Beyond the threat of hackers, spies, and eavesdroppers, there are several other institutions that should give internet users cause to worry about their personal or corporate privacy online. Among these are government agencies and law enforcement, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), public search engines, and the ever-popular platforms of social media.
To some extent, all of these may gain access to our private data as we interact with them online – and many have much to gain from gathering and distributing this information more widely. This might be for political or investigative purposes, as leverage in facilitating criminal activities, or as a profit-making tool in sales to third parties.
It’s probably come to your attention that Virtual Private Networks or VPNs are gaining ground as the new guarantors of consumer privacy and data security. But you may not be aware of how it is exactly that a VPN can help maintain your privacy. That’s what we’ll be discussing, in this article.
Concealing Your Identity and Location With a VPN
A VPN is a Private Network capable of operating within a larger, public one. It’s created in a Virtual manner by wrapping each packet of data emerging from your device (in a process known as encapsulation) in an envelope containing headers and metadata which not only mask your identity but also conceal the nature of the information contained within.
Military-grade encryption is applied to each encapsulated packet, making it extremely difficult for any interceptor or eavesdropper without a ton of resources at their disposal to make head or tail of it.
In addition, most VPN providers maintain a suite of widely dispersed web servers. For example, the InvinciBull™ VPN app produced by Finjan Mobile has servers located in dozens of countries, worldwide.
Since the IP address assigned to your VPN connection stems from one of these servers, your actual location remains hidden. And you have the option of choosing which part of the globe that you’re virtually connecting from.
This can be a literal life-saver, for internet users in repressive countries – and a life-line for those wishing to connect to websites and services in areas prohibited by strict censorship policies.
Safeguarding Your Browsing Activity With a VPN
Secure and private browsing remains a challenge, as so many websites now insist on dropping cookies into your browser cache – or require you to disable any ad-blocking or anti-tracking software, before allowing you access to their precious resources.
It’s argued that these mechanisms are there for your convenience – so you don’t have to retype your password or login details each time you revisit, or to allow for the in-page or in-app advertising that keeps their resource “free”. But these moves remain intrusive – and if you’re not diligent about deleting cookies or re-enabling your ad blockers, you can leave yourself vulnerable to being identified, tracked, or traced.
The InvinciBull from Finjan Mobile offers a unique solution to this dilemma: It’s the only mobile app combining a secure web browser with a fully-fledged VPN service.
VPN encryption and IP re-routing protect the integrity of your data, and help mask your identity and location. And the browser incorporates a privacy scanner which provides a complete view of every third-party site or service that’s watching you, gathering your information, or reporting on your activities.
Confounding the ISPs
Ever since the U.S. House of Representatives voted to repeal existing statutes guaranteeing Net Neutrality – the principle that internet access should be treated as a public utility, and billed at uniform rates – we’ve been hearing tales of how terrible Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can be.
But internet consumers the world over have long been able to attest to their dissatisfaction with ISPs, which in unregulated economies are able to govern connection speeds and who gets what services – not to mention having a free hand as to what they do with their subscriber data.
The Net Neutrality issue has only highlighted the fact that ISPs are largely at liberty to monitor what internet subscribers are doing online, and to trade openly in their personal or corporate data (however “anonymized”) with third parties such as advertising networks and marketing agencies.
With a Virtual Private Network, the only definite activity that your ISP can attribute to you is the fact of your logging onto your VPN service, on a regular basis.
Any IP addresses noted online will be those of the VPN servers. And the data moving on your private network will be so heavily encrypted that it would take a lot of time, effort, and money on the part of your ISP to make any sense out of it – much less, sell it on to the highest bidder.
Keeping the Authorities At Bay
Another privacy threat facing internet users stems from the surveillance and monitoring activities of governments and law enforcement agencies.
In many jurisdictions, ISPs and mobile network carriers are required to keep logs of their subscriber bases – and to submit these logs of their users’ identities, locations, or activities to the authorities, on demand (without question, in the case of more repressive regimes, or with a court order, in more liberal states).
VPN encryption affords some measure of protection from this, as it would require the agencies concerned to expend time and resources on “cracking the code” – but the fact that this potential avenue of intrusion even exists comes down to the data-handling policies of the VPN service providers, themselves.
Being Upfront About How Your Data Is Used
Some Tips for Consumers About VPNs
- Install VPN protection for all your devices – desktop, laptop, and mobile. A paid subscription to InvinciBull gives users unlimited data and VPN coverage on all of their hardware.
- Be careful of the sites you visit. Cookies and advertising aren’t the only things you can pick up from an intrusive website – there’s malware out there, as well. Set browser alerts where possible – and if you’re using InvinciBull check the privacy scan panel at the bottom of your page.
- Always use a VPN when browsing on public Wi-Fi – and restrict your activities to things that don’t involve money or the revealing of your personal details and credentials.
- Logging out is a good thing. Remember to do it, each time you leave that banking website or social media platform.
- Run a regular clean-up of your browser cache and history, to minimize traces of your online activity on your device’s storage drive.
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