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The internet is a dangerous place. Every time you turn on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, cybercriminals are lurking and waiting for an opportunity to steal your personal information.
It's becoming harder to trust websites with data like your credit card numbers or passwords.
This is especially true in UK, where internet companies now must track records about your online activity.
But there is hope! Investing in a great virtual private network (VPN) is an increasingly popular way to strengthen your security online. Most VPN service providers protect you on multiple devices, no matter what ethernet or wireless network you use. In this article, we'll cover the basics of VPNs and how to get one working.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a piece of software that runs on your device. You don't need to purchase any hardware or make any changes to your local home or business network.
The VPN client is designed to form a secure tunnel between your personal internet connection and the open web.
VPNs are secure because of the way they encrypt the data that exits and enters your device.
All of your traffic is still routed through your internet service provider, but because it is encoded, hackers cannot steal the information being transmitted even if they manage to compromise the network.
In addition, VPN clients assign you a new IP address each time you launch a session from your device. This makes your internet activity harder to track as you surf the web. The easiest and most reliable way to be anonymous online is to turn on your VPN client before navigating to any website.
Related Read: VPN Protocols Explained
Features to look for (and avoid)
When searching online, you'll find hundreds of different VPN providers all claiming to offer the best solution. Most charge a monthly fee for access to the VPN service. Some VPNs are available as a free download (check out some great free VPNs), but be wary of these as they often contain malware or perform very poorly.
In general, a good VPN choice is one that is fast, reliable, and secure. High speeds will guarantee that you don't suffer any slowdowns compared to your normal ISP network. For reliability, you want to use a good VPN service that is available around the clock and will not limit your usage based on bandwidth.
Lastly, you need to choose a trustworthy service provider. Your most sensitive information will pass through their servers, and there is always the possibility they could monitor or log your activity.
Check the fine print on the service agreement page to verify the company maintains no logs and guarantees fully anonymous sessions. Learn more about VPN logging from our guide.
How to Install a VPN That Works in UK
Although internet privacy is a major issue in UK, the good news is that none of the major ISPs block VPN clients - yet.
This helps reduce hundreds of choices to the handful that truly offer reliable performance.
Choosing the provider you want is the hard part. Actually installing the thing and getting it running is pretty straightforward. Here are the steps involved:
- Download the installer file from the VPN website and run it on your computer
- Launch the VPN application on your computer or mobile device
- Enter the username and password that is associated with your VPN account
- Click the "Connect" button to launch a new secure session on your device
- Next, test your VPN to see if it's working
- Use the "Disconnect" button at any time to switch back to your normal local network
If you decide to switch to a different VPN provider, make sure you uninstall the client application before installing a new one. Trying to run two different VPNs at the same time will not work.
Other Easy Cybersecurity Tips for Normal People
The average person can practice internet safety without spending a fortune and by following common sense practices.
For the former, you should be aware that there are strong free privacy software options if you dig a little.
For the latter, obviously you need to be cognizant of your activity anytime you go online. That is especially true when using public wi-fi hotspots like found in airports or restaurants.
Hackers can easily infiltrate public routers and intercept the data being sent to them. So think twice before doing online banking or shopping from a public network.
The next tip is to be extra careful when clicking email links. Hackers make most of their money by running phishing scams, where they pose as a legitimate business and convince people to go to rogue websites and enter their personal information. Always double-check the URL anytime you click on a link from a suspicious email.
One thing many internet users don't realize is that the greatest threat to their online privacy and security can actually occur offline. Cybercriminals make use of a tactic known as social engineering to gain people's trust and then use that to exploit their online accounts or steal their entire identity.
For example, some hackers run phone scams in which they tell people there is an issue with their internet service and they need to make a change to your ISP account.
Don’t fall for it, and never give out identifying information or passwords over the phone. Seems like such common sense but it happens every day. Use your ISP's secure website to check the status of your account instead.
Related: Best Password Managers
The Bottom Line
UK residents face a big challenge when it comes to online privacy. New government changes make it easier for companies to track your activity and harder for you to stay anonymous. Fortunately there are steps you can take to combat this trend and avoid becoming a victim.
About 25% of current internet users already rely on a VPN client to help keep them safer online.
If you are not one of them yet, all it takes is a few clicks and a few bucks a month to set up a VPN subscription and download the necessary software. Unless you like the idea of hackers sticking their grubby little hands in your personal data, consider using a VPN every time you go online.