VPN companies spend millions on marketing their services, and a lot of them fuel some really outrageous, and outright dangerous misconceptions about VPN’s.
For those of you who have only ever heard the term VPN advertised in conjunction with buzz words like ‘privacy’ you need to understand one thing…The concept of Virtual Private Networks was first created as a tool for businesses to access their internal networks in various locations, and they are extremely useful for many business applications including remote working. But they weren’t designed with the intention of giving ordinary people ‘internet privacy’.
Why do I hate VPN providers?
Don’t get me wrong, VPN’s are extremely useful tools, but they aren’t all VPN providers claim to be. Let’s debunk a few claims VPN companies make:
Military Grade Encryption
Another fancy word for you. VPN companies throw this around like a trophy, but check the next website you visit, you see that padlock icon in the top right? That’s “Military Grade Encryption” but it’s in-fact free! Yes free! Now if you don’t see that padlock icon, you’re probably on a dodgy website, spoiler alert, if you enter any of your details on a phishing site your VPN subscription won’t be protecting you!
Some countries require internet providers to log traffic by law. This may sound fancy, but it could actually mean anything, what logs are they talking about? They could be referencing not logging a completely useless set of data, yet still be logging your browsing history.
A VPN does not make you untraceable, by any stretch of the imagination. If you do something highly illegal online, you will be found and charged.
Let’s talk about cost
VPN providers charge an enormous amount for the following amazing features:
- Slower internet speeds (this is the end of the line for features sorry)
Benefits of VPN’s
There are two major benefits of VPN’s.
The first being, the ability to pretend you are browsing from anywhere in the world and access georestricted content.
The second benefit is a bit more security focussed. When you browse online, unless the website has the little padlock SSL icon (which almost all sites have), anyone on your network can see the internet traffic between you and that website. This is completely fine for private networks that you manage, because you will most likely know who is on that network. However, if you are on a public network, attackers may be able to steal some of your personal information through various tactics.
Benefits != Reason to purchase a VPN
Both of the benefits listed above can be obtained for free, or incredibly cheap with a bit of online DIY.
The first problem can only be solved by creating your own VPN. To do this, you want to research OpenVPN, and then rent a VPS from one of the many server hosting providers out there (e.g Digital Ocean’s cheapest VPS is $5 a month, if you’re a student you can get $100 Digital Ocean credits = 20 months of a free VPS). Once you’re renting a VPN, you can then install an OpenVPN server on it. Read more here.
The second problem can be solved for absolutely nothing. Many home routers now have an option to host your own personal VPN, search your routers manual and follow the instructions to set this up.
Oh and by the way
VPN providers like to advertise the ability to hide your internet traffic from your ISP. Now here’s the issue with that…
Your ISP has no inherent reason to snoop on your internet traffic, because they have such a large amount of clients, and they probably don’t assume all of these clients are doing illegal things on the internet. Now, a VPN company on the other hand, has a very good reason to track you…Why are you using a VPN after all?
As Tom Scott said it in his video on VPN’s if a government wanted a quick, easy way to tap in to lots of suspicious individuals browsing habits, setting up a fake VPN provider would be an incredibly easy way to do it!
Thanks for reading.