Let’s be honest- we all worry about how safe we actually are online these days. There are so many different ways that the internet has changed our lives for the better, and it will continue to do so for the main part for years to come. Its possibilities are almost endless. Just think social media, and the ability to talk to someone halfway across the world as if they’re sitting right next to us. Think online shopping, the ability to order clothes and other items right to our doorstep. Consider the almost infinite amount of knowledge out there on the internet which is free for us to explore, and simple things like being able to check up on the weather at any given time. These factors make up just a tiny proportion of all the positive outcomes the internet has had for us, but that doesn’t mean it’s all been good.

There are a large amount of issues with the internet. Granted, they don’t quite outweigh all the positives that we’ve already discussed. That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues that plague our online lives, and one of these is our online security. This has been a topic of huge discussion in recent years, with even the largest of companies (Facebook, for example) becoming embroiled in massive debates over the privacy that users can expect to have when using sites like this. Data has been shared without the user’s permission, and this has led to a long list of problems. These aren’t the only crimes being committed, however. There are a lot worse, including hackers being able to infiltrate people’s computers and personal details, lifting bank details and home addresses amongst other private pieces of information. This has led to a lot of people becoming victims of identity fraud, or even having money spent in their name which they know nothing about- but why does this happen?

More often than not, it’s because people don’t protect themselves properly online. They are either too proud to accept they’re at risk of becoming an online victim, or they don’t know enough about it to actually do anything. Luckily, that’s why we’re here; to tell you about what we believe the best way to protect you and your identity online is. There are a lot of ways to achieve online anonymity; ad blockers, proxy servers and virtual machines being just three potential options. However, we believe the best option for you could be a VPN. These are definitely up there with the best ways or protecting yourself no matter what you’re doing online, and I can tell you that from personal experience; I’ve used them before. But what actually are they, and how will they help you hide from your ISP? Don’t worry, we’re here to explain everything you need to know about VPNs as well as giving you a few examples of the best ones.

So before we explain how a VPN works, we have to first discuss what they actually are. To put it into simple terms, it’s more or less an online tunnel that connects your WiFi to another server somewhere else on the internet. It kind of does what it says on the tin; VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network”. It’s virtual because it takes place on the internet and isn’t a physical thing, it’s a private connection so that no-one can spy on what you’re doing or what details you’re entering; it’s a network because it’s an online phenomenon. This level of anonymity is achieved by altering your IP address- but we’ll get to that later.

Now you’ll probably be asking what an ISP is? This stands for an “Internet Service Provider” and everyone who uses the internet has one. There are a lot of different possible ISPs for each individual user; some people set up a system so they can be their own ISP, and others connect to another. Examples of ISPs are Comcast, BSNL and Verizon, and there are a lot more out there. These are the companies that actually allow you to access the internet; whenever you search something on Google, for example, your search passes through your ISP via your IP address and allows you to gain access to the internet.

But what is an IP address? This stands for your “Internet Protocol Address”, and each individual computer or server which is connected to the internet has one. It’s what uniquely identifies your computer to your ISP, so that when you access the internet they can look at your IP address and what sites it’s been accessing, what you’ve been typing into search engines and what details you’ve been entering. A lot of people want to avoid this in general, which is fair enough. The fact that this data could potentially be hacked and used against you is an even bigger worry, which is why people want to protect themselves (and why you should too).

That’s where VPNs come into the picture. By using or connecting to one of these, you’ll actually be able to change your IP address. This means that every single time you connect to your VPN service, you’ll be supplied with a completely different and unique IP address. This is because when you connect to a VPN it transports you to a completely different server, and an ISP cannot see VPN traffic. Most of the time, these servers are in completely different countries; a good VPN service will give you a wide variety of servers to choose from from a range of different countries. That’s why VPNs are so popular for people who want to access region-locked material. For example, if you live in the UK and want to watch a show which is only available on the US version of Netflix, you can connect to a US server via a VPN. You can then access as much American content as you like.

So in short, if you want to hide online and stop yourself being tracked constantly by your ISP, a VPN could be the answer. This works because of the fact that a VPN changes your IP address each time you use it, due to it connecting you to another server (probably somewhere halfway across the world). This server has its own unique IP address, which your computer then uses for itself. When your ISP tries to view or track your internet history and actions, they won’t be able to find it. Everything you do and every action you perform will be under this new, unique IP address that your VPN server gives you. It’s pretty simple, really.

There are a lot of advantages to getting a VPN. First of all, they don’t tend to cost you too much. In fact, the majority of them will only charge you a reasonable monthly payment, which is very much worth it in the long term. This is because it will be much more beneficial to you if you invest in a VPN now; you’ll be fully protected and won’t be at as high a risk of having your data tracked or your details stolen. If you don’t do it now, you’ll only regret it in the future when you do become a victim and you know a small monthly direct debit could have prevented it from happening. They’re definitely worth the investment.

There are also a plethora of VPNs out there, meaning you’ll definitely be able to find one just right for you. If you’re looking for a fast VPN with a really quick download speed, there will be one for you (check out the fastest VPNs in 2019 here). If you want a VPN that provides the ultimate online security, there will be another which offers this. If you want a VPN which is really good at unlocking area-restricted content, you can look for one that does this. There are even VPNs out there that offer all of these things for competitive prices; you just need to know where to look for them.

VPNs are also a really great method of protecting yourself if you’re using public WiFi systems a lot. This is because it’s really easy for hackers to get into public WiFis and take advantage of the people who are browsing on them. A lot of the time, public internet systems require users to input some sort of personal detail (an email address for example) and people who are nimble enough will be able to steal these kinds of details. If you have a VPN while you use these public networks, these people will no longer be able to access your data as you won’t be using your normal IP address and your ISP won’t be holding your records. A VPN provides a great way for you to bypass all of these risks and will allow you to relax will you use the internet, safe in the knowledge that your personal data is under lock and key.

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