A VPN is a great line of defense in the war for Internet privacy and security, but knowing how to use a VPN to keep your network data safe is an important piece of the plan. Using a VPN is simple, yes, and there really is no wrong way to use it, but it is possible to misuse it or not use it at all. Setting up your VPN is just the first step. After that you must train yourself to use it rigorously.
Connect your VPN at startup
If you want to eliminate a lot of thought from the process it is possible to configure your computer to connect to a VPN at startup. Here is a rundown of how to do that on a Windows 7 machine. The process is similar for Windows 8 and 10. Once you have configured your VPN follow these steps:
1) On the VPN Connect screen, check “Save this user name and password for the following users.”
2) Select the “Anyone who uses this computer” radio button.
3) Click “Properties” on the VPN Connect screen.
4) On the “Options” tab, uncheck:
-“Display progress while connecting.”
-“Prompt for name and password, certificate, etc.”
5) In Windows Explorer, browse to C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\Programs\Startup.
6) Open a new Windows Explorer and browse to Control Panel\Network Connections.
7) Drag the icon of your VPN connection to the Startup folder. This will create a shortcut.
Now at Windows startup, the <Removed> will launch and connect silently.
Auto-reconnect VPN on a Mac with an app
On a Mac it is also possible to configure the settings on your desktop or laptop to automatically reconnect your VPN if your regular Internet connection drops. If you have not configured this setting your VPN must be manually restarted if your connection drops. You could be browsing and lose your connection and then be unaware that your VPN is no longer active when your connection comes back up. This is particularly troublesome for those who keep their home computers connected 24/7. That is a bad practice and you shouldn’t do that.
If you have a Mac the best way to configure your VPN to automatically reconnect is by downloading VPN AutoConnect from the App Store. It is reasonably priced—only $1 the last time we checked—and it will remove the hassle of doing this manually.
VPN only works when you use it
This might seem like common sense but many people don’t bother to connect their VPN if they are using their home network, thinking that the security protocols they have in place are enough to keep their network data safe.
Just because your home network is password protected doesn’t mean that your network data is safe. Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) keep logs of customer activity. This means that all the sites you browse can potentially be revealed to anyone your ISP deems worthy of that information. Who they deem worthy doesn’t necessarily mean legal agencies. It is not above an ISP to make deals with marketing companies to provide user data. It’s unethical but it happens.
A good VPN provider will not maintain logs of the browsing activity of its customers, but you only have that protection when your VPN is up and running. Get in the habit of using it whenever you connect.
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