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The top reasons to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

The top reasons to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Right off the top I am not an internet expert, I use the internet to blog, for Facebook, to Skype, and conduct all of my business when I am travelling. That means internet banking, money transfers, and buying goods and services over the internet.

I first started looking at virtual private networks (VPN) to get around Skype being blocked in Belize.  When I started my research into Virtual Private networks I discovered there are many compelling reasons to use a VPN service

Before we start ~ What the hell is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is technology that creates a secure network connection over the Internet. A vpn basically creates an encrypted information tunnel which means that no prying eyes can see your information.

There are 4 compelling reasons to use a VPN when travelling:

Reason Number 1 ~ Public Wifi Security

Everyone knows that public WiFi hotspots are not secure. With out encryption entering your credit card number on a public WiFi is equivalent to broadcasting your information over the radio.

There is software readily available on the internet that allows anybody to collect other peoples information from public wifi. Faceniff, Firesheep, and Wireshark are a few examples.

How well do you know the person in the hotel room down the hall? Again they could be collecting your information!

By using a vpn you can secure your wireless internet connection. Because your data connection is encrypted, there are no gaps in your protection. This means that if somebody  does access your data in a wifi hotspot, they will not be able to read the data. It will look like Egyptian cryptographs.

Reason Number 2 ~ Prevent Identity Theft

Data theft can occurs when somebody wiretaps or eavesdrops on your internet connection (both wired and wireless connections). Again there is free software on the internet that allows anybody with rudimentary computer skills to access to your network data using Wireshark. By using a VPN your data is encrypted and therefore unreadable.

Reason Number 3 ~ Uncensored Access to the Internet

This is the reason I first started looking at using an VPN. When I was in Belize I was unable to use Skype because the Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL)  has a monopoly on Internet Service Provision.  BTL is effectively blocking Skype users in Belize to force them to use their phone system. I had an issue with this and would rather pay a vpn service to bypass this censorship rather than pay BTL for using their phone system. There are also some minor annoyances like US websites not being available in countries like Belize and Canada.  By using a VPN tunnel my IP address appears to be in the US (or any other part of the world) effectively bypassing this censorship.

Reason Number 4 ~ Internet Privacy (IP masking )

First of all what is an IP address?

An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is equivalent to a phone number for your computer when it is hooked up to the internet.  This “phone number” identifies our computer as well as its location.

Many websites are watching your every move and mining data (read Google, Facebook etc..). Browsing the internet is really not all that private. The other scary thing is governments such as the United Kingdom and the US are considering  enacting “Big Brother ” legislation that would allow them to monitor their citizens’ internet connections. These laws would force internet service providers to log users internet activity, including every website they visit.

By using a VPN your IP address is masked thus stopping tracking software. Many good VPN service providers such as Private Internet Access do not keep data Logs on their clients.

Its a scary world out there  – play safe!

About the author: Apparently born under a wandering star, Michael spent hours as a kid poring over maps, atlases and plotting where he wanted to travel when he grew up. Sadly Engineering school got in the way….. “it takes 5 years to complete and a lot longer to get over”. He still considers himself a “recovering” Professional Engineer. He escaped the rat race at 44 and now pursues his passions for travel, photography, Tai chi, scuba diving, cooking and sampling the world’s wines. Michael is also… Fiercely independent, a bit of a rebel, is on a self-imposed media diet & married to an incredible lady.

4 comments… add one
  • Anonymous

    Thanks Michael. I have considered a VPN while in China, but hadn’t really thought of all the reasons to get one. Mostly concerned about access to facebook, twitter and some websites. The identity theft issues are actually much more important, so your article has convinced me to research various providers and options.
    Wishing you and Yvonne a very Happy New Year!
    Cheers,
    Ron

    • Michael Bauche

      Ron

      Have a Happy prosperous New Year as well!

      Michael & Yvonne

  • Mustapha

    Hi Michael & Yvonne,
    Happy New Year to you both. I wish you both safe travel as you continue to explore the globe.
    Michael, this is a good post and a reminder of my plans to deploy my own VPN at home. I use VPN for work but have always thought of deploying on at home so I can tunnel in when i am away from the house. Like you stated, it could also serve me when I am in as country like Belize. Thanks for the article again.

    Have you being doing any speaking? Wishing you both the very best for the New Year.

    Mustapha

    • Michael Bauche

      Mustapha

      Happy New Year to you as well! Thank you for the feedback on the article, it is much appreciated.

      Yvonne and I have not been doing any speaking recently. Toastmasters clubs are very few and far between in Central America. We will need to find alternate venues to share our stories. For now we are writing about them.

      Hope 2013 is an absolutely fantastic year for you. Take care and keep in touch.

      Fondest regards,

      Michael & Yvonne

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