One thing your employer might require if you’re going to work from home in any capacity is a virtual private network or VPN.
If you don’t have to use a VPN, should you be anyway? This is something many people are asking themselves. A VPN can keep your online activities private and away from the prying eyes of third parties.
The following are some things to know about using a VPN in a personal or work capacity.
What is a VPN?
A virtual private network or VPN is a tool to help secure data and protect your privacy online.
A VPN will hide your IP address and physical location. At the same time, VPNs also encrypt internet traffic, so no one knows who you are or where you are. A VPN uses encryption protocols, funneling all of your internet traffic through a virtual private network.
If you don’t use a VPN, all your online traffic is exposed to your internet service provider, other people on your network, advertisers and the government.
If someone were to look at your VPN connection, they would see scrambled data.
Specific things a VPN can achieve include:
- Securing your data when you’re using a public Wi-Fi network
- Overcoming content blocks based on location
- Helping you access otherwise blocked websites
- Overcoming online censorship
- Preventing price discrimination
- Prevention of ISP tracking
We’ll go into some of these benefits more below as we talk about why you should consider using a VPN, even when your work or employer doesn’t require it.
Using a VPN At Home
You may not need a VPN if you only log onto the internet at home. When you are using your home Wi-Fi network, you can protect it with a password. Then, you don’t necessarily need the added security of a VPN unless you prefer it.
Even if your network is password protected and that’s all you use, you might still want a VPN if you want to keep your internet activities private from your internet service provider.
You should note that typically when you buy a new Wi-Fi router, it will have a default password. Those passwords are easy to find online, so make sure you change yours to something unique and complex.
If you’re using a VPN at home, it can cause speed issues. If you already have a slow internet connection, this can in and of itself be a reason you might not use one at home.
If you regularly use public Wi-Fi, then you should very likely be using a VPN. Anyone can get onto an unsecured Wi-Fi network, and a hacker can easily sit on one and intercept all the traffic coming across from it.
For example, if you went to work in a coffee shop and then logged onto your bank account to check your balance while you were there, a hacker could get your login credentials. The risks that come with public Wi-Fi are essentially endless.
If you use a VPN when you’re on public Wi-Fi, your connection is encrypted so no one can access your data.
While you may not have to worry as much when you’re at home about privacy, Congress does let ISPs sell data about users and online activities to interested parties. Supposedly the information is made anonymous, but some people are still uncomfortable with it.
A VPN makes it more difficult to link any of your online traffic back to you.
Can You Still Be Tracked When You Use a VPN?
Some people have concerns they can still be tracked when using a VPN, so what should you know about that?
If you pay for a VPN using a credit card, the provider will know who you are. You’re also connecting from your device, so in that sense, the VPN company will also have your IP address. However, that should be the extent of it. VPNs don’t monitor online activity.
The answer to whether or not you need a VPN ultimately comes down to your preferences. If you feel like you’d get frustrated with reduced internet speeds or having to log into it, then it’s probably not worthwhile.
If you do have serious concerns about your data being sold or you do a lot of work from home, you might opt for a VPN.