It’s not uncommon in today’s entertainment to come across a scene where one of the characters is able to gain access or retrieve sensitive information by hacking through security systems or computers. As they say, fiction mirrors reality—so what happens on TV is definitely based on what is happening in real life.

Whether people are aware of it or not, there is always someone watching and trying to steal personal information for their own gain.

In this current day and age of the internet, it shouldn’t take a serious data breach (like the much-publicized Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal) for people to take action when it comes to their data privacy, especially when there is an easy way to keep data and internet browsing sessions safe. It’s called a virtual private network (VPN).

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, allows users to access a secure private network and share data remotely, even while they’re connected to a public network. To visualize how a VPN works, imagine a secret tunnel that leads you to an end destination without running into any unwanted hitches. Usually the route takes more time, but it gets you to your destination safely.

A VPN cloaks and encrypts your internet activity so that your data is secure. Instead of accessing the internet directly, it goes through a VPN server, which manipulates your IP address so that it appears as if you’re using a different device or coming from a different location.

Although VPNs sound too good to be true, they have one caveat: they slow down your internet connection by 25-50%. However, there are several good reasons to use one.

The Many Reasons Why You Should Use a VPN

The primary reason to use a VPN is for data privacy.

America does not have data privacy laws as stringent as the European Union, which recently enacted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Sadly, few states recognize an individual’s right to privacy—save for California, which currently has an online privacy law in the works. Although US institutions must abide by certain regulations regarding personal data, they are severely outdated and not comprehensive.

Another reason to use a VPN is to access better web content. A GlobalWebIndex study found that half of VPN users downloaded a VPN to access better entertainment content. In fact, the number of VPN sales doubled, especially after news that net neutrality was repealed.

Net Neutrality is a set of rules that required internet service providers to treat all websites equally and prevent them from overcharging for better service or content. The repeal of net neutrality means that internet providers can opt for a pay-to-play strategy, which means that consumers might have to pay more for better service. This provides advantages for people and businesses that can pay while alienating those with less budget.

If you live or visit countries with restrictive internet connections such as China, VPNs allow you to bypass censorship restrictions and access the internet freely, while concealing your activity from the government. In fact, in countries like these, as much as 30% of the population use VPNs.

On a lesser scale, VPNs can also keep your connection safe, especially if you use public WiFi connections in places like coffee shops.

The good news? Americans are aware of how government and corporate entities manipulate how their personal information is collected and used.

According to a 2018 Pew Research study on internet privacy, 64% of Americans believe that the government should do something to address internet safety and privacy, with 61% saying that they would like to do more to protect their privacy. A simple way to do so is through the use of a VPN, but sadly, only 17% of Americans use a VPN, versus 25% of the rest of the world.

Final Thoughts: Why You Should be Using a VPN

With data breaches and the end of net neutrality, a VPN is an affordable way to keep your data and browsing safe. If you’re looking for additional guidance with protecting data privacy in your organization, contact the experts at Harrington Technologies.

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