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The safest way to browse the web: VPN Browsing

More Secure, Private with your own VPN

by Irene Park

Now is the time to embrace your privacy and security by using a VPN.  Think of it as a way to insulate yourself online from start to finish.

Anyone serious about security and safety online knows a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is now an essential part of keep you safe online.

With much of your daily life online, most of your online activities at home and outside your home are not private.  In fact, our everyday online activity is exposed to the highest risk as we are in 2022.   In order to create an extra layer of security and privacy, integrating the use of a VPN has never been more important. 


How do VPNs make you more secure & private?

A VPN helps hide your IP address and encrypts your data to keep you and your data safer and more private.

 

Why masking your IP address is critical to privacy

In order to connect to the internet, an Internet Service Provider (ISP) (usually the cable or broadband company for your home or your company’s network) assigns you an Internet Protocol (IP) address for each device that connects to the internet. A string of numbers and periods, the IP address helps identify the device to the network it is connected to. 

Using a variety of techniques, cybercriminals can obtain your IP address to download illegal content using your IP address, track your location, attack your network to disrupt service, or hack into your device. Sadly, it isn’t that difficult to figure out your IP address. Because it is the primary identifier of you, or your device, online. When you visit websites, chatrooms, or leave comments online, your IP address is visible.

Most common places where your IP addresses are visible include:

  • Social media
  • Internet forums
  • Chatrooms
  • Blogs
  • Emails

Common ways cybercriminals can find your IP address include more complicated techniques like hacking into your home network or placing a bug in email HTML. But easier approaches to getting your IP address include:

  • Borrowing your device and googling  “what is my ip address”
  • Inspecting the header of an email address

Identifiable geolocation information from an IP address includes:

  • City
  • Zip Code
  • Area Code

While that may not be much information, sleuthing criminals can piece together additional information using the geolocation from the IP address along with your online activity.

Even if you’re not concerned about cybercriminals, the IP address is a way ISP, employers, advertisers, and others track your activities online.

 

How does a VPN protect IP addresses?

Can VPN improve security by hiding your IP address?

While many great metaphors are out there about what a VPN is, it is important to understand the actual nuts and bolts of what they are and how they work.

A VPN is a simple and straightforward way to hide your IP address. You first connect to a VPN provider, which is usually connected to a private server first.

When you connect to the VPN server, it changes your IP address and tells your computers that you’re in a different location. With most VPN providers, you can choose what location you want it to ‘tell’ other computers.

 

Why is more control of your IP address important?

    • Throttling:
      • Some ISPs throttle your upload and download speeds based on your usage. If you are streaming and file sharing it takes up a lot of bandwidth so some ISP throttle or slow down your speed. When you change or disguise your IP address, your ISP can’t track what you’re doing or what sites you’re visiting so they can’t throttle your speed.
    • Some streaming services offer different content libraries based on different geographic locations. By changing your IP address through the VPN, you can access more and different content.

  • Some governments block certain content based on your ISP so if you can change your IP address then you can change the geolocation associated with your device allowing you access to blocked content.

 

How does VPN encryption help?

vpn making browsing private

Another reason VPN is helpful in keeping you safe is that it encrypts your data by scrambling it. When you’re entering and exiting the internet through a VPN service, the data goes through an encrypted tunnel before going on the internet so no one can see your data. VPN providers enable encryptions through VPN protocol. A VPN Protocol is a set of instructions that tells your computer how to communicate with a VPN server. In addition to communicating on how to establish and maintain a connection, it includes standards for encryption.

While most online browsing is encrypted, it still passes along personal information. When you pass along your data through a VPN server, most VPN providers use Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher with a 256-bit key. This is an industry-standard block cipher, which essentially breaks off data into blocks and encrypts them. Therefore, your data is protected when going to and from your VPN server. No one beyond the VPN server can see what you’re doing online.

This is especially helpful when you’re browsing because it hides your metadata from your browser when you connect to a website. Metadata put simply is data about data. While it doesn’t actually reveal the content of the data, it does reveal information about it. For instance, it will not show you the exact photo or text message, but it will contain information about the content such as where it originated and got downloaded, how big it is, etc.

Browsers store a lot of data including:

  • Content language
  • Operating systems
  • Browser Version
  • Time Zone
  • Preferred Language
  • Sometimes even the resolution of your computer screen!


While this data might not automatically or directly identify you, it can be used in a process called browser fingerprinting. Advertisers, governmental agencies, or cybercriminals can aggregate this information to use it against you.

 

What are the Best VPN providers?

If you’re curious about exploring VPN service providers, check out our Best VPNs for 2022 article.   Our top pick is ExpressVPN because it has a strong set of features that mitigate the privacy and security issues that come with browsing online. Not only will ExpressVPN not log your IP address, but it will not store browsing history, metadata, traffic destination, or DNS queries.

  • adds a layer of enhanced security
  • prevents Internet service providers from monitoring your online activity.
  • offers a way around geo-fencing blocks
  • can help increase your connection speeds

If hiding your IP address and browsing more privately & securely is a priority for you, then ExpressVPN will be a great investment for you.

CyberGuy Deal: Get 3 months of ExpressVPN free on a 12-month subscription.

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