Many feel motivated to use VPNs for a variety of purposes. You might be living under the autocratic rule where the use of social media or certain sites is banned.
Or it can be done to protect privacy. Especially when you are browsing sites that you don’t want your parents, spouse or siblings to know.
Other than these harmless intentions some can use them for really fishy things i.e. to harm the well being of society or national security.
But usage of these tools really make one anonymous?
If that’s the case perhaps you should seek a refund for your tax money, if you think your security agencies are helpless before VPNs.
Let’s Examine How VPNs Work?
Basically whenever you want to browse some particular site, that you don’t want others to know. Or maybe you are in a place using public wifi connection, so you just want to protect your security. You would like to connect via VPN. But how does it protect your privacy? Normally when you search for a site, you make a request through your ISP or at least IP address to reach it.
Your ISP stores your browsing history that it can sell to advertisers if needed. But you don’t want your ISP to know your activity so you opt for a VPN. It will encrypt your message and send it to VPN making a request to connect with a particular site that you intend to browse. You ISP will most definitely know you made such a request but it won’t be able to read what it was. Even VPN`s ISP would know that your request came but because of encryption even they can’t read.
But regardless of all this effort, the government is still watching you. Being anonymous doesn’t equate privacy. They have tools to monitor metadata and internet traffic that can’t be tracked otherwise. They aren’t only aware your IP address is requesting a VPN, they also know which site you are accessing with VPN’s mask. You must know who you are hiding from, if it’s a friend or parents then you are in a safe area. If the government then it’s a dangerous path to tread.
Who is at the Greater Risk of Being Monitored?
If you are browsing data through VPNs for personal reasons. If you are sneaking into a site that you want to hide from your spouse or partner. You will be trusting VPN with a blind eye, but knowing it doesn’t guard well you might feel insecure. Albeit true that VPN can’t guarantee anonymity no matter what their claims are. Government agencies won’t be interested unless you poke your nose across some redlined areas.
If you regularly visit sites of banned terror outfits, that will certainly raise concerns of security officials. Even if the purpose was curiosity. You can fall under their radar easily. But in the first case, even if they can trace your data they aren’t interested in knowing. Unless you become a security threat but it is unethical still.
Free vs. Paid VPNs
Usually paid VPNs make hefty claims to entice clients like there shall be no logs saved of your activities. And that a free VPN can expose your data. But all these claims are a myth. Even a paid VPN can’t run without logging history. Without logs, it can’t handle troubleshoot connections, make DNS requests or limit subscribers. So basically paid or not your logging history isn’t wiped out.
Although there are some differences. A paid one won’t be selling data to advertisers at least and that it might be faster than the free one!
What Information is Being Stored with a VPN?
It’s your username, IP address, how many times you were connected and disconnected are the bare minimum. And if the necessity arises they will hand over your data to security agencies. So not as anonymous as you might consider. But won’t you agree with this practice if you want to see your state’s security intact? It certainly doesn’t harm.
You might consider shopping and want to enter banking details with the comparatively anonymous system. Or a Netflix season that might only be available for US citizens, and you are not American, a VPN shall come for a rescue. So it’s not completely a wrong bet!
The bottom line is VPNs can’t be thrown away based on the fact they aren’t 100 percent secure. Sometimes you need them. If you live in restricted societies that might bar you accessing certain sites, not for security concerns. But because they somehow negate their political, religious or ideological narrative. You will need a VPN to stay connected with the rest of the world. VPNs are helpful in scanning and detecting viruses which are one kind of security means for an internet user. So if you are not following any malicious agenda online. Using a VPN should be safe for you.