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Can VPNs make you secure from prying eyes?

Can VPNs make you secure
If you're using public Wi-Fi, you're vulnerable to attack
This article is sponsored by F-Secure. Sponsored articles are written by The Big Tech Question editors and approved by the company before publication.

VPNs – virtual private networks – have exploded in popularity over the past year, and for good reason. In the wake of scandal after scandal, we’re all becoming more aware about the data we’re leaking online. The question is, can VPNs keep you safe from those who want your data?

Why are you vulnerable?

can vpns make you secure
Unfortunately, real hackers tend not to put stickers on their laptops

People tend to connect to the internet in three different ways. One, at home. Two, at work. Three, through public Wi-Fi in places such as cafés.

At home, you should be protected by default. Most modern routers (as supplied by your broadband provider) will use encryption that’s almost impossible to hack. It’s a similar story at work.

When you’re on public Wi-Fi, though, you’re at risk. The first thing to check is that you’re using a trusted supplier. A network called “Free Wi-Fi” may sound tempting, but it could be a temporary network set up purely to grab your information. If you’re unsure, check with the café manager to make sure you’re connected to the right network.

But even this doesn’t guarantee your safety. If you can access a public network, so can a hacker. That makes it possible for them to “listen in” to your traffic.

Why does that matter? If all you’re doing is checking the weather, it probably doesn’t (except for the location data you’re leaking). But if you’re using a site that isn’t encrypted then the hacker will be able to see all the data transmitted. Including some details you may prefer to keep private.

How VPNs work

When you connect to a public network (as in our coffee shop example), the network provider – and a hacker – can see every piece of data you transmit. The idea of a VPN is that it creates a tunnel from your computer to the supplier of the VPN.

In doing so, you create a wall that no one can break through. It’s as if you were sitting at home or work.

That has a natural corollary: you need to trust your VPN provider. In times gone past, this would have been the company you worked for (VPNs started life in big enterprises, where there was an obvious need to keep employees directly connected to the office network).

These days, the VPN provider could be anyone. There are plenty of reputable companies out there, but you should do your research before choosing a VPN.

That’s one reason to choose F-Secure. The company explicitly states that it does not log your traffic, and with a reputation for protecting people that stretches over 30 years you can take it at its word.

What are the benefits of a VPN?

The key benefit of a VPN is that it hides your identity. At the press of one button, you essentially disappear from the view of your internet service provider and anyone else trying to spy on your activity.

But there are other benefits. Let’s say you’re out and about and want to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot without risking the security of your device. These hotspots are an easy target for hackers looking to steal login credentials, banking details or other personal information. If you have a VPN, at the touch of a button your device is secured and you can browse to your heart’s content.

Also note that VPNs aren’t restricted to laptops. F-Secure provides its tool for Windows PCs, for Macs, for iPhones and iPads, and for Android phones and tablets.

Why choose F-Secure?

F-Secure has a dedicated VPN service it calls FREEDOME VPN. You can buy this separately – click on the image below to be taken to the page – but it’s also bundled as part of the company’s TOTAL package.

Note you can also benefit from a flash sale – for five days only, from 27 February to 3 March – where you can buy F-Secure FREEDOME for half price. Click here.

F-Secure Freedome VPN

Quite aside from being a well-known company with a proven reputation, F-Secure provides an unlimited data plan.

Many providers will offer a certain amount of protection as part of a package, and then charge a fixed fee per extra megabyte. This has two drawbacks: first, you don’t know what the monthly bill is going to be, but secondly it discourages you from switching the VPN all the time.

F-Secure also includes a couple of extra interesting features. Switch on its VPN and it will check which companies are tracking your every move. As F-Secure states: “Useful tracking makes your web experience smoother, but the intrusive kind violates your privacy while eating up your bandwidth.”

Can VPNs make you secure
The easiest way to jump from continent to continent…

Another benefit? The precision with which you can choose your location. For instance, F-Secure FREEDOME has nine locations in America, three in Asia, 16 in Europe and one in Australia too.

READ NEXT How do you set time limits on your child’s phone, laptop and tablet?

About the author

Tim Danton

Tim Danton is editor-in-chief of PC Pro magazine and has written about technology since 1999. He enjoys playing with gadgets, playing with words and playing tennis. Email tim@bigtechquestion.com

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