VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, but many people still don’t have a thorough grasp of what a VPN accomplishes or a deep understanding of Internet privacy and how it may be compromised. In our digital world the newspapers are filled each day with horror stories of identity theft and privacy being violated. Even those in positions of power are affected; current US Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is currently battling reports that classified information may have been leaked in her email.
Here are some thoughts on Internet privacy, what it really means, and how a VPN functions to provide privacy and added security.
An Internet Privacy Primer
The word privacy is literally defined as “the state or condition of being free from being disturbed or observed by other people.”
Achieving this condition was relatively simple in a pre-digital age. If a person wanted privacy all they had to do was remain in their home and refuse admittance to anyone they deemed untrustworthy. The arrival of the Internet changed all of that. Think about this: accessing the Internet without the proper precautions basically has the potential to open the doors of your life and home to the entire world.
In the digital age most of us lead two lives, one in the physical world and one in a virtual world that is really like a neighborhood. Instead of the store on the corner there is Amazon. Instead of the club down the street there is Facebook and Google Hangouts. And, just like any vast city, the Internet is full of places you probably don’t want to go. At the very least you want the proper protection.
It is very important for individuals to grasp how the Internet changed the definition of privacy. It changed it by changing the number of people one interacts with on a daily basis. If there is one person knocking at your door you probably won’t have much trouble keeping them out. If a thousand come knocking you might need more than just a lock on the door.
How VPN’s affect privacy
Obviously, a solution was needed to limit a person’s visibility online. To retain the original definition of privacy there had to be a way for a person to control who is able to observe their Internet activity. Enter the VPN.
A VPN gives back control to an Internet user by making their Internet browsing private and allowing them a certain measure of anonymity online. In other words, the VPN can pull down the shades of your virtual home. Most people would probably agree that what you do in your home is your own business and surfing the Internet should be the same. It is an unfortunate reality that not everyone agrees.
Just as physical homes are subjected to break-ins and robbery, so is the virtual home that is your computer, tablet, or smartphone. In a physical sense you might be lucky enough to catch the intruder in the act and prevent them from stealing your things by calling the police or using force. In a virtual sense it is unlikely that you will ever even notice the intruder until they have taken your sensitive data and gone. The scary thing is that your own device doesn’t even have to be compromised for you to suffer. Did anyone reading this article have an account at Ashley Madison? No one is judging here. We’re just presenting stark realities. If hackers can routinely invade websites like Ashley Madison, Home Depot, and even the US Pentagon, what chances do you have of avoiding intrusion if your connection is not secured?
Maybe things would be easier if it were only identity thieves that Internet users are dealing with. Another sad reality is that Internet usage is now being monitored by government agencies all over the world. Even the US, the bastion of personal freedom, has been actively engaged in monitoring Internet activity.
A VPN is the most dependable solution for regaining control and preserving the original definition of privacy. It will permit you to decide what you share and who you share it with. As the virtual life one creates breathes more and more and begins to take on its own form, using a VPN becomes more necessary.
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