The Case for Having a VPN

If you live in Bali, chances are you may use a public Internet source for working, checking social media accounts, sending email or just surfing the net.  If you’re struggling to get that elusive high-speed fiber optic connection that the provider keeps promising will be available in your street sometime soon, and hanging out at your favorite café to work in the meantime, you may be vulnerable to being hacked or electronically spied on if you use shared Wi-Fi. Even fee-paying co-working spaces may not be secure.

However, VPNs offer a quick and easy solution and provide peace of mind when using public Wi-Fi. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This is a service for which you pay a monthly or annual fee – in some cases, just a few dollars per month. A VPN service throws a cloak of invisibility over you when are online. Every time you log onto the Internet through your laptop or any mobile device, the VPN is activated (or you activate it) and it encrypts and hides your activity online. In essence, you are logging into your own private network, even while you’re on a public network. VPN has been described as a ‘private tunnel’ between your device or laptop and a server operated by the VPN service, into which all user activity enters and is shielded from online scrutiny and hacking.

Anyone checking on your activity online – governments, Internet service providers, hackers – not only can’t see what you are doing, but also usually can’t even detect who you are and where you are based in real life. This means that under the protection of a VPN service, you can confidently bank online, send sensitive financial or other data (i.e., us credit cards to make an online purchase) or just access sites you don’t want listed in your browser history. Increasing numbers of people are experiencing social media hacking where their Facebook account is hijacked to send viruses or spam to their contacts. Subscribing to a VPN can end any fear of your social media accounts being hacked. Not to mention your bank account.

In addition to cloaking your activity online, VPNs manipulate your IP address, making it appear that you are using a different location than the one in which you are actually based. Your IP, or Internet Protocol, address is a numerical tag that uniquely identifies any computer or mobile device that accesses the Internet and also identifies the country from which you are accessing the Internet.

The benefit of other sites not being able to identify where you are based, if you’re using a VPN, is that you can access country-specific sites and programming that may not be available where you are actually based geographically. Many people use VPN services to access NetFlix, the movie-streaming site, which is reserved for US-based users, BBC’s iPlayer, which is UK-based or boards and subscription services that are designed for local use only.

Keep in mind that running a VPN can slow your Internet speed between 25-50%, so you are trading convenience for safety. Personally, I feel that’s a completely acceptable trade-off. I’ve had both my Facebook and email accounts hacked in the past, so going forward, I’m happy to have peace of mind and a slower Internet connection. While there are free VPN services available, they are often not completely reliable and may even be questionable as to the safety they offer. Shell out a few dollars for an annual or monthly subscription and get a trusted VPN provider.


Choosing a VPN Service

Currently, there are dozens of VPN services to choose from. How do you pick the one that’s best for you? Ask the experts. PCWorld recently offered a review of their pick of the best VPNs out there.

PCWorld’s choice for best overall VPN service is Mullvad ( The site calls Mullvad the ‘Swiss bank account of VPNs.’ Mullvad gives you a unique account number, which you use every time you log in. They maintain their own servers on other providers. PCWorld describes their services as ‘bare bones’ – Mullvad doesn’t offer an auto-connect when you log onto a public Wi-Fi, so you need to manually log into your account. Mullvad does have a ‘kill switch’ so if you lose your VPN connection while you’re on the internet, the service will automatically block your internet connection until service is restored. Mullvad claims that they don’t log user IP addresses or user traffic, so your complete privacy is maintained. The Mullvad VPN service currently costs USD $67.00 per year, or USD$5.60 per month.

PCWorld’s second choice is CyberGhost ( This site consistently has faster Internet speeds than most other VPNs and also offers good privacy and anonymity to users. CyberGhost provides a very user-friendly user interface that lets you choose the function you need each time you access the VPN: general web browsing, protecting a frequently-used internet connection, unlocking geo-restricted sites or streaming sites anonymously. The site also claims that they don’t log user IP addresses or user traffic. CyberGhost costs USD $30-40 annually.

If you are using a VPN specifically to access Netflix, PCWorld recommends NordVPN ( Netflix has started to block many VPNs but NordVPN is one service that can still access Netflix from anywhere in the world. NordVPN costs USD$69 annually.

Do your own research and find other options for VPN providers based on the attributes you need most when you are online. But whichever VPN service you ultimately choose, just get one and make sure you’re protected online.


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