VPN providers have never been as demanded as they are nowadays. Users need their service for many reasons. Some want to protect personal data from theft when they use an unprotected WiFi. Some want to keep their activity hidden from prying eyes. And some just want to access restricted content.
But before getting VPN and starting using it a lot of people have a crucial question – how safe is it to use? And the main concern is whether VPN is legal or not. In most places, it’s not forbidden to use such services. But countries with strict censorship (Iran, for example) would consider VPNs illegal.
So most of the times you can be sure you’re not breaking the law using this service. Moreover, you can use it pretty much for everything you want to do as long as your VPN provider offers decent protection for your private data.
What makes VPN secure?
VPN encrypts your data routing it to its servers first and only then to the destination point. Therefore, the site you’re visiting being connected to the virtual private network sees your VPN provider’s data, not yours.
That’s why others can’t identify the real traffic origin – your device. And since the initial data is hidden, your actions remain anonymous. And if you transfer any files, they are encrypted as well.
There are several protocols:
PPTP – a true veteran of VPN protocols. It is easy to set up on Windows since Microsoft created it. And it will work even on old computers. The downside is simple – it offers little to none security in the modern online world.
L2TP/IPsec – it’s a more advanced version of PPTP that uses encryption keys on each end of the traffic tunnel. Unfortunately, this protocol is not reliable enough today because technology got much more advanced since it was created. So you should avoid using this protocol.
SSTP – one more Microsoft protocol that uses SSL/TLS encryption which is considered standard these days. This kind of encryption means that the data can be decoded only by the parties involved in the transfer process. It is a secure protocol you can trust.
IKEv2 – it is an improved mix of previous Microsoft protocols. This one is considered one of the most secure.
OpenVPN – is the most popular protocol nowadays. Two factors cause its popularity. The first one is that it is highly secure, and the second one is that it is an open source project. It means that thousands of developers are always working on its improvement. Therefore, it is the most reliable protocol so far.
Usually, VPN providers would let you choose what protocol you want to use. Some of them give more security (IKEv2, OpenVPN) and some, such as L2TP/IPsec – more speed. Also, you should consider that not all devices support each protocol. For example, ones built by Microsoft can be used only on Windows computers. Apple users will face some limitations. And mobile users will have almost no choice.
Why VPN jurisdiction matters?
There are three surveillance alliances – Five Eyes, Nine Eyes, and Fourteen Eyes. They include certain countries. If a state is a member of such a union, its government has a right to gather personal data and share it with other members. Being watched by authorities is not something even a law-abiding user would want.
Therefore, VPN providers, located under the jurisdiction of the alliances, are usually not highly trusted by customers. They’re afraid the provider would give away the requested data to authorities. It may expose the user to the threat of being punished by the law.
If the members of the surveillance alliance request the needed information from VPN providers, the service can’t refuse to give away the data. But, it’s not that simple. Everything depends on the providers’ policy.
The customers are safe no matter where the service is based if it follows a strict no-logs policy and the provider doesn’t gather any user data. Because even if the authorities request any information, the provider has nothing to offer. Therefore, the VPN doesn’t break any laws, and its users remain anonymous and safe.
Although most VPN providers would say that they don’t gather and keep logs, the reality may differ. That’s why you should look for reviews of the provider you’re going to trust with your privacy. Make sure that it doesn’t gather any data. It’s important to do your research instead of believing what’s written on VPN’s website.
How to get the maximum possible anonymity using a VPN?
The provider you choose shouldn’t keep logs. We have discussed this matter above. But you should also consider that some providers gather the data that tells pretty much nothing about the user and can’t be utilized for the identification. Usually, that’s something about the performance of the app.
Another moment privacy-concerned users worry about is the payment process. Most of the times, your credit card would reveal at least your name. So if you want to remain completely anonymous, look for providers that accept PayPal, Bitcoin or prepaid debit cards. In this case, the only data you give is your email address.
The most advanced VPN providers use shared IP addresses. It means that several users from different locations will have the same IP address being connected to the VPN service. So, it is almost impossible to track the activity of one user and find out their real IP address.
Some providers would also offer a feature that will drive your data through not one but two VPN servers. Of course, it would slow the connection. But instead, you will get perfect protection since your traffic will get two different IP addresses assigned.
As you can see, VPNs are quite safe to use, if you choose a reputable provider. Therefore, you should invest some time in selecting the service that fits your needs and budget. Talking about money, sure, you can find secure and reliable free VPNs. But they will be quite limited and can suit only those who would use the service occasionally.