What is VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an encrypted connection from your device to a server. All your internet traffic is routed through that server.

Why do I need VPN?

From a security perspective, the VPN provides you protection from local hackers. In public places, anyone else connected to the same network can see your traffic unless you're connected to a VPN. Even at home, your Internet Service Provider can see your traffic as well. A VPN encrypts your traffic, hiding this from local spies.

From a privacy perspective, the VPN makes your traffic appear to be coming from your provider's server. Your traffic has the potential to blend in with the traffic of many other users and add to the anonymity.

As of 2017, Internet Service Providers are legally allowed to track your browsing history and sell the information they collect to third parties without the user's consent.

As of 2018, Net Neutrality is dead in the United States. This means that Internet Service Providers are legally allowed to block or slow down any website they want with or without any justification. Abuses of this nature have happened in the past, but now they are no longer illegal. The best way to prevent this is to not let your provider see your traffic, then they won't know what to block.

PLEASE NOTE: using a VPN alone is not enough to be completely anonymous on the internet. There are many more techniques that must be layered on top of this to give you true anonymity. However, a VPN will add to your privacy and is a crucial part of that system.

What should I look for in a VPN?

The most important thing is to look for is a provider who doesn't keep logs. A provider who logs your activity is no better than your current internet provider. Your traffic can be sold, censored, or spied on just as if you weren't using a VPN. All you've done at that point is move the abuse to someone else.

Depending on your threat model, you may want to consider a provider who is located outside the jurisdiction of the Fourteen Eyes Gloabl Intelligence Community. A government attempting to access your VPN traffic will potentially have a harder time when dealing with a company outside their surveillance network.

Make sure to see how the provider makes money. Running an VPN server is expensive and requires great technical knowledge. "If a product is free, you are the product." Make sure the company has a viable business plan or else assume they are likely logging and selling your data, which compromises your privacy and security.

NOTE: there are literally thousands of VPN providers out there. Some quality, many not. The handful I've selected below are the ones that seem to consistently be promoted within the privacy community as reputable and more desirable than most mainstream companies. These companies seem to have a vested interest in the cause of privacy.

Product/Service Pros Cons

IVPN
  • Available on all operating systems
  • Based in Gibraltar

Mullvad
  • Supports Wireguard (cutting edge new VPN protocol)
  • Audited
  • Not available on all operating systems, requring a little bit of technical know-how to set it up for mobile.
  • Based in Sweden

Proton