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Does a VPN keep you Safe & Secure?

Identity theft, online scams, viruses, and the risk of being hacked are all very real threats whilst accessing the Internet. Can using a VPN protect you from these hostilities?

Whether you are using your laptop to access your email over public WiFi, surfing the Internet from your tablet, performing a banking transfer using a mobile app on your smartphone, or trading cryptocurrency online … using a VPN is touted to keep you safe.

In this article we are going to examine:

  • What is a VPN?
  • How does a VPN protect you?
  • Are you still vulnerable with a VPN?
  • What VPN options are there?
  • Best practices whilst using a VPN.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure connection established between your device and the Internet. This device can be a computer, smartphone, tablet or streaming device such as a Roku, Amazon Firestick or Smart TV.

The secure connection encrypts all data being transferred between your device and the Internet. Whilst using a VPN your IP Address is disguised and provides you with a degree of anonymity.

Securing your connection to the Internet using a VPN.

Whilst using a VPN your login credentials, credit card details, the sites you visit and all other online activities should be secured. This means they will not be accessible by hackers, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), governments or other organizations.

How does a VPN protect you?

When accessing the Internet a connection is established via an ISP. This is the case whether doing so from your home using a router, using 3G/4G/5G on your phone whilst on the move, via public WiFi at the airport or a local coffee shop, or at work over a company network.

Secure encrypted connection

By using a VPN your device establishes a secure connection, or tunnel, through the ISP to a server run by the VPN provider. This server is located at a data center in the same country or abroad depending on your VPN settings.

Once the connection is established all Internet traffic is then routed via this VPN server to and from websites that are subsequently accessed. Additionally the VPN software encrypts all data sent to/from websites visited.

Internet access via a VPN is important when using public WiFi.

Having this secure connection is important because it helps prevent adversaries such as governments and companies from eaves-dropping on your data which may well be confidential. It also prevents hackers from obtaining personal information, credit card details or login credentials that could then be used to carry out identity theft or defraud you of money.

Changing your IP Address

When accessing a website without a VPN the IP Address of your ISP connection identifies you. This can be seen by typing the following into Google via a web browser:

what is my ip address

In response to this Google will tell you your public IP Address e.g. Note that this is not your local network address e.g. If there are multiple computers, smartphones, tablets, and streaming devices within your home, office, or coffee shop accessing the Internet then they will each have a different local network address yet will share the same public IP Address provided by the ISP.

When using a VPN your device will be allocated a different IP Address by the VPN server resulting in websites only being able to see that one instead of the one from the ISP.

Using a VPN prevents an ISP from logging your online activity.

Additional advantages of using a VPN include preventing an ISP from being able to log your online activities. These logs could potentially be accessed by a hacker, leaked or used by an ISP employee, or obtained by a government issuing a subpoena.

A further benefit of a VPN is access to streaming content when traveling. For example if you go abroad on vacation and want to use your Netflix account to watch your favorite program that is only available in your home country. In this situation you can specify the country you want your VPN to connect to then open the Netflix app which sees you as being back in your own country. This is because IP Addresses include information identifying where they reside.

Are you still vulnerable with a VPN?

A VPN provides protection from unwanted parties obtaining your data and activities due to encryption plus your location due to your IP Address being changed. It does not always provide protection from becoming a victim of other forms of cyber crime such as Malware, Phishing, Spamming, and Social Engineering attacks.

VPN’s do not replace using strong & secure passwords.

Good practices still need adhering to in order to protect yourself from potential exploits. These include password management, identity protection, computer or device protection, plus vigilant email and browser use.

For further details on the above types of exploits and staying safe whilst being online, please check out these articles:

What VPN options are there?


When choosing a VPN there are a variety of needs to consider:

  • Multiple devices – is support for multiple devices using the same login needed? These may need to have simultaneous Internet connections.
  • Number of users – is this for use by an individual or a group of users such as a family? There are often different plans based on how many users. Each user may have or need their own login.
  • Offers – many VPN services have offers such as paying annually being cheaper than paying monthly. Using referral codes can lower the price as can signing up for more than one year.
  • Operating systems – most people have multiple devices connected to the Internet e.g. a computer, a smartphone and a tablet. It is likely these could have different operating systems that need to supported e.g. a computer running Windows, a smartphone running iOS, and a tablet running Android.
VPN app on an iPhone.

Types of solutions

Large organizations such as universities, tech companies, banks, multi-nationals, government agencies frequently have commercial ‘Client-to-server VPN’ solutions allowing remote workers to access data and services on the company’s internal network. These types of VPN often have bespoke client software installed on laptops or come with hardware authenticators that provide a PIN code that must synch with the company servers upon login.

There are browser VPN extensions too though these are only useful for web browsing and do not support gaming, email and other apps.

Another VPN solution that is useful for offices or households is via a Router. Some higher-end routers include VPN software that can be used in conjunction with a VPN account. This way any device that uses a WiFi or Ethernet connection will be routed via the VPN.

A Router VPN can protect a household or office.

For the majority of individual or family uses a VPN service will provide downloadable clients. These can be installed on the computers or downloaded from the appropriate app service such as the App Store on Apple devices or Google Play on Android devices.

Solution providers

There are numerous VPN service providers, below are some of the major players with pricing and key features:

  • ExpressVPN
    • $8.32 per month (with $99.95 yearly plan)
    • Up to 5 devices.
    • Supports Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Linux, macOS, Windows.
    • Router support.
    • Browser extensions (Chrome, Edge & Firefox).
  • IPVanish VPN
    • $3.75 per month (with $44.99 year 1 plan then $89.99).
    • Unlimited devices.
    • Supports Android, ChromeOS, iOS, Kindle Fire,macOS, Windows.
    • Router support.
    • Upgrade for randsomware protection & online storage.
  • NordVPN
    • $3.71 per month (with 2-year plan).
    • Up to 6 devices.
    • Supports Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows.
    • Browser extensions (Chrome & Firefox).
    • Malware & ads blocker.
  • Norton Secure VPN
    • $39.99 per year.
    • Up to 5 devices (other plans available).
    • Supports Android, iOS, macOS, Windows.
    • Blocks ad tracking.
  • SurfShark
    • $2.49 per month (with 24 month plan).
    • Unlimited devices.
    • Supports Android, iOS, Linux, macOS, Windows.
    • Browser extensions (Chrome & Firefox).
    • Trust DNS for ad & banner blocking plus more.

Best practices whilst using a VPN

Some simple tips on the use of a VPN include:

  • Automation – in order to maintain a secure Internet connection, most VPN clients can be setup to automatically load and login when your computer boots up.
  • Local server – using a local server can help minimize the impact or overhead on the speed of your Internet connection. This is often configurable within VPN clients to select servers with lower loads, being closer geographically etc.

Do you use a VPN and if so do you use this for all connections or only certain types of online activity? Who is your preferred VPN provider? Are there any hints or tips about using a VPN you wish to share? Please comment below to let us know your thoughts.

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