Use Private Internet Access VPN service to protect yourself on the Internet
Every time I see a free public WiFi network available for use, I’m usually conflicted. On one hand, I’m glad that I can offload my mobile data consumption to this free network access. But on the other hand, I’m fearful of the potential risk of being exploited by a malicious party snooping around on this network. Worse still, the network may actually be a honey pot set up by hackers waiting to trap unsuspecting users. In fact, there has been a lot of articles written on this danger of using public networks.
Use protection. Use a VPN service.
One way to minimise the risk is to use a VPN service to provide some means of protection on your use of these public networks. VPN simply stands for Virtual Private Network.
“A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, such as the Internet. It enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network. Applications running across the VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.” – Source Wikipedia
For the less technical, if you imagine the Internet access as a public road, a VPN essentially is a private tunnel on the public road that hides your traffic from the public view and only you have access to. Therefore, this makes it a lot harder for hackers to try and steal any information from your while you’re on the network.
The trouble here therefore is which VPN service you can trust since you are essentially redirecting all your network traffic to their VPN servers.
Choosing a VPN service
There are essentially a few key criteria for considerations when you choose which VPN service would best suit your needs.
- Trustworthiness – Obviously you need to subscribe on that you can trust, not just any VPN service that claims its good for you. I personally review my selection on sites like VPNSP.com and BestVPN.com.
- Anonymity and privacy – Using a VPN service by default gives you some level of anonymity already it hides you real IP from the websites you visit. However, since you are connecting to an intermediate VPN server, it is still possible to match your activities based on your activities on the VPN server. As such, there are VPN services goes into the extreme make sure they don’t know who you are and what you do by accepting Bitcoin as payments and claims to not log any traffic data. Some would also setup their base of operations in countries that are out of NSA area of influence. So if this is important to you, look out for these from the provider.
- Connection speed – By using a VPN service, you are ultimately slowing down your access to the Internet due to the use of encryption and going through an intermediate server instead of directly accessing a particular website. But if speed is important to you, then look out of VPN services that focuses of providing higher connection speeds by sacrificing stronger encryptions and providing VPN servers that are closer to your geolocation.
- Geographical location availability – A common reason why some chooses to use a VPN is to spoof your geolocation. If you connect to a VPN server in the Japan while being in the U.S, the website or web service that you are accessing would think that you are currently accessing it from Japan (where the VPN server is). This is because the VPN server is accessing the website in the open on your behalf. Most VPN providers runs their servers in the major cities across the world for geo-spoofing uses, such as accessing Netflix US content while you’re travelling in Asia.
- Number of simultaneous connections – It’s likely that you have multiple devices that you want to connect through the VPN service, look out of the number of connections/devices the service allows you to connect with simultaneously as it will affect the subscription costs.
- Bandwidth limits – Again, depending what you are planning to use the VPN service for, bandwidth limits would be an important point for your considerations.
My current VPN Service of choice: Private Internet Access
First of all, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a free service, so I did not consider any of those free VPN services. And as for my use, my key considerations were as follows: –
- The primary use is to protect myself while I’m using public WiFi services
- Connection speeds is the most important point for my considerations. I therefore searched for VPN services that had good reviews on connections speeds on VPNSP.com.
- Also looked for a service that had VPN servers based in U.S. and Singapore. U.S. for accessing sites that are geo-locked to the U.S. region. Singapore for best connection speeds.
- Support for at least simultaneous 4 device connection for my phone, tablet, notebook and PC
- I hate bandwidth limits for I looked for one that provided unlimited bandwidth.
- Anonymity and privacy is obviously a reason to use a VPN, but I didn’t look out for the most extreme of privacy.
Based on the above, the I decided to give Private Internet Access (PIA) a try. I went with a US$39.95 yearly subscription that brought the price down to $3.33 per month. It basically fit all my selection criteria. If you see the list of features below, you can see why I went with PIA.
They also claims that they run 3269+ servers in 24 countries. That’s quite an impressive list!
Private Internet Access VPN service connection speed
The following are some quick Speedtest.net benchmarks I’ve gotten from my home 1Gbps fibre broadband connections. Your actual connection speed may wary but it should give you an idea how fast Private Internet Access’ VPN service is.
Server Location: Singapore
The first screenshot is with a direct connection to the Internet and the second is with PIA VPN connection to its Singapore server. As you can see, there are very little difference in speeds even when I’m connecting via the VPN service.
Server Location: US (Silicon Valley)
The first screenshot is with a direct connection to the Internet and the second is with PIA VPN connection to its US Silicon Valley server. Here, you can see a larger difference is the speeds. While I can’t quite figure out yet why there is so much difference, at 25Mbps, it’s still very decent speeds.
Using Private Internet Access on your devices
Private Internet Access provides a very easy to use app for both your PCs on Windows, MacOS and Linux as well as iOS and Android devices. You can also easily set up VPN connections directly on your router if you so choose to.
You can download the Windows, MacOS and Linux apps from PIA’s website here,
As for the iOS app, you can download it directly at the AppStore.
VPN services today is so much easier to use compared to even just 5 years back. You used to need to know how to configure your OS network or install specialised VPN applications like TunnelBlick or OpenVPN client in order to connect to an VPN server. Now, all you need is to download the VPN provider’s app, login with your provided credentials, and turn on the VPN connection. So, there really is no reason why you wouldn’t use one and let yourself be vulnerable while accessing the Internet in public networks. So, whether or not you choose to use Private Internet Access like myself of any other VPN services, I implore you to take some time to find one that you suit you and start using it. Seriously.