Privacy and security have taken priority in people’s minds lately owing to the increasing threat of online surveillance and cyberattacks. Which is why more people are turning to VPN services to protect themselves and their data.

Being concerned about online safety doesn’t mean it’s necessary to cover everything in tinfoil and become a paranoid shut-in. Companies have been using VPN technology for years to protect their employees and digital assets. But it is getting increasingly popular with casual internet users as well. They mostly want to access geo-restricted content, but the security aspect of it is also getting more attention.

Find out what a VPN is, how it works, and why even everyday internet users should consider getting one.

What is a VPN and How Does It Work?

Getting a VPN is simple enough – just choose a reliable VPN service (more on that later), sign up, and install the VPN. They work on almost any device, including computers and mobile phones. From there, whenever you go online, VPN will encrypt your connection and send it through a secure server.

A VPN forms a sort of protective tunnel around a network connection that keeps intruders, like the government, ISPs, and cybercriminals out. The service also sends the connection through their own servers first, which changes the user’s IP address. This way, should anyone want to spy on the person visiting a website or using an app, they’ll see a fake IP address.

Both these elements protect VPN users from having their data, identities, or money stolen, and from being spied on by others.

Why Getting a VPN is a Good Idea

VPN services are useful for a number of reasons, both security-wise and for convenience reasons. Here are five major ways in which a VPN can come in handy:

Casual browsing: There are plenty of dodgy websites out there that have malicious ads and links to malware or viruses. Using a VPN can help protect a user from any ads or websites that try to secretly hop on to the connection in the background.

While working: If hackers were to get access to any important or confidential work data, it could put the company and people’s jobs at risk. That information often gets stolen through an unsecured home or public network. Whether someone is working from home or a coffee shop with free Wi-Fi, a VPN will protect any information they send or receive. The same goes for frequent travelers who like to connect to hotel or airport Wi-Fi.

Streaming content: Services like Amazon Prime and Netflix aren’t available everywhere due to geo-blocking. Plus, their content differs from country to country. For instance, Netflix in Pakistan has a very limited library when compared to US Netflix. A VPN overcomes that problem by allowing people to change their IP address to one based in the US. This way, they can access services and content that they wouldn’t otherwise get to see.

Online shopping: Hackers use a number of ways to infiltrate websites and networks in order to steal valuable data like people’s credit card info. Since a VPN encrypts network traffic, hackers won’t be able to peer in and see that information. It won’t, however, protect anyone if the website’s database is breached.

Playing games: Sometimes, VPN services can help speed up the ping in a game by connecting to a server in a less congested region. It can also help if you go  online through a VPN server that’s in a region close to you.

What to Look For When Signing Up for a VPN Service

Some VPN services are better than others. It’s important to find one that’s trustworthy and won’t sell or reveal their users’ data – or it defeats the point. These are some of the most important things to consider when choosing a VPN:

Do They Have a No Log Policy?

Personal data is very valuable in the digital world.Both companies and cybercriminals go to great lengths to obtain it. The point of a VPN is to make someone anonymous, so those that log any personal data aren’t trustworthy. They can sell that data or have it stolen from their database.

Where Are They Situated?

Some countries have laws in place that require all businesses in that country to hand over client information. Any VPN service that is located in one of those countries will be forced to collect and hand over any data they may have about their users.

How Fast Are They?

VPNs slow a connection down because there’s an extra server for it to travel through. However, those with poor systems and limited capabilities (like free VPNs) can limit bandwidth a lot. Look for premium VPN services that are capable of handling traffic and won’t noticeably slow the connection down.

The Bottom Line

VPNs aren’t just for businesses and tech-savvy people anymore. They have become a household necessity for the average internet user too, and they’re quickly gaining popularity. People should just make sure to look for a good VPN that will protect their data and personal information.