customer service. For more professional VPN needs, TunnelBear also offers the Teams Plan which aims to provide top-notch VPN services for two or more users. In addition to the features included in the Unlimited Plan, the Teams Plan, available for as low as $5.75 per user per month, gives users a dedicated account manager and centralized billing, plus a supported device count of five per user.
If you’re looking for a top-rated VPN that’s 100% free – no limitations or restrictions – look no further than UrbanVPN. Featured on Softonic, TechRadar Pro, and other tech authorities, UrbanVPN manages to keep up with paid VPN services with a plethora of premium features available for free.
Unlike other VPNs that offer a basic version for free with the option to pay for more robust features, UrbanVPN users can experience everything UrbanVPN has to offer without having to pay a dime. These features include some of the fastest VPN speeds available that makes use of a massive network spanning 81 locations across 21 countries, and counting.
UrbanVPN also offers unlimited usage for free – that means server switching and location switching can be done with the press of a button at no extra cost. Plus, despite being available for absolutely free, UrbanVPN also boasts one of the most robust security systems available among VPN services. Utilizing traffic encryption and IPv6 & DNS leak protection, UrbanVPN users remain confidently anonymous as they explore the web.
You can get UrbanVPN on as many devices as you want, and for maximum convenience and usability, it’s easily available as an extension for your favorite browsers including Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. It also offers dedicated apps for Windows, Android, and iOS.
TorGuard is one of the most popular VPN services for keeping yourself covered as you sail across the pirate waters of popular torrenting platforms like 1337x and The Pirate Bay. Despite its emphasis on torrent privacy and protection, TorGuard is an invaluable VPN service that offers excellent features and security across the board.
Arguably one of the most powerful and far-reaching VPN services out there, TorGuard features a network of over 3000+ systems across 50+ countries worldwide. This allows them to offer some of the best speeds and unlimited bandwidth, with up to 8 simultaneous connections and some of the highest-level encryption systems in the industry.
TorGuard is a premium service that comes a bit on the pricey side, with the basic plan going for $9.99 per month, and the most expensive plans available for $69 per month. However, if you’re hesitant to shell out that much cash for a VPN service, you can always try the platform for free for seven days and experience the difference that a premium, high-end VPN service like TorGuard can offer.
One of the most popular free VPN options out there, ProtonVPN offers a great mix of security and convenience with excellent speeds, high-end security, and an optimized network of over 1,100+ locations across 54 countries around the world. Another great feature of ProtonVPN is that it’s based in Switzerland, the country known around the world for having the strictest privacy laws and policies, so that your data and your information may as well be among the world’s most closely guarded secrets.
ProtonVPN is available on Linux, Mac, Windows, and Linux operating systems. You can enjoy the free version and get a single VPN connection, some speed restrictions, and a limited choice of high-quality servers, or choose from the ProtonVPN Basic, Plus, or Visionary plans for more robust features.