VPNs only sound like something you need penicillin for – in reality, it simply refers to Virtual Private Network.
VPNs are a way of providing you with an extra layer of privacy and security while you enjoy the wonders of the world wide web, as well as keep your internet activity away from the prying eyes of Big Brother (not just your siblings – the government!).
But VPNs aren’t just for the paranoid, or for tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists, anymore. They are growing in popularity because of the increased threat of cyberattacks, the increase in public WiFi, which allows hackers unprecedented access to your data, and the creepy level of access we have discovered our governments have to our personal information.
In order to set up a VPN, you signup with a VPN service (typically between $5-$10 per month), which provides you their private network. This does not replace the need to have an internet provider, however – if the internet provider is the hotel room, then the VPN provider would be the safe.
Instead of connecting directly with the internet, once you are set up on a VPN, you connect via their encrypted connection. (You can learn about encryption in this blog post). Now, only you are your VPN server can see this transmission, and you are safe to use public WiFi and smack talk the government.
Sound too good to be true? Before you go out and demand your teenage daughter set you up with a VPN-thingy, be warned: you may experience about a 10% reduction in your internet speed. A small price to pay for some added security, though.
If setting up a VPN sounds like something you want to do, be aware: there are many different services out here, and they are not all created equal. Do some research, especially looking at reviews and recommendations from people and websites that you trust. Or talk to your friendly, neighbourhood IT professional (wink) who can also help you find the best service for your needs.