I feel like there are many misconceptions about VPN’s. A lot of people blindly believe that VPN’s will protect their privacy, but this may not be the case…
This topic is a first, of hopefully many discussion posts I will be uploading to this site. I really want to do something with this website, other than just using it as a portfolio. I have noticed that I can get really in to certain areas and topics, and do a lot of research in to things I am interested in. But I never talk about it! Let’s change that with this blog/discussion section.
Right, let’s get in to VPN’s!
Many VPN providers make huge claims, and some may fool people. Claims like “Military grade encryption” can deceive the pubic in to thinking they are paying for an ‘add on’ to their internet, when in-fact, they already get military grade encryption on most sites, for free!
Before I go in to a list of reasons why I hate VPN’s, let’s talk about what they are. The Virtual Private Network protocol, allows for computers to communicate with each other over the internet, as though they are in a LAN configuration. Many companies use the VPN protocol to allow their employee’s to connect to their network and work from anywhere in the world. VPN’s can be used for many things, and the ploy of them making your internet ‘private’ has lead to some companies commercialising VPN’s, by offering them to often uneducated consumers, who are scared in to thinking they need to buy a VPN subscription, which essentially hides their traffic from their ISP’s and routes it through VPN servers.
Now, on to why I hate VPN providers…
- VPN Pricing
- My first issue with VPN’s has to be the pricing of them. Many companies will offer a monthly flexible subscription and a cheaper yearly subscription. This is the same for VPN’s, however at considerably higher rates. Some VPN providers will charge 10 pounds monthly, or 60 pounds for a year. This tricks many people in to buying a VPN for a year, that they probably wont use that long.
- Slower internet speed
- VPN’s are slow! Rather than your traffic going through your ISP to the site you are connecting to, when using a VPN, your traffic is all routed through a VPN server before the final destination – no VPN’s don’t teleport your data past your ISP. If your ISP is providing 200 M/bits down, you can reasonably expect to be getting a quarter of this with a higher ping, whilst using a VPN. So you’re paying your ISP for a high speed service, and then downgrading this by paying more to a VPN provider.
- VPN’s are untrustworthy!
- One of my major, major issues with VPN providers is their emphasis on ‘hiding data’ from your ISP. This is true. When using a VPN, your data is encrypted between you and the VPN server, so your ISP cannot see your browsing history etc. But this is bad! Your ISP will have millions of users, and they can’t exactly filter out the bad guys from the good guys, so chances are, they will turn a blind eye to your browsing history. A VPN provider on the other hand, they know you have something to hide, after all, why would you sign up otherwise? In essence, a VPN provider has a greater incentive to snoop on your traffic and data. So your data is most likely less private with the people advertising you greater privacy! Just like Tom Scott (link) mentioned in a video on VPN’s, if a government agency wanted to route a bunch of suspicious users traffic through a single chokepoint, creating a fake VPN company would be a great way to do this!
- False sense of security
- Some people think that a VPN will protect you from the Police. But rest assured, if you do something illegal online, VPN or not, chances are, the police know who you are, and what you’re doing.
- “No logs” Claim
- Many VPN’s claim to not log your activity. But what aren’t they logging? They may not be logging the domains you visit, but what about the IP’s? When a VPN claims they don’t store logs, you should think really carefully about what they mean by this, because they could just be talking about a specific type of log. Regardless of claims, for a short time VPN’s are required to log your interactions with the wider internet, as they need to know who to direct traffic back to. In some countries, it may be required by law for services to log your web traffic…Do you think a VPN provider is going to risk breaking the law, or break a promise to their customers? I think the latter.
- “Military Grade Encryption” Claim
- Potentially the most enraging for me, is the VPN’s that claim to have some mental AES Military Grade encryption. This isn’t unique though! All major, or at least known sites that require you to log in or enter sensitive data, have this encryption for free! If a site has a padlock in the top left of your browser, your traffic is encrypted. A VPN’s encryption only applies between your computer and the VPN server as well, so the ONLY party that this encryption is protecting you from, is your ISP, which is a bit pathetic as explained in my earlier points.
- “Hide your IP”
- Sure, a VPN will hide your IP. But this doesn’t instantly make you anonymous. As mentioned earlier, if you do something you shouldn’t do, you are probably traceable.
- “Bypass geolocation restrictions” Claim
- Possibly the only good use of a VPN is the ability to pretend you are browsing from a different country, hence enabling you to log in to services only available in certain countries. But companies aren’t stupid, they know when you are using a VPN. The IP addresses of big VPN providers and even dedicated server hosts are logged by most companies such as Netflix, so if anything, you are probably more restricted when using a VPN, as services you can usually access, will detect you are using a VPN and block you.
Ok. VPN’s can be good…
Right. I have painted a negative picture of VPN subscription services so far. However, setting up your own VPN can be really good. For example:
- Setting up a VPN on your home router
- Many routers allow for you to create a VPN server in your house. This can be especially good as it is free to host for you, and allows for you to access your home network from anywhere in the world – maybe useful if you have a storage device you may want to access.
!! Public Networks !!
Now, sometimes a VPN subscription can be really good…On all public networks data sent between websites will be encrypted if you see a padlock in the top left of your browser, so no one can see this data. However people on the network will still be able to see the sites you have visited, as IP’s of the websites you visit will be stored for the purpose of directing traffic to the right place. So if you are on ANY network that is not your homes, a VPN can be useful as the only IP the network owner can see you connecting to would be that of the VPN’s server, and not of the sites you are visiting.
Also, on public networks it may be possible for people to redirect your traffic to fake websites. For example, when you type in “facebook.co.uk”, your computer contacts DNS servers to get the IP of the server hosting the facebook website, so you can connect and view the website. In the case of any untrusted WiFi or network provider however, hackers can make it seem as though you are connected to the legitimate ‘facebook.co.uk’ severs but in actuality you may be connected to a fake Facebook clone site, that is trying to get your login details. You can read more on this process here (DNS Spoofing).
Cut the costs. Make your own VPN!
Ok, I get it. Now you know I hate VPN providers. But you also know I understand the benefits of the VPN protocol. So, I strongly recommend making your own VPN to get around all of the issues listed above.
- Host a VPN at home using your router
- Possibly the simplest method of creating a VPN. Just look at your routers manual and search for anything mentioning VPN, then follow the instructions to set it up.
- Host a VPN at home using a RaspberryPi
- Router doesn’t support a VPN? That’s fine! You can easily host a VPN server on a 30 pound RaspberryPi at home. Follow these instructions to get it working. Be careful though, if you don’t know what you are doing, you may be exposing your home network to potential hackers!
- Host a VPN online using a VPS
- Don’t want to potentially expose your home network? Want to browse from a different location? You should probably buy a VPS plan. VPS’ plans allow you to host a linux based operating system in the cloud, this is much cheaper than buying a VPN subscription as in this instance you will set up the VPN yourself. I suggest you check out this guide.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I have enjoyed writing it! This is my first post and I expect to be referring it to people who are more susceptible to the marketing ploys of VPN subscriptions. I aim to make this website a place for everyone to discuss their viewpoints on different issues, and having done much research on VPN’s in my spare time, I am very passionate about protecting people from absurd prices for VPN plans, so it has been incredibly fun and relieving to write this as my first post.
I would like to note at this point, that whilst I plan on running ads on this site in the future, at the time of posting this I am getting no monetary value for this post. All links in this post are direct, and are not affiliate links. If you wish to help me out and show your support, please follow me on Quora or leave a comment.
Thanks for reading, Jack.