Your internet service provider routes your Wi-Fi internet connection at home through its multiple systems to ensure you can browse, watch videos and stream content. But often, your ISP can recall records of your online activity. Similarly, your mobile phone’s network carrier can track which websites you visit.
Not only that, but if you connect to public Wi-Fi at a school, library or coffee shop, hackers can intercept the signal. Tunneling their way through the Wi-Fi connection, criminals can attempt to breach your mobile phone or laptop to steal your information.
A reliable way to remain protected, even when you connect to Wi-Fi at home, is to have a virtual private network on your iPhone.
A VPN encrypts your data connection and hides your computer or phone’s IP address — an online identifier of who you are and where you’re from. This lets you remain anonymous and makes it virtually impossible for anyone to track your activities. The encryption also makes your connection less vulnerable to cybercriminals and hacking attempts, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi.
But it’s not all about circumventing trackers and dodging hackers. A VPN also changes the location of your connection, tricking websites and services into thinking that you are in a different city or country. Some websites employ geolocation to block international access, but a VPN gets around that.
The precise details of how it works are understandably complex but still important to understand a VPN’s functions better. Any device that connects to the internet has an IP address, a numeric designation that identifies its location on the internet. The second you connect to a VPN service, your traffic gets routed through the service’s secure and encrypted servers, which changes your IP address.
If anybody — law enforcement and hackers included — then looks up your IP address, it will point toward the VPN service as the traffic source. So it will be impossible to link any personal identifiers to your internet activity.
There are several things you should keep in mind when looking for a VPN. The two most important are the connection speed and any limit on data usage.
Until a few years ago, a VPN drastically reduced your internet connection’s speed. This led to slow browsing and video buffers. Choose a VPN that doesn’t throttle your connection and lets you use unlimited bandwidth. If monthly browsing restrictions are applied, you might run out of available bandwidth when you need it most.
The type and level of encryption are also crucial to protect your connection. The strongest encryption is 256-bit Advanced Encryption Standard, which all the major VPN providers use. Your internet traffic is broken down into blocks of 16 bytes, and with 256-bit AES, each block goes through the encryption process 14 times.
There are numerous types of encryption, such as Public Key, Transport Layer Security and Hashing algorithms, but the most common method for commercial VPN services is AES.
A VPN is set up in one of two ways on an iPhone. The mobile data connection can either be routed through the VPN application, or you can set it up through the built-in settings on the iPhone.
If your chosen VPN provider has a mobile app, all of the above settings will automatically change once you log in. You can then turn the VPN on or off through the app instead of toggling the switch in the iPhone’s settings.
One of the most popular VPN services, ExpressVPN has over 3,000 servers in 94 countries. It has developed its own VPN protocol for faster speeds and security while still being reliable through unlimited data usage.
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NordVPN is a popular choice as the company says it is the fastest VPN service available with strong encryption and security. There are no data or speed limits, and you can use the service on six devices with one account and connect to over 5,500 global servers.
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CyberGhost’s VPN connects you to the best server based on your location, and there are no restrictions on data speeds. It uses the superstrong 256-bit AES encryption, and protection is toggled through a one-touch button.
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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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