If you’re traveling, a virtual private network (VPN) is fast becoming a must-have accessory. Just like when you buy a padlock for a suitcase or take out insurance, your digital life needs protecting too. That’s because most of us take at least one smart device when we travel, whether it’s a phone, tablet, or laptop.
Wherever you go, you’re likely to be online in some capacity—sharing photos on WhatsApp, checking your emails, booking flights, or watching your favorite shows when you need some downtime. A VPN will keep you secure when you’re online, especially when browsing in public places. In this article, we’ll explain what a VPN does and why it’s crucial to your online security.
What is a VPN, and What Does It Do?
A VPN is a private network that delivers Internet traffic through a public server to connect to remote sites, guarding your online activity. VPNs help ensure security—anyone who tries to intercept your data won’t be able to read it. Another benefit of having a VPN is the ability to switch your location.
One of the most attractive features of a VPN is its ability to allow you to bypass geographical restrictions and access content wherever you’re traveling. Let’s say you’re going to Amsterdam. That means that with a VPN you can divert your IP address to your home country and browse local content like you never left.
Understanding the Value of a VPN
VPNs offer more than just convenience. If you want to understand their real value, then imagine logging free Wi-Fi in a public place. In theory, anyone could access your device the moment you log in. Cybercriminals have been known to set up duplicate networks, luring people to log-on so they can swipe their passwords and credit card numbers. So without a VPN, a public Wi-Fi network is never secure.
Wi-Fi hotspots are frequent targets for ‘Man in the Middle’ (MITM) attacks. A recent study analyzing up to 31 million Wi-Fi hotspots concluded that 28% of the hotspots pose a risk to users’ personal information. All your traffic transmitted over those networks, including private messages, passwords, documents, and photos, can be easily stolen and sold by hackers.
Cybercriminals can also use Rogue Access Points (AP), or “Evil Twins,” to steal your information. These illegal hotspots are designed to trick travelers into giving away their passwords. Let’s say you go into Costa for lunch, and their official Wi-Fi is “Costa Wi-Fi.” Hackers can easily set up a fake network “Costa_Wi-Fi” and when you open your laptop, both will seem genuine.
Without a secure VPN in place, anyone who uses a public network is putting themselves at risk. Travelers are particularly vulnerable because they need public Wi-Fi as they’re no longer protected like they are at home. Free Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, coffee shops, and hotels, often don’t require a password and going online without a VPN is potentially dangerous. Just because a public network appears legitimate does not make it safe.
It’s for these reasons that a VPN is a must-have tool when traveling. It will encrypt your connection and prevent criminals from accessing your data. If you connect to a public network using a VPN, you can browse on public networks with security and confidence. Safe in the knowledge, outsiders, cannot access your traffic—eliminating the risk of criminals swiping your passwords.
How Do I Decide which VPN Service to Use?
Frequent travelers who are reliant on public Wi-Fi networks need a VPN that has servers all over the world. If your privacy and security are important to you, then choosing a VPN that does not log your data should be a top priority. If you go for a “no logs” VPN, then it will be far less susceptible to data leaks than those that openly log your browsing habits.
Another VPN feature to consider is the ability to use it on all your devices. Whether you’re working from a Windows desktop, Mac, or your iPhone or Android phone, your VPN should be able to support them all and operate simultaneously.
Trust and Security
If you value your privacy, then downloading a free VPN is something you should avoid as they typically sell your browsing data to advertisers as a way to monetize their service, putting your anonymity at risk. A subscription-based “no logs” VPN is a wiser choice, especially if you value a private connection while traveling.
Speed of Access
If you’re traveling for work or pleasure, then having fast Internet is necessary to keep in touch with people. When you go online in airport lounges or work from your hotel room, having a slow connection is often infuriating, costing you time and money. If having speedy Internet access is important, then when logging onto your VPN, choose an IP address in your current location. From your phone or desktop app, select the area you want to browse and click connect.
Just remember, the further your data has to travel to make a connection, the slower it will be.
Working Remotely on Your Travels
Remote workers need to take online precautions to protect your company’s data, especially if your laptop or phone is lost or stolen. A VPN will help protect your network in public places and is fast becoming a mandatory requirement for companies, who expect their clients to take security precautions when they travel.
If you’re on vacation and want to keep your inbox down, then having a secure VPN will ensure you can safely work online. When you work remotely, you will need access to your company email, files, and other content management systems. If you’re using a public Wi-Fi hotspot at your hotel or cafe, then a VPN will be essential to protect your company or client’s information.
Many companies have a bespoke VPN or require you to buy a private one to manage your affairs. Alternatively, you may have multiple clients as a digital nomad and need a VPN for your safety. Either way, having a secure “no logs” VPN connection will protect you and your clients.
Take Precautions before Traveling
Using a VPN is the best way for any traveler who has concerns about their privacy. With an estimated 50 million public Wi-Fi access points around the world, the data risks are self-evident.
Like adding a padlock to your suitcase or taking out insurance before you travel, it’s always safer to use a VPN on your travels. It will help protect your passwords, banking details, and photos. Hackers won’t waste their time trying to break through your VPN-protected connection when other people are logging onto their password-free networks.
So take care when you’re traveling, and always use a VPN when you log onto a public Wi-Fi network.