Are VPNs Secure?
Updated: March 29, 2016
In a word, yes. VPNs are secure.
However, there are a large number of different VPN providers offering different levels of service, and working with different business plans, in different countries. This means that inevitable some VPNs are more secure than others. It is therefore highly advisable for customers to conduct thorough research into their prospective VPN to understand the level and sophistication of security it offers. That is where our Reviews can help you, as we dissect the offerings of all the major VPNs on the market and tell you what’s good, and what’s not so good, about each of them.
For the most part, VPNs offer a secure connection to the internet. A VPN works by diverting your internet connection via an external server. The server itself changes you IP Address and allows you to get around things like geo-blocked sites and state censorship. The connection between your device and that server is an encrypted one, and this is what makes the connection secure and brings with it all the privacy and security benefits a VPN can offer.
However, your VPN provider can still see all of your online activity, and knows your original IP Address and other details about you. The level of security you VPN offers is therefore dependent on what your provider does with this information. And this is why it can differ depending on which VPN provider you use.
So I am more secure using a VPN than not using a VPN?
Quite simply, yes. Regardless of which VPN you sign up for and whether you decide to pay for a high-end premium service or use a free one, you are definitely much more secure than if you log onto the internet without using a VPN.
Every VPN offers an encrypted pathway between your device and their server, and this in turn means that your data is much more difficult for any outside party, such as a hacker or a government surveillance unit, to access.
What do providers do differently then?
Different providers offer different levels of privacy and security, and this is where the answer to this question becomes a little more complicated. The level of security your VPN provider can offer you depends on a number of factors including local laws in the country where they are based, their policy of retaining logs of their user’s activity, and the level of encryption they provide.
To explain this a little more, I have addressed these three key areas in a little more details below:
a. Local Laws: Every VPN provider has to be based somewhere, regardless of where in the world they can offer servers to their clients. And wherever they are in the world, they are subject to that countries local laws.
And when it comes to things like privacy and online security, the differences between then can be considerable. For example, some countries require companies to keep logs of all the user’s activities for a set period of time, while others may have to allow law enforcement agencies to have certain information if requested, or even to keep a backdoor into their security settings.
It is therefore wise to keep a close eye on where you chosen VPN is based and what the local law will mean for the level of security they can offer you. For example, Buffered is based in Hungary which allows them to offer very high privacy settings, and NordVPN is headquartered in Panama which allows them to guarantee ‘No Logs’.
b. No Logs: A VPN which keeps a record of the online activity of their users seems like a contradiction in terms, but a surprising number of them still do so, either because local laws require as much of them, or because it is an internal policy within the company. Some will argue it allows them to ensure users aren’t doing anything which might damage their network for example.
If they are keeping a log of your activity, this is obviously susceptible to falling into the hands of others. Law Enforcement officials could demand to see it, the VPN provider itself might sell the data, or a hacker might breach the provider’s security and steal the data. Either way, if privacy and security is a key reason for getting a VPN, the situation is not ideal.
It is therefore advisable to seek out a VPN which has a verifiable ‘No Logs’ policy. We wrote recently about the FBI trying to gain logs on the activity of a Private Internet Access user without success, while other VPN providers such as NordVPN and IPVanish also make the claim. It is still advisable to read our reviews and do plenty of research before you sign up with a provider though.
c. Encryption Levels: Different providers can offer different levels of protection to your connection, and for those who value their online privacy the level of encryption offered can be very important.
If you are signing up with a free VPN for example, you cannot usually expect a high level of encryption, while more expensive ones will generally offer a much better level. It doesn’t allows follow the price of the service though, so it is once again important to research providers thoroughly before choosing yours.
In short, all VPNs will make you more secure online, but there are big differences between providers and some will make you more secure than others. How do you know which one to go with? Read the Fried.com reviews thoroughly and be sure you have done sufficient research before signing on the dotted line.