Virtual private networks (VPNs) have been around for years now. They are incredibly affordable. Companies like Surfshark charge as little as £1.90 per month on a 2-year plan, and you can get a free Surfshark trial.
However, some people are still unsure why they would need a VPN or think they are only used for questionable activities.
However, there are many good reasons to use a VPN, and in recent weeks they have become more important than ever.
Political Reasons / Freedom of Speech / Censorship Reasons
With the current global events, the need for VPNs has been highlighted, and for some people, it is an essential service.
Russia is currently carrying out a propaganda campaign and limiting access to news for its population. Many people in Russia will naively think the current situation in Ukraine is justified. In many scenarios, using a VPN will be the only way for Russians to access worldwide news, which gives a more balanced view of the current situation.
This conflict and the way Russia is controlling its citizens also highlights how shocking it is that the UK government wants to ban end-to-end encryption in communication apps.
Concealing Your Identity
There are a variety of reasons why you may want to conceal your identity, some more nefarious than others, but there are plenty of valid reasons.
Whistle-blowers, both on a corporate or political level, will clearly want to conceal their identity.
By avoiding exposing your personal IP address, you can also limit the risks of hacking and electronic surveillance.
Again, the need to be able to conceal your identity has been highlighted during this Russian conflict. Anyone that opposes the war within Russia should not be exposing their IP online.
Security on a Public WiFi
Moving on to problems the average users should be concerned about.
Public WiFi is incredibly useful, providing us free access to data when were are out and about. However, you can never be sure exactly who is providing the free data and how they may be monitoring your data. You should always be careful when logging into any secure website such as banking or anything that might expose your personal details.
Using a VPN will conceal your identity and data your transfer over the network.
Bypassing or accessing region-specific content
Like censorship, you may want to access content that is region blocked. This could be as simple as accessing a different Netflix region or viewing prices on a website for a different region.
Accessing ISP and network blocked websites
Some ISPs, mobile phone companies and many companies will restrict access to certain content. The most obvious one would be mobile contracts having a block in place for adult content as default. You can switch this off, but you may not want to.
Once again, the UK government want to implement regressive rules about what content we can access using the online safety bill. This would require you to provide your ID to access adult content. This is just asking for massive data breaches revealing personally identifiable data being linked to your browsing habits.
Accessing region-specific pricing
Reiterating the point I made in region-specific content. Many sites have different pricing based on your location, and some sites may prevent you from signing up based on location.
Digital content and online services are typically the big ones that have variable pricing based on location.
I probably should have listed this closer to the top. Big companies invasively track your habits, Google, Facebook and Amazon store a worryingly amount of data on you.
You may want to prevent this tracking due to privacy concerns, but you may also be trying to accomplish something online that you don’t want tracked by cookies. I regularly use this for search engines to avoid localised data or personalised results.
Avoiding targeted content
Avoiding targetted content is basically the same as preventing tracking, but it is worth highlighting because it can be so annoying and also creepy. I don’t really appreciate doing one product search then being spammed by adverts everywhere for the same product.