If you’re reading this article, there’s a better than evens chance that you already use a VPN. And it’s also likely that you’ve been experiencing performance issues with your chosen provider. Sadly, there’s nothing unusual about that. Virtual Private Networks are like any area of the economy. Some products are fantastic, and hardly ever let users down, while others talk a good game, but deliver on barely any of their promises.
The question is, how reliable is your VPN, and how can you tell whether it is the most secure solution for your needs? Here are some ways to assess your provider. With our help, you’ll be able to sort out inferior operators from the real deal and ensure that your online activity is totally protected.
What are the key security features of a good VPN?
Firstly, not every user is as knowledgeable as they should be about what constitutes a secure Virtual Private Network. This goes beyond headline promises about encryption and leak protection. There are several aspects of a secure provider, and we need to take all of them into consideration.
- Encryption – The obvious place to start. If your provider doesn’t offer 256-AES protection and 2048 RSA authentication, ask why it doesn’t, and whether its encryption is comparable.
- Protocols – OpenVPN is the gold standard right now as far as security is concerned, but it’s not offered by all providers. Some cut corners to offer faster speeds and simplify their coding processes. But security-conscious users need something better than that.
- Kill switch – All secure providers will include a fail-safe which kicks in if your protection drops. Kill switches should always be ready to deal with outages – which can occur with any VPN.
- Is Tor available? – According to VPNpro, when you access Tor using a VPN, you can route your traffic through multiple layers of protection. It’s the ultimate IP anonymizer, and all good providers should feature Tor compatibility.
What happens when these security features are absent?
Those security features should form the basis of a good Virtual Private Network. But you might still query whether all of them are absolutely essential.
That’s a reasonable question to ask, and the answer is pretty simple. From a privacy and security standpoint, you don’t cut corners. All of those features are vital parts of the VPN package, and there can be some really nasty consequences if any are absent.
Let’s think about some of the most common problems associated with inferior providers.
- IP address leakage – Shielding your IP address is a core function of any proxy or VPN. If this isn’t reliable, the whole purpose is defeated. Eavesdroppers will be able to track your movements, Netflix will detect where you are located, and nothing you do will be truly anonymous.
- Vulnerability to cyberattacks – If your encryption or IP protection isn’t up to standard, you’ll be a sitting duck for cyberattackers. If you use your smartphone on public wifi, don’t be surprised if your social media login details leak. And expect issues with malware infestations.
- Speed problems – Unreliable VPNs won’t just let you down on the security front. Badly coded protocols, clients, and encryption can also lead to huge speed dips. Authentication is a key component of a smooth experience, but when this is poorly implemented, it can cause logjams between your device and VPNservers. That’s a recipe for stuttering streams.
- Frustration when watching movies and TV – As we noted above, IP leakage can betray your identity to streaming platforms like Hulu, the BBC iPlayer, or Netflix. When this happens in the middle of a movie, your connection can drop, and you’ll have to re-engage the VPN before logging in again. Chances are, you’ll lose your place in the stream, ruining an evening of entertainment.
- Bad habits – If you think you are protected, your behaviour might change. You might start visiting riskier websites or taking chances with torrents. That’s OK if your provider has great encryption and leak protection. But it’s a nightmare if your Virtual Private Network is unreliable.
How to find reliable security and privacy solution
By now, it should be clear that finding a high-quality VPN is essential. Hopefully, it also doesn’t seem too difficult.
When choosing a supplier, avoid free applications and trial versions, which tend to be slightly less reliable (and can often be fronts for malware). Research potential VPNs thoroughly using review sites, and cross-reference the features we listed earlier.
You may need to pay a few dollars a month for reliable protection, but it’s a price worth paying – at least if you’re genuinely serious about encrypting your data and anonymizing your identity.