A VPN is perhaps the most important tool to combat threats to our online privacy, security, and our freedom to access information. But do people even know what a VPN is, and what it should be used for?
In this episode of “Privacy Buzz, presented by Hotspot Shield,” we take to the streets of San Francisco to find out how much people really know.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, or virtual private network, simply routes your internet traffic through its own secure servers. This scrambles your data, making it unreadable to hackers, Internet Service Providers (ISPs), corporations, and others seeking to track your every online move.
In short, it switches out your computer’s IP address and encrypts your data. With a VPN, every website you visit is secure, your online privacy is protected, and you have access to global content — no matter where in the world you are.
Our time spent talking to folks in San Francisco highlighted a couple of key things:
- People truly care about protecting their personal data when online
- But people don’t know what tools they can use to help them achieve this
Why VPN education is lacking
Let’s be honest: A decade ago, people didn’t think about the data trail they left behind on the web. Media weren’t talking about how corporations like Facebook and Google were collecting user data to then sell to others. The $19 billion data-trading industry didn’t exist back then, or at least we as internet users weren’t aware of it.
It’s only recently, since our news feeds became filled with data breaches, privacy violations, and corporate scandals that people began to care. Internet users finally saw this dark underworld and how they, themselves, were the product that was being traded without their consent.
Until now, there’s been no education on how to protect yourself online against greedy corporations and unwarranted surveillance — because people didn’t understand what they needed protecting from. Now they do. And the lack of education on the topic has led users to feel as if they have nowhere to turn for help.
Enter the VPN
Let’s be clear: A VPN isn’t all you need to protect your online privacy and security — you also need to take responsibility about the information you willingly share online (like on social media), and to better educate yourself on things like phishing scams. But a VPN is the most effective and simple way to protect your data.
It’s so simple, in fact, that with the Hotspot Shield VPN app, you simply click the “connect” button and instantly it’s as if your devices are ‘off the grid’, thus protecting your personal data from anyone seeking to take advantage — be it hackers, your ISP, or major corporations.
People need greater guidance on the importance of using a VPN. Workplaces should do a better job of educating their employees (after all, we all regularly access sensitive company information on unsecured public WiFi networks, like at a coffee shop or when traveling — especially since the advent of the smartphone). And at school, kids are on devices younger than ever, and they need to learn cybersecurity best practices.
We at Hotspot Shield, too, shoulder responsibility to help educate users on the dangers that lurk online and how a VPN can help. If you read this blog, you already know: Cybersecurity education is something we care deeply about. And as we saw on the streets of San Francisco, the people care about it too.