What is a VPN used for?
The bottom line is simple: People don’t want other people watching what they’re doing online, even if they’re not doing anything wrong.
A VPN (a virtual private network) is an internet security subscription that allows you to make up your own internet rules. It acts as a bodyguard between you and your internet service provider (and hackers, and other third-party weirdos) by hollowing out a personal anonymity tunnel through which you perform all of your internet activities. A VPN’s job is to plug the holes that could be making your data vulnerable to nefarious eyeballs, like creeps scouring public WiFi networks for personal information that could be used to steal your identity. VPNs are as wise of a precaution as antivirus software or a password manager (yes, this applies to Macs too).
Hackers love free WiFi for the same reason you do:
Connecting to the internet requires no authentication. That network is littered with unsecured devices, many times belonging to working professionals with bank accounts and business credentials that have phishers frothing at the mouth.
Often, the easiest thing for hackers to do is slide in between your device and the connection point. This Man-in-the-Middle situation is like eavesdropping, but on emails, credit card info, and work logins. Other hackers use public WiFi to unleash malware on all of the suckers using the network without protection.
Many folks avoid the public WiFi risk by recruiting their phone’s hotspot. But on the flip side, cellular data limits might be an issue — setting up a situation where both a laptop and phone need VPN protection. Many Reddit users suggest using something like EasyTether to share the VPN connection. Just download and enable a proxy app on your phone, configure it on your laptop, and you can enjoy a sort of reverse hotspot VPN-style.
The best vpn for torrenting reddit also provide a way for people to get around internet roadblocks and censors. These can be location-based or around blocks to certain websites set by, say, your school.
Does a VPN help with streaming?
Unblocking streaming services is probably the most universally useful feature of VPNs, even for casual internet users who don’t think twice about eyes on their browsing habits.
What Redditors care most about in a VPN
The specs that Reddit users care about in a VPN are easy to tally when the same ones (or multiple people bitching about the lack of the same feature) pop up in countless subreddits throughout the year. If you’re not feeling hardcore enough to build your VPN as some users suggest, here are the frequently-mentioned points that Reddit suggests to look for:
- Streaming dependability is a given
Tons of people want a VPN solely to watch content from other countries, so a VPN’s ability to fake out geoblocks and get around a streaming site’s VPN blocks is crucial. (If you, in the U.S. want to watch a show that’s only available in France, you’d want to pick a VPN with a plethora of servers in France.) The speed at which that content streams matters, too (a fast VPN should be able to upscale to HD without lag).
Connection speed and location spoofing are dependent on the number of servers and where they’re located — more servers mean fewer people hogging a single server’s capacity, and various locations mean more streaming libraries from around the world. (Free VPNs typically don’t have the funds to support as robust of a menu of servers.)
For obvious reasons, most big streaming services aren’t psyched about the idea of VPN usage and will probably mention it in their terms and conditions. If they happen to sniff out your VPN-ridden IP address, you’re not necessarily screwed. The most likely repercussions would be the inability to access the streaming platform (even if it just worked the day before), but there have been instances of steaming services terminating subscriptions associated with spoofing.
- Split Tunneling
can aid with traffic jams as well. VPNs that support split tunneling let you route some of your traffic through the encrypted VPN tunnel while bouncing other traffic over the internet directly. One might choose to separate less demanding but high-security activities like web browsing from high-bandwidth but low-security activities like streaming or playing video games. Advantages include reduced traffic on corporate networks, better speeds, provide best endpoint security solutions and reduced latency for the chosen tasks, and more customized privacy. If you’re looking to tunnel to specific apps, look for an SSL VPN.
- No DNS Leaking
is a good test of a VPN’s trustworthiness. Think of a DNS (Domain Name Service) as the internet’s phonebook: It’s the service that transfers hostnames for humans to understand (like Mashable.com) to IP addresses for computers to understand. A leaked DNS essentially blabs your browsing history to whoever’s watching on the other end — thus totally defeating the purpose of a VPN.
- A Kill Switch
cuts your connection to the internet if a secure connection to your VPN drops without notice. This is less likely on a high-quality VPN with a hefty roster of servers that can balance the traffic of millions of users, but far from impossible. By default, your device will switch back to your personal IP address or, worse, a public one. The speedy end-all action performed by a kill switch essentially ensures that you aren’t unknowingly operating on a weak IP address. Some kill switches operate in the form of a firewall.