January 2019 David Chu
Whether you’re using a personal smartphone with private info, handling a business communications plan, or trying to stay safe and anonymous anywhere in the world, a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a game changer.
Although it’s simple enough to visit any VPN service and get connected, how fast can you get connected to the VPN? Do you know how secure the VPN actually is? Does the VPN come with any other security services?
Before venturing out into the world of mobile VPN services, here are a few features you consider.
Depending on what websites, servers, file services, or other web content you want to use, you may run into a variety of filters and firewalls.
This isn’t just about evading single-user bans or breaking into top secret security; one of the biggest reasons for the average user to pick up a VPN is to get around country content restrictions. Especially on platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, you may be blocked from some or all content simply from not living in the right country.
Some streaming sites have shows that are only licensed in specific markets. Because of the many laws in different countries controlling censorship, air times, costs, and many other confusing factors involved in delivering a series, it just makes more sense to sell media to a local provider or build a separate entity to manage that content on your own.
These separate, nationally-limited and often regulated entities have to make money, and they won’t make much money if someone overseas can snap up the series. When dealing with censorship, it’s more about making sure that the show passes legal tests before being show. Again, instead of a single production studio learning the laws of every country that has fans of their content, it’s easier to sell to a local provider who makes money.
In some situations, the show may never be released. Whether you don’t want to wait for a local release or if the show won’t air in your country because of legal restrictions, a VPN can help you get around access.
Streaming video isn’t the only limited content. Some websites may limit international traffic to keep down server operating costs by only accepting traffic that will likely bring in money in a timely fashion.
With a VPN, you can change your online appearance to something more friendly for the filters. By choosing an IP address and geolocation that fits what the filter allows, you can connect to sites that block based on national or regional settings.
Cookies and other web tracking techniques are commonplace. They’re helpful for websites when it comes to personalizing the site experience for visiting users, but they’re not necessary. Unfortunately, the costs far outweigh the benefits.
Those small conveniences on personalized websites and saved settings are nothing compared to being able track where you are in the world and what you’re doing on the internet.
While a basic proxy service can hide your actual location, your browsing habits can still say a lot about you. Someone who wants to watch your actions may look for any users who fit your traits, such as comparing all users against the websites, links, and resources you’ve visited according to tracking.
A clean web service can stop tracking while simultaneously hiding your actual location. This makes it harder to not only pin your location to a specific address, but figure out what you plan on doing on the web. It makes stalking harder, and it stops annoying companies from getting free information about your actions without your permission.
There’s nothing wrong with a bit of market research, but until businesses start asking you before performing any tracking, protect your privacy with a VPN.
How will you install your VPN? If it’s a desktop or a laptop that you use often, installation is as simple as running .exe files or the file that reads Setup. For mobile devices such as Android, Apple, or Windows smartphones and tablets, you may visit a play store or download an APK.
What if you don’t want to touch the internet at all until a VPN is already installed? What if you have secure files, a secure location, or other sensitive information that can’t risk even the smallest network exposure?
Make sure to have a VPN downloaded to a USB drive, SD card, or other removable storage that your devices can read. You don’t need to go as old school as CDs or DVDs, but if your device can read it and the media is big enough, you can download the information to it fairly easily.
For android devices, any download APK option needs to be done with added caution. Mobile device culture is–in some ways–a return to the wild west of the internet, but with a lot more bad actors and highly-competent opponents that can cause problems for people who are too relaxed with their devices.
There are a lot of fake APKs out there. This isn’t anything new for people who have run into their fair share of virus-ridden downloads, trojan files, or entirely fake downloads. Unfortunately, mobile devices have fewer interfaces and task-checking options when dealing with a stock device.
It’s part of the mobile device experience. All of that screen real estate is for entertainment; productivity, security, and maintenance are afterthoughts that the mobile industry doesn’t think the average user cares about.
Installing your own maintenance, diagnostic, and debugging tools isn’t difficult, but if you’re just looking for security and haven’t learned any advanced tech skills for your devices, staying safe on the shady parts of the internet can be hard. Instead, just make sure that you’re downloading any executable files from reputable, official sites.
In short, if it isn’t the original company’s website, stay away.
Once you have a VPN and other security systems in place, exploring the more adventurous parts of the internet will become a lot safer. If you’re interested in doing a bit more with your online time, contact a VPN expert to figure out what your VPN can do and how you can branch out your tech knowledge even further.
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