What the tech: Explaining the basics for virtual private networks

Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Do you have a virtual private network? Do you need one? Both are great questions, and in the last two years, you’ve probably heard a lot about VPNs.

If you’ve ever worked remotely on your company’s computer, you’ve probably used a virtual private network or VPN.

Why? Because it protects the company’s devices from being hacked or getting malware on the network.

Everyone should use a VPN and for other reasons too. Every device that connects to the internet has an IP address.

You can see yours by searching “What’s my IP”.

This shows where you’re located and what you’re doing online to your internet provider, the government, and hackers.

This presents some security threats regarding your data and activity as your internet provider, trackers, the government, and hackers can see not only your computer’s location but can see your activity or where it’s going online.

A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, gives you a different IP address to hide your location. For example, even if you’re at home, by connecting to a VPN, anyone looking or gathering data will see your computer connection.

This is especially important while working on public WiFi as it hides your computer from the network.

There are other benefits. Most streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify have the rights to show certain movies only in some countries.

If we log onto a virtual private network in Canada, we can watch the TV series Fargo on Netflix.

If we search for it in the United States: it doesn’t appear in the results. Sometimes Netflix and Amazon Prime can tell you’re using a VPN and will block your access to the content.

Another example, playing the “name that tunes” game “Heardle” from Spotify: certain songs are not available in the U.S., but we can play the song and the game by logging on from an IP address in Germany.

There are several recommended VPN services: Express VPN, Nord, and CyberGhost. These are subscription services that work on all of your devices. You connect by choosing a location and connecting.

If you only work from home and have no interest in streaming content or playing games in other countries, a VPN isn’t essential. If you work remotely, live in an apartment, condo, or dorm, you should have a VPN and use it on your computers, phones, and tablets. We don’t recommend free VPN services. Your privacy is worth paying for.

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