A virtual private network, a VPN, became the means to protect yourself and your personal information from hackers and data collectors. It is a gateway to an uncensored internet that allows enjoying any content all around the globe.
A VPN serves multiple purposes and is used in different situations, thus you might wonder – should you keep your VPN on all the time? Well, it depends on a certain situation we often encounter when browsing daily. Let’s take a look at real-life scenarios where you should leave a VPN always connected and where not.
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When you want to unblock geo-restricted content
It is known that some content is either censored or only available if you are a certain location. And those who travel or live in countries where internet censorship is common, even the world’s most popular apps or websites such as Facebook, Google or Instagram might be out of reach. Luckily, one of the primary uses of a VPN is to unblock the geo-restricted content you otherwise would not be able to access.
Without a VPN connection, you are limited to the content that is only available in the country you are currently based. If you want to browse freely without any geographical restrictions you should always keep your VPN on. It is, by far, the best and the most secure way to unblock content that is otherwise not accessible in your country.
What if you want to stream videos
Just like with blocked websites, some video content such as sports events, movies or TV shows on Netflix or Hulu can only be viewed in certain countries. Such geo-restriction of streaming content by streaming services is mostly implemented due to copyright laws that are country-specific. Even Youtube sometimes throws a message that the video is not available in your country – and to circumvent this requires a workaround.
A great solution to access all video content is to use a VPN and to keep it on all the time. You should be always connected while watching a video since streaming providers are IP sensitive, meaning they block access to their content based on your IP address. A VPN changes your IP address and makes you appear like you’re from another location than you actually are therefore it is important to leave it turned on during a stream. Disconnecting from a VPN might leak your true IP and location to the streaming service provider thus interrupting your stream.
For your notice, to fight illicit streaming Netflix and other providers actively block VPN connections. To keep your connection running uninterrupted all the time you need to find a reliable VPN that is capable to circumvent such restrictions and bypass VPN blocks.
When downloading files and using torrents
Sharing and downloading files using torrents or other P2P apps is sometimes considered illegal, especially in the US and some European countries. Many ISPs monitor their users’ internet activities and specifically try to detect torrenting and other P2P traffic. Once they inspect and figure out that you are download something that can violate the copyright laws you’re definitely at a huge risk of getting fined or getting that DMCA notice.
To protect yourself when torrenting it is recommended to use a VPN at all times. VPN would change your IP address, encrypt and hide your torrenting activities from an ISP so that you can stay safe and secure. P2P is the activity where a VPN should stay always on, since any data leak or IP leak when transferring files could result in trouble. In extreme cases, even your device could be confiscated (happened to my friend in Germany).
To prevent any IP address exposure it is also advisable to have a VPN Kill Switchon while torrenting. This VPN setting would prevent any internet traffic leaks that could happen due to unexpected VPN disconnects.
When browsing on a public WiFi
It often happens that you browse the internet on a public WiFi at cafes, airports, hotels and other guest-type networks. These public internet access points are the most dangerous and the risk of being snooped on is the highest. The security of public WiFi networks is often neglected which makes them an attractive medium to hackers and stalkers. To prevent your personal data or credentials from being stolen it is highly advisable to keep your VPN on all the time when browsing on public WiFi either with your laptop or a smartphone.
When surfing on a smartphone’s mobile data
There’s one thing you need to know when browsing on mobile networks with a VPN turned on – it increases your mobile data consumption. As a VPN uses strong encryption it creates a data overhead that actually counts towards your mobile plan’s data cap.
Using a VPN all the time on either Android or iOS devices would reach the data limit faster, therefore it is not recommended to keep a VPN on all the time when just regularly browsing. However, take into account that without a VPN your cellular connections are not private anymore and your data provider can see where you connect. Even though a VPN has a bit of data overhead you should consider turning it on whenever you are concerned about privacy or making online payments.
It’s always good to use a WiFi connection on your smartphone, this way you don’t need to worry about running out of mobile data and also get the benefits of protecting your private information when on a VPN.
Paying money online or using internet banking
Paying money online or connecting to your internet banking account? – you never know if your internet connection is being monitored, especially when you do it on an unknown or public network. Your private data such as credit card numbers, PayPal information, or banking codes could leak and be captured by eavesdroppers if that happens to be the case.
Every time you shop online and enter any of your payment information you should always connect to a VPN first. Using a VPN when purchasing goods online is the best way to ensure that payment processing is secured all the time.
Not only security comes as a benefit when shopping online with a VPN. Changing your location could also save you money on flights and other purchases. Many airlines and retail companies have different pricing based on your location. The same flight could cost you way less if you buy it when connected to another country.
When experiencing slow internet speeds and ISP throttles you
If you experience slow internet speeds, especially when using specific applications or when accessing certain services, that means your ISP throttles your connection. It does that by monitoring your internet traffic and once a connection to a specific website is detected it reduces the bandwidth. It is common to throttle torrenting or streaming services since such traffic usually consumes the most bandwidth. Using a VPN would encrypt and hide your activities from your ISP making it impossible to distinguish where you connect this way preventing you from being throttled. It’s ok to stay connected to a server for a better browsing experience and increased speeds.
When you are generally concerned about privacy
When it comes to online browsing you need to know that everything you do is visible for your internet service provider or government, sometimes even to third parties. Your private data and behavior patterns can be exposed just by looking at what you do online, and if you’re concerned about your privacy, luckily connecting to a VPN would hide all that. If your own privacy to you is important and you want to hide what you do online – by all means, you should keep your VPN on all the time.
When connecting to a business or personal network
When dealing with confidential information or connecting to a business account a secure connection is necessary. Some companies might have set up their own VPN servers for such access, some might not have it, but in any case, you should always use a VPN when logging into a business account or exchanging any sensitive information.
There some real-world situations that can be encountered daily, but not all of them require to keep a VPN always on. If you are concerned about privacy, using public-wifis, torrenting or paying online you should definitely use it as much as you can, however, if just regularly browsing on mobile data keeping a VPN on would not be a good idea in such case. In the end, it is what you are concerned about the most and in what situation you are currently are.
CyberWaters is a mixed crew of cyber security enthusiasts with a keen interested in data privacy, security and technology behind it. We provide cyber security related content and give advise on best practices and tools how to stay safe and secure online.