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How to Choose the Best VPN

Why Use a VPN?

Why would someone use a VPN? If you’re looking to enhance your online privacy, a VPN can help by:

Below, we dive into five of the most common use cases for using a VPN:

Using a VPN for Travel

If you’re a frequent traveler, there are lots of reasons to try a VPN.

A VPN enhances your online security by encrypting your internet connection, which is particularly useful on public Wi-Fi networks found in airports, hotels, and cafes. This encryption helps protect your personal information from cyber threats and maintains your digital privacy regardless of your location. VPNs also ensure you remain connected to your usual services securely, without compromising your data’s safety.

If you’re traveling someplace with stringent regulations or widespread network vulnerabilities, a VPN can help you avoid surveillance and data theft.

Using a VPN on Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is convenient, but there are inherent privacy risks to connecting to insecure networks that a VPN can help you avoid. For example, cybercriminals can use public connections to intercept sensitive information, like your passwords and banking details.

VPNs make public Wi-Fi safer to use, encrypting your data to protect it from hackers and other bad actors.

Using a VPN for Streaming

Do you notice your internet connection slowing down when you’re gaming or streaming video content?

Some ISPs ‘throttle’ or ‘shape’ their customers’ connections based on the time of day, type of activity, and more. Using a VPN for streaming or gaming can help you get around these limitations.

Using a VPN While Shopping or Browsing the Web

VPNs are also useful for day-to-day tasks like online shopping. Securing your connection with a VPN helps protect your credit card number, billing address, and other sensitive data from bad actors.

Some companies, like airlines, adjust their prices based on customers’ locations and browsing activity. By hiding that information, VPNs may help you find better deals on certain products and services.

Finally, because they keep your online activity anonymous, VPNs can prevent advertisers from serving you targeted ads based on your browsing history. If you’re looking for even more protection from invasive advertising, the DuckDuckGo browser blocks the 3rd-party trackers behind targeted ads before they even load. Get it for iPhone, Android, Windows, and Mac.

Using a VPN When Seeking Anonymity

Looking to keep your online identity under wraps? A VPN can help with that. By masking your IP address and encrypting your internet connection, a VPN keeps your browsing, shopping, and chat histories private.

This is crucial if your goal is to avoid tracking by websites, ISPs, and nosy third parties. Whether you’re researching sensitive topics or just value your privacy, a VPN offers the anonymity you need to stay off the radar.

Pros and Cons of VPN Usage

As you’re considering which VPN is right for you, it’s important to consider both the pros and the cons.

While a VPN from a trusted provider can keep you more private and secure by encrypting your internet connection and hiding your IP address, some low-quality VPNs actually pose more of a privacy risk than the protection they claim to offer.

In addition, using a VPN can slow down your internet speed. Choosing a VPN that uses tested protocols with higher quality server hardware, like WireGuard, will help minimize speed decreases by comparison.

Below we’ve outlined some of the more common VPN benefits and potential drawbacks.

Benefits of VPN Usage

A good VPN can do a lot for you. VPNs create a secure, encrypted “tunnel” for all your internet traffic, masking your IP address, obscuring your physical location, and preventing outsiders from intercepting your data in transit.

VPNs make it safer to use public Wi-Fi if you’re away from home. When online banking, VPNs help secure your sensitive financial information. Shopping for airline tickets? A VPN might even save you money. VPNs also stop your internet service provider (ISP) from tracking you or slowing down your connection speed based on used bandwidth.

Potential VPN Disadvantages

There are potential downsides to using a VPN, especially if it’s not from a reputable provider. Some VPNs may slow down your internet connection, others may have a very limited data allowance, or they might not be compatible with all types of devices, apps, or sites.

Some VPNs can also pose privacy concerns. For example, if your VPN provider isn’t transparent about their logging practices, they may be gathering your data and selling it to third parties behind the scenes. Even if they claim that the data is anonymized, it’s worth considering a VPN provider with a clear “no-logging” policy instead, which helps avoid any unexpected privacy violations.

VPN FAQ: Answering Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about VPNs.

What does VPN stand for?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, a technology that creates a secure, encrypted connection over a less secure network, typically the wider internet.

Can my ISP see what sites I visit with VPN services on?

The short answer is, no. When you use a VPN, your ISP only sees encrypted data flowing between your device and your VPN server. They can’t see the specific websites you’re visiting. This also cloaks your internet footprint from bad actors, online tracking, and more.

However, if your DNS settings are configured to default to your ISP’s DNS resolvers, a VPN won’t protect you from your ISP. Most VPNs route DNS queries through the VPN tunnel to their own DNS resolvers, which provides an additional layer of protection from ISP tracking.

Be on the lookout for this distinction when selecting the best VPN for your needs. For a deeper dive into DNS settings, check out this guide from Cloudflare.

How secure is a VPN really?

The level of security provided by a VPN depends on its encryption protocols and its operational policies. The most secure VPNs implement robust encryption techniques and uphold stringent no-logging policies, offering virtually fortress-like security for your digital footprint.

What is a remote access VPN?

A remote access VPN lets users securely connect to a private network from a remote location. This type of VPN is generally used by businesses, rather than individuals. For example, some remote access VPNs allow employees to securely access company resources from outside the office.

Will using a VPN slow down my Internet speeds?

All VPN usage will likely result in some reduction in speed. The best VPN providers will use protocols that minimize speed decreases, such as WireGuard (used in the DuckDuckGo VPN). Additionally, a VPN provider that uses higher-quality server hardware can support more overall bandwidth.

What is a double VPN?

Double VPNs route your internet traffic through two VPN servers, instead of one. This adds an extra layer of encryption and makes your activity even harder to trace, typically at the detriment of browsing speed.

How do I choose a browser VPN?

When picking a VPN, you can sign up for a standalone service, typically accessed through an app, or you can choose a browser that has a VPN built right in, removing the need for an extra app.

(The DuckDuckGo VPN works this way; sign up for DuckDuckGo Privacy Pro through our browser and get full coverage for up to five devices at once.)

The ideal browser VPN won’t interfere with your browsing experience. It should be seamlessly integrated and easy to use. Browser VPNs and standalone VPNs work in almost the same way, so you’ll want to evaluate a browser VPN with the same criteria in mind: speed, privacy and security, server locations, price, and so on.

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