Online Safety: 4 Reasons to Use a VPN (and 3 Reasons to Avoid It)

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In today’s hyper-connected world, where data breaches make headlines and digital privacy is a buzzword, the question looms large: Is a VPN necessary?

Once considered a tool only for tech enthusiasts and the criminal underworld, Virtual Private Networks have become a cornerstone of modern business cybersecurity strategy. Advocates praise the best VPN services for their data encryption prowess, while skeptics spotlight the technology’s limitations and latent risks.

Key Takeaways

Pros of Using a VPN:

  1. Extra Privacy and Security: A VPN keeps your online activities private and secure from prying eyes, including hackers, government agencies, and internet service providers.
  2. Anonymity and IP Masking: VPNs hide your real IP address, making it harder for websites (and governments) to track you.
  3. Safety in Business: VPNs are especially crucial for businesses that need to protect sensitive information when employees work remotely or across borders.
  4. Customization and Flexibility: VPNs let you choose servers and access content from around the world, bypassing local restrictions.

Cons of Using a VPN:

  1. Internet Speed Impact: VPNs can slow down your internet, which can be frustrating for activities like HD streaming, video calls, or gaming.
  2. Privacy Risks with Free VPNs: Free VPNs, in particular, may sell your data to third parties and may lack encryption methods or no-logs policies. Even paid ones need close scrutiny.
  3. Geopolitical Dependence: The effectiveness of VPNs can vary depending on the laws and regulations in the VPN provider’s location, including cooperation with government requests for data.

This polarity of opinion isn’t just mere chatter; it shapes policies, influences consumer choices, and even impacts geopolitical considerations.

As we navigate this evolving landscape, it becomes vital to consider the advantages and drawbacks to determine if using one is an essential need for you or your business.

But before signing up for the first one you see, choosing a VPN that’s right for your needs has never been more important.


Reasons to Use a VPN

Is a VPN necessary for enhancing cybersecurity, or is it overhyped as a safeguard against modern threats? As we plunge deeper into a digital society where the boundaries between the online and offline worlds blur, the significance of Internet access as a fundamental human right intensifies.

The unsettling global trend of Internet shutdowns, often masquerading as necessary measures for national security during political unrest, calls for a more strategic approach to maintaining online connectivity.

With rising Internet censorship worldwide and increasing privacy concerns from users, a VPN provides a robust line of defense for maintaining online freedom and safeguarding sensitive data. For example, if you live in a part of the world where the government shuts the Internet down, they are vital tools to get you back online.

These encrypted tunnels safeguard your data and facilitate bypassing geo-restrictions, offering a semblance of the free, global Internet that was once envisioned. 

VPNs are more than just an accessory; they have become almost necessary for activists, journalists, and even ordinary citizens in certain geopolitical landscapes. Coupled with anti-censorship tools and contingency plans like international backup SIMs, they could be your best defense against governmental digital silencing.

However, it’s not just about clicking “connect” on a free application; the picture is much more nuanced. Legal ramifications exist, varying from country to country — being caught using a VPN can result in severe consequences in some jurisdictions.

Governments are increasingly investing in technologies to detect and block VPN traffic. Ethically, using VPNs to bypass state-imposed restrictions comes with its moral dilemmas. Could the same tools used to promote freedom and democracy be weaponized for nefarious activities? The rise of alternatives like Mesh networks and ongoing discussions about digital ethics underline the complexity of this issue.

So, if you’re wondering, ‘Do I need to use a VPN?’ The answer is equivocal: ‘It depends’ — on your location, needs, and ethical standpoints.

But what is clear is they are becoming an increasingly crucial part of a multi-layered defense strategy to prepare for a future where free, unhindered Internet access is not guaranteed.

The Benefits of a VPN

Understanding VPN benefits is essential for anyone looking to enhance their online security, privacy, and digital experience. One of the most compelling advantages is enhancing online privacy and security. VPNs encrypt your online data, making it difficult for anyone — including your Internet provider, the government, or hackers — to see what you’re up to. This is a big deal for businesses that need to keep their information secure.

For any enterprise, VPN security should be paramount. This is particularly pertinent for companies that have adopted remote work, where data has to traverse potentially insecure networks. VPNs also offer robust tools like Threat Protection and Kill Switch features, fortifying the security apparatus further.

Any discussion about VPNs should also focus on the customization and flexibility offered by VPNs. Beyond mere security, a VPN allows users to mask their IP addresses, offering anonymity that helps deter tracking and targeted attacks. 

VPNs bolster security protocols and enrich the user experience by unlocking previously inaccessible content. Furthermore, they can thwart bandwidth-throttling by ISPs, offering users an uninterrupted browsing experience. With additional features like Meshnet for secure team collaboration, it’s clear that VPNs provide a comprehensive suite of solutions designed for both individual and organizational needs.

Reasons Not to Use a VPN

Many conversations around Virtual Private Networks naturally lean toward the advantages of VPNs, especially regarding enhancing privacy and security. However, it’s crucial to remember that VPNs are not a panacea for all digital vulnerabilities, and there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all VPN. 

While the shiny allure of free VPNs is tempting, they can cost businesses more than initially anticipated. One significant downside is their impact on internet speed, as they often reroute your internet connection through a secure server in a different country or city. While premium VPNs do their best to minimize this, the extra distance and encryption process often cause a lag in your internet connection speed. 

Slow speeds are particularly noticeable during data-intensive tasks like streaming high-definition video or playing online games, potentially causing a frustrating user experience. The security issue paradoxically also surfaces when considering the downside of VPNs, especially those that are free.

The saying “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product” holds notably true here. Free or malicious VPN apps often monetize by collecting user data and selling it to third parties, negating the very premise of privacy they are supposed to provide. 

It’s also essential to highlight that free VPNs often employ less robust encryption methods and may lack a no-logs policy, making them susceptible to security breaches. Even paid VPNs are not entirely immune to this, as they, too, can be compelled by legal authorities in their jurisdiction to provide user data. Thus, their efficacy is partly dependent on the geopolitical landscape.

While they are essential in the modern digital toolbox, VPNs are not infallible and should be part of a broader cybersecurity strategy rather than a standalone solution.

The Bottom Line

The answer to “Why use a VPN?” largely centers on benefits such as enhanced security, data encryption, and online anonymity. These advantages are particularly valuable for businesses seeking to safeguard sensitive information and enable secure remote work environments.

However, while these benefits are significant, they don’t tell the whole story. Free and less reputable VPNs can negatively impact Internet speeds and add additional security risks.

As such, it’s crucial to carefully assess your specific needs and requirements. An informed decision will require a nuanced understanding of the VPN’s pros and cons tailored to your personal or business circumstances.

Only then may you find a VPN that’s not just a good fit but the perfect match for your unique requirements.


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Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer
Neil C. Hughes
Senior Technology Writer

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with 20 years of experience in IT. He’s the host of the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast, picking up a LinkedIn Top Voice for his influential insights in tech. Apart from Techopedia, his work can be found on INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews. Neil's favorite things in life range from wandering the tech conference show floors from Arizona to Armenia to enjoying a 5-day digital detox at Glastonbury Festival and supporting Derby County.  He believes technology works best when it brings people together.