The digital ocean of the modern internet is full of dangerous sharks, pirates, and scary depths full of threats. Sometimes government-owned ships of censorship suddenly appear on the horizon to restrict you from accessing a certain region, now claimed to be “forbidden” in your country of origin.
At first sight, VPN seems to be the perfect solution for the many problems you encounter online: you can change your “flag” to avoid paying timezone-tied extra money for some goods or tickets. You can access the forbidden websites, use torrents safely, make yourself very hard to track, and your traffic almost impossible to decipher. Who wouldn’t want this in today’s turbulent times?
This is how some Internet users reason to themselves, before installing VPN at home or on gadget. They feel completely safe and do things online, thinking they are invisible and invincible now. When later on they suddenly realize that their data was compromised or they were tracked down, they look very surprised. Why? Didn’t I install the VPN, a magic shield against every online threat? Yes, you did. But probably you made some mistakes in the process. Let’s take a look at the most common ones.
You are using a free VPN, compromised VPN, or one that is not VPN at all. Remember: every VPN company needs to earn money to exist, and if they don’t charge you, they will earn their profit in some other way (if you don’t understand what the company is selling, they are probably selling your data). Some VPNs are hacked because of code vulnerabilities and then used to steal users’ data. And some programs that are disguised as VPN services (even in Google Play) are, in fact, malware.
Be very careful when choosing a VPN service for further use. Keep up with the news about hacks. It’s best to choose top-paid providers that have been verified as zero-logging. They won’t store any data on your activity, so they can’t be forced to hand it to The Man.
You can be tracked if you log in through social networks. There really is no point in using a VPN if you are logging in through Facebook or Google, identifying yourself. The same goes for cookies that can link you to your previous, before-VPN activity.
To add more layers to your invisibility, use Incognito mode and “burner” emails instead of social media accounts to log in while browsing. Use split tunneling to have two connections at the same time: the secure VPN connection and an open connection to the internet.
You didn’t check your settings while using VPN, and something went wrong. For example, “the kill switch” (automatic disconnection from the network if VPN drops out) can be disabled by default. So, you keep ‘using’ a VPN without actually connecting to it.
Always check the settings to make sure what your VPN can do and if it is turned on.
Some VPNs have specific problems with their architecture: for example, not connecting because of the length of the password, not reopening if the network has been disconnected, using a wrong router model when more than 2 concurrent VPN tunnels are required, etc.
Spend some time to google online guides about the specific problems of the VPN you chose and how they can be solved.
If you are not using VPN regularly, randomly turning it off and on, there’s almost no point in using it. However, if you are using a VPN at all times, there is a probability that you will show behavior patterns that can help identify you for third parties.
Make a system. Use a VPN only when you need to, for example, when connecting to public Wi-Fi, accessing your online banking app, or buying things online from a different time zone. But don’t leave your VPN enabled when you don’t really need it.
You should understand that while a VPN is an ideal tool for protection against many risks, it is not a universal magical cure. If the endpoint security is bad (for example, the website with your credentials and payment details is hacked), you can’t control it. But you can – and you totally should – control your online presence and activities. To have a VPN is better than not having one. Just use it wisely.