VPN - Protect yourself when using the internet

Hacker protection of personal information

VPN - Protect yourself when using the internet
Mathias Ditlev
March 16, 2017

VPN is an abbreviation for "Virtual Private Network" and it is used, among other things, to protect your identity online. It is a highly effective way to protect your connection, as a VPN connection is so strongly encrypted that it is virtually impossible to break from the outside.

A secure internet connection - what does it mean?

Many people don't realise that their online lives are actually open to anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about intercepting information. And even if you have nothing to hide, it can be an advantage to be able to protect yourself from that kind of interest.

At the mild end, you can find things like Facebook. Many people will have noticed that as soon as you've gone to a page to look at shoes or books or something, it's as if Facebook can read your mind, and thus display adverts for that particular item.

While this may not seem particularly threatening, it does give an idea of what the web is capable of when it comes to intercepting and passing on information.

At the more serious end are the extremely violent ransomware attacks on both companies and individuals. Ransomeware attacks are attacks by hackers who, by intercepting your IP address, gain access to your computer, allowing them to install software that encrypts your data and makes it unreadable to you, whereupon they will charge you money to get your data back. The problem is that in many cases you never get your data back and have wasted a lot of money on nothing.

These hackers can intercept your IP address almost anywhere you go on the web, if you are not protected or the sites you visit are not. This is one of the things a VPN connection can prevent.

Should I use a VPN connection?

The need for a VPN connection is of course individual. If you use the web mostly to look up information and not much else, you may be fine with antivirus and firewall protection.

The moment you start using personal details, such as credit card, phone number and so on, that's when security should be increased.

It is said that there is an attack on private computers every 10 seconds, according to Kaspersky Lab, which is a Russian IT security company, and it is quite violent. It's one of those things you could pretty much avoid by using a VPN, because the VPN connection hides your identity, meaning your IP address, and that makes you anonymous online.

It's a bit like choosing to have a secret number for your phone. It hides you and your online activities, and prevents others from 'following you home', exposing you and your data to the real danger posed by cyber criminals today.

How does a VPN connection work?

You can imagine that you connect your computer via a USB cable to another computer and transfer information that way, while both your wi-fi connection and possibly bluetooth connection are interrupted. This means that no one but the two computers connected by the cable can use the connection. So you can be absolutely sure that no one else can see what one computer is sending to the other.

The connection between the two computers is similar to using a VPN application (or app) to connect to a VPN provider. Your computer then creates a virtual tunnel to the provider's network. This tunnel is heavily encrypted, which means that the data you send is rewritten to make it virtually unreadable and therefore useless to unauthorised parties. This makes it impossible to trace your data back to its origin.

VPN encryption is so strong that even the military and international intelligence agencies use it to secure their data in the best possible way.

In theory, the starting point for your online activity is moved from your computer to the VPN provider's server. So if someone intercepts the IP address you're using, it's the VPN server's IP address they'll get and never yours. So if you connect to a server in the US and are physically in Denmark, it looks like you're logged on to the web in the US.

Payment card

Do you have to pay for VPN?

You can get free VPN connections, but they usually come with a limit on how much data you can download and send. And if you value your online security and anonymity, it's definitely a good idea to choose a VPN. That's why it might be a good idea to try one of the free solutions first to see how it works in practice.

And once you get used to the increased security a VPN connection gives you, you'll probably be open to paying for it.

And then there's the detail that free VPNs might not be so secure.

Some providers offer a free version with restrictions to give you, as a potential customer, a taste, but you should be careful with providers who promise free connections.

It could be something as innocent as displaying ads on their site, but it could also be that they're passing on information about your online movements, which is exactly what you want to avoid with a VPN. That's why a paid connection is preferable.

There are good reasons to pay for a VPN service, and it doesn't have to be expensive.


What do you use a VPN connection for besides protection?

A popular way to use a VPN connection is to access region-specific data. For example, there are certain videos you can't access because they're restricted to, say, the US due to copyright and such. If you use a VPN, you can log on to a server in the US, which then gives the impression that you are accessing the video from the US, and you can watch it. The same goes for Netflix in the US, for example, which has a much wider selection than in Denmark.

A VPN connection allows you to surf the web anonymously and without censorship. Whatever your approach to avoiding interference in your internet habits, a VPN is a good solution.

If you use your laptop in hotels or online cafes, a VPN connection is also a good idea as it protects you and your data from unauthorised interference. If you use a public Wi-Fi connection and log on to a VPN connection, you're also secure.

A VPN can also be used if you are using a restricted network, for example at work or at a school. By logging into the VPN connection, you can access the entire network without censorship.

Essentially, using a VPN helps to secure your privacy and data. Protecting your identity is a hot topic these days, as hackers can use WiFi connections to intercept passwords, online banking information and other sensitive information about you and your life that you may not want to share with people who will use this against you.

What does it take to set up a VPN connection?

Most serious VPN providers have apps that are easy to use. You simply download the application, either before or after paying for it, install it on your computer and log on to the web. Some apps allow you to log in automatically the next time you turn on your computer. It's a matter of taste whether you want it on all the time or only when you're surfing the web.

All in all, if you value your anonymity and security online, you should choose a VPN. You might get rejected on some sites if they discover you're using a VPN connection, but then you might also wonder if you want to go to such a site in the first place if they insist on knowing who you are. After all, it should be up to you whether you want to identify yourself or not.

So choose a VPN for your own safety. Then you can surf in peace.