When To Use A VPN: The Ultimate Guide

Lylene Corado
Published 06/14/2023
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Learn how to use a VPN to secure your dataA Virtual Private Network is also commonly known as a VPN. It is a technology that allows users to create a secure and encrypted connection to another network over the internet. Individuals and organizations widely use VPNs to:

  • Enhance their online privacy,
  • Maximize network security,
  • To access resources that may be otherwise restricted based on geographic location,
  • To mask their IP for specific tasks and sites.

While many dangers lurk on the internet, only 27.9% of individuals in the US use a VPN at home.

This article will share when to use a VPN and when it’s better not to do it. We will also talk about its benefits, potential drawbacks, and whether you need a VPN at home.

When To Use A VPN

A Virtual Private Network routes your internet traffic through its servers. This way, it can help you:

  • Hide your IP address,
  • Encrypt your data,
  • Protect you from cyber threats, and
  • Offer better cybersecurity.

However, not every situation requires the use of a VPN. Here’s when it’s better to use a VPN.

When Using Public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi networks are notoriously insecure. They are also a favored target for cybercriminals. When you connect to a public Wi-Fi network, your data may be intercepted, monitored, or stolen. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can help you protect your data.

It does so by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address. This, in turn, makes it much harder for hackers to access your sensitive information. It also hides your location to an extent. This provides you with the privacy you may be looking for when online.



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When Accessing Sensitive Information

If you’re accessing sensitive information online, you should use a VPN to protect your data. Information such as your bank account or health records is a prime example of sensitive information. A VPN encrypts your data and routes it through its secure servers.

This lets you minimize the risk of unauthorized access to your information. Make sure you are using a reliable and trusted VPN provider, though. This is because your data will get to the VPN server as is. Using an untrusted provider may result in data theft if you are not careful.

When Traveling To Other Countries

Some countries have strict internet censorship laws that limit access to certain websites and services.

In such countries, a VPN can help bypass these restrictions and access the necessary content. This may include a country-specific information site, a private server, or more.

When Downloading Files

If you frequently download files from the internet, a VPN can protect you. This is especially true for larger downloads or when downloading from insecure sites. A VPN protects you against malware and other cyber threats – but to an extent.

It encrypts your internet traffic and hides your IP address. This allows the virtual private network to keep you safe from cybercriminals who may be targeting people who download content from this website. However, even with a VPN, you should be careful about what you download and from where.

When Working Remotely

If you work remotely, a VPN can help you access your company’s network securely and privately.

At the same time, a VPN will help you protect your company’s data and ensure that your online activities are not being monitored.

Pros & Cons Of Using A VPN

VPNs can be a powerful tool for enhancing online privacy and security.

However, there are also some drawbacks to using a VPN. Here is a side-by-side comparison of the pros and cons you can expect.

Pros of using a VPN

  • Enhanced privacy: VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, making it much harder for anyone to monitor your online activities or track your IP address.
  • Improved Security: VPNs add an extra layer of security to your internet connection by masking your IP address and encrypting your data.
  • Access to Geo-Restricted Content: VPNs can help you bypass geo-restrictions on websites and streaming services, allowing you to access content that might otherwise be blocked in your region.
  • Remote Access: VPNs allow you to connect to your home or work network remotely, providing access to files, printers, and other resources as if you were physically in the network.
  • Anonymity: Some VPNs offer the ability to use anonymous IP addresses. This makes it more difficult for websites to track your activities or identify you online.

Cons of using a VPN

  • Limited Access to Streaming Services: Some streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, actively block users using a VPN to access their content.
  • Legal & Regulatory Issues: Some countries have laws and regulations that restrict or ban the use of VPNs.
  • Dangers of Using a Free VPN: Most free VPNs offer a low level of security and also pose a risk of data collection and selling to third parties.

Do I Really Need A VPN For Home?

VPNs can be a valuable tool for enhancing online privacy and security.

According to a survey conducted in 2022, 66% of individuals use VPNs at home to protect their personal data. Other reasons include:

Results on a survey about VPN use
  • Protecting their browsing habits
  • Limiting data collection
  • Accessing geo-restricted sites
  • Securing employers’ data
  • For large file downloads and more.

Here is an overview of the survey’s results.

Ultimately, the decision about whether you want to use a VPN or not depends entirely on you. In a world where the risk of cyber threats is so prevalent, using a VPN is an important step toward better security. You simply have to ensure you are using the right VPN provider!


Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.