Have you ever felt that unsettling feeling of someone watching you online? Perhaps you’ve gone shopping online recently, and noticed that the ads you see seem eerily tailored to your recent search history… or near where you live and work.
That’s because unless you take specific steps to make your online activity secure and private, everything from your browsing history to your shopping habits is up for grabs by companies and even governments.
For Americans concerned about their valuable privacy online, a VPN is one of the best tools to keep unwanted eyes at bay.
VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It’s a service that allows you to connect to the Internet through a private server owned by a VPN provider. You can think of it like this:
Imagine logging onto the Internet from your home, but appearing to log on from across the country, or even the world. That’s what a VPN does. It’s a direct, encrypted link between you and the private server of the VPN provider. It might sound like a James Bond movie, but today this is becoming more and more common to protect the online privacy of companies and individuals.
Encrypting your data and redirecting your location makes it much harder for hackers or corporate spies to see what you’re doing online. And best of all, it’s never been easier to get one: VPNs range in cost from free to around $10 per month.
A word of caution, though: not all VPNs can be trusted without some vetting, especially free VPN providers. As you well know, “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” and your VPN provider must make money somehow. It’s best to just pay up a few bucks per month for a trusted provider that puts your interests first.