In an increasingly connected world, digital contexts have come to acquire equal or even more relevance than physical contexts. After all, an Internet connection opens the door to things like social media, online games, and e-commerce too.

This migration to Internet services has also meant a big change in the way we, the users, use and purchase products. Before, for example, it was common to visit travel agencies to buy tour packages, while today there are a multitude of pages to search and buy the best offers for holiday seasons. 

As our consumption habits change, this has also meant an increase in the level of trust. In other words, we are more confident that important data such as our credit card number or our bank password are traveling safely over the Internet and without major risks. To achieve this, Today, in addition to secure protocols, programs known as VPNs have also grown in popularity. 

Let's explain a VPN

The abbreviation VPN comes from virtual private network, which in Spanish translates as virtual private network. This virtual network differs from the common Internet since it is of private access, which means that only a certain group of people or users can move through it. A VPN can, for example, change my IP address so that the pages I visit do not have access to that information. 

Typically, a VPN also has end-to-end encrypted traffic. In other words, absolutely all the information or data that is sent over the network will be encrypted to defend it from external attackers. A common example is on a public Wi-Fi network, where an attacker could easily access and intercept data packets from everyone connected; With a VPN, the attacker would not be able to see any important information.

A VPN essentially creates an encrypted tunnel of data traveling through private servers. In the case of some VPN provider companies, the number of these servers can be above 1.000, which also gives users a lot of versatility. "VPNs help us communicate with sites without being seen by anyone other than the VPN operator," explains Antonio Romero, Manager of Security Operations for North Latin America at Logicalis.

A VPN can help hide things like the history of pages visited, my IP address and physical location, devices and activity on the web - especially useful for avoiding cookies from third-party advertisements. Although this would suggest that VPNs can be used to carry out illegal activities, the truth is that their use is much more widespread, especially in the professional environment. But it is not necessary to clarify that if it were used for illegal purposes, the user could suffer the consequences that come to the case.

A VPN can be configured to access internal networks - such as in an office - from remote locations. In the same way, the ability to change IP sometimes works to access blocked content in other countries, such as to watch Colombian content from Netflix when we are outside the country.

True privacy does not exist

In recent years, a total of 142 million users in countries like the United States have used VPN. In the same way, it is estimated that there are up to 32 million VPN users daily. Much of this adoption has also been related to advertising campaigns, such as NordVPN and Surfshark, which often pay for ads on different YouTube channels.    

However, the truth is that a VPN does not guarantee total privacy either. “With the VPN I can have a level of security so that no one can see where I am connecting, not even my Internet provider. But another operator arrives, the VPN operator "Romero explains. This means that, in the example above, NordVPN can monitor all my traffic if I use their VPN service. “That VPN operator is going to have all my information, from where I am connecting and where not. So they are for each other and not many people understand that ", he emphasizes.

Even with this, having a VPN can be advantageous simply because of choice. In a country like Colombia, the Internet provider that is contracted is sometimes also the only one that offers service. A VPN, on the other hand, can be found online and selected based on criteria that are more or less important to the user.

Do you need a VPN?

With a growing connected world, it is also important to know whether or not it is worth hiring a VPN service. First of all, Antonio Romero, from Logicalis recommends having good habits when surfing the Internet. If we are buying or making transactions online, we must verify that the site we visit has a security and encryption certificate that protects the data. 

bankcolombia https
To the right of the address you can see the padlock. Image: Impacto TIC

The HTTPS protocol is already implemented in many of the websites that store our data. Any bank page, for example, should have this certificate and we can verify it by the padlock that appears next to the address I am visiting. Likewise, it is also advisable to take on the task of enabling two-factor authentication in our important accounts and reviewing open sessions on other devices. 

Even if the Internet is much safer today, there are also specific cases in which the use of a VPN is recommended, such as for frequent travelers or users using public Wi-Fi networks. Romero also recommends using a VPN from well-known companies or brands, and generally avoiding using free VPNs, which usually collect data that is later sold. 

The increased awareness of users towards their privacy has also brought a significant increase in the demand for VPN services. Like many other things, if an internet VPN deal sounds too good to be true, it is probably because it is not true or because it is not that good. VPNs are a powerful tool for our privacy, but it is key to understand that first we must improve our habits as browsers and consumers.

6 points to consider a VPN, according to Norton

  1. Do they respect your privacy? The goal of using a VPN is to increase privacy, and it is crucial that the VPN operator protects it as well. A good VPN provider should have a policy of no-log, which means that they do not store data or history. 
  2. Do you have a data limit? Some VPN providers have data limits, much like mobile internet plans. Although it would be preferable to have no data limit, it is better to check the fine print before buying. 
  3. Where are your servers located? In general, the closer the server is to my physical location, the faster the connection will be. In the case of Colombia, it is common to see servers in Brazil. 
  4. On how many devices can I use it? A good VPN provider offers clients for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and even Linux. An average consumer uses 3-5 devices, all of which may need a VPN connection.
  5. How much? Generally speaking, most free VPNs have quite a few shortcomings and privacy issues. There are reputable VPN promotions on the market with plans up to $ 30 per year. 

Some recommendations: Mullvad, ProtonVPN (has verfree session), mozilla-vpn, Surfshark

Source: Norton Internet Security

Main Image: privacy en Unsplash