The digital era, firstly and foremostly driven by the internet, has made our lives better in countless ways. Unfortunately, it's made them more dangerous, too.
According to one recent study, in the third quarter of 2022 alone, roughly 15 million digital records were exposed across the globe through data breaches. Not only is this a concerning number in its own right, but it also represents a massive 37% increase compared to just one quarter prior.
A data breach is more than just a minor inconvenience. It could be someone's opportunity to snoop through your personal information or get into sensitive areas like your bank account. If someone is able to collect enough data, they could potentially steal your identity — which can cause the type of damage that takes years to recover from.
Despite all the good things they do, any digital device connected to the internet is a potential vulnerability just waiting to be exploited by cyber criminals. The biggest threat comes from public or shared networks where you cannot be sure who else is using the same connection. So when you connect your phone or another mobile device to such a network, you automatically enter a hazardous area and risk becoming a victim of data theft.
While public networks at coffee shops, schools, and libraries are relatively convenient, it’s critical to take extra precautions when using them with your mobile device. It's also important to point out that it's not the hardware itself that you should be concerned about but the data that's transmitted via the network. Eventually, it doesn't matter if you're using an iPhone, an Android, or any other brand — every mobile device connected to a public or shared network is at risk.
This is why using a VPN is so important: It gives you the protection you need from the invisible threat of public networks and the internet itself. But what is a VPN and when should you use one? Why do you need to be so careful when using public or shared networks? We're here to give you the answers.
Short for "Virtual Private Network," VPN services may seem highly advanced but they're actually a lot more straightforward than they first appear.
Imagine if you were traveling on the highway and there was a special lane that only you were able to use. Other cars are still on the same highway, but there is absolutely no chance that someone could merge into your lane at any time. You wouldn't have to worry about the actions of others but rest easy knowing that they won't be able to negatively impact your life in any way. Metaphorically speaking, a VPN is that private lane — only instead of being on the highway, it exists online.
A VPN is a unique connection method that safeguards your data whenever you need to connect to a public or shared network. They use encryption technologies to create what is essentially a virtual tunnel between the device that you're using (in this example, an iOS or Android device) and a server. That remote server establishes an equally secure connection to the information you're trying to obtain while on that public Wi-Fi connection.
So if you're on a public Wi-Fi network and don't use a VPN, anyone can see what you're doing on your mobile phone in a matter of seconds. If you are using a VPN, they can't. Simple as that.
With a VPN, your data is heavily encrypted, no matter the website you try to access within a specific network. Even if someone were to obtain that data, they wouldn't be able to read it. This means that strangers won't be able to see your personal photos, texts, financial details, etc.
Did you know that your Internet Service Provider (also called your ISP) makes a note of absolutely every website you visit? They frequently even share this information with other companies for the purpose of selling personalized ads to you. So even if you weren't concerned with the possibility of getting hacked on a public Wi-Fi, the company that you're paying to provide you with this service in the first place is likely acting without your best interests in mind.
Right now, if you're not using a VPN, your ISP likely knows you're reading this article. They know how much time you're spending on the page. They know where you came from before you landed here. That's a big part of the reason why you should use a VPN: It encrypts your data and masks your IP address, making it difficult for anyone — including your ISP — to track you online.
Every time you download an app on your phone or access a website, that action also has a physical location attached to it due to your phone's GPS. So not only do people know what you're doing online, but they also know where you are in real life while you're doing it.
A VPN service can help you avoid all of this and the potential negative implications that a worst-case scenario can bring. That’s why they should be used whenever you can.
As convenient as public Wi-Fi networks are, especially if you're on a cell phone plan with limited data availability, they are not designed to be secure.
They connect you to the internet by an open, unencrypted network — meaning that anyone connected to that same network with the right software and a little knowledge can eventually see everything you're doing.
Whenever you connect to a Wi-Fi hotspot in a public location, someone in close proximity to you can exploit security flaws in the router of the network you're using to get access to virtually all of your files, folders, and documents.
Every day, someone falls victim to a hacker with malicious intentions while using public Wi-Fi hotspots without protection. Yet, while a recent survey showed that most people are aware of the risks public or shared networks pose, users still don't practice any safe security habits online.
Besides the apparent usefulness of a VPN, there are several other benefits:
In no uncertain terms, every Android and iPhone user who needs to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots regularly should be using a VPN.
There's a wide range of reasons why you should use a VPN as much as possible.
For starters, a VPN will guard your Internet traffic in its entirety against interception. You could be on the most widely used public network in your area, and you still wouldn't have a thing to worry about as far as that’s concerned.
Likewise, using a VPN gives you far more location privacy. This is because the VPN remote server itself will stand in as your representative on the Internet. So someone might find out the server's location, but they won't know how or from where you've connected to it — adding yet another layer of protection between you and the people who want to harm you.
In the modern era, many people also have to deal with region-restricted web content, which can be quite frustrating. For example, you can watch certain shows on a streaming service in the United States. However, those same shows will be locked off if you connect from the United Kingdom, even though you're still paying for the same service. A VPN essentially unlocks all of that content, allowing you to access it from anywhere, at any time, and on virtually any device with an Internet connection.
Finally, corporate data breaches become less of a risk when you're using a VPN during remote work. This has been proven to be especially important given everything going on in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic. More people than ever found themselves working remotely. The problem is, the network you have at home is likely less secure than the one you have in your office. This makes you more of a target for hackers than you would be under normal circumstances. With a VPN, however, you can enjoy that additional layer of protection. Even if some other employee remotely connected to the same network gets hacked, you won't have to worry about any adverse effects on your end. Your data will still be protected, as it would have been if you had been on a public Wi-Fi network. You can be just as productive (and protected) virtually anywhere in the world, thanks to the security-related advantages that a VPN has to offer.
The most obvious situation when you would want to use a VPN involves any time that you need to connect to public Wi-Fi. Sometimes you'll be in a coffee shop or train station and you won't have any other choice. If you're on a plane, you cannot get online without using the airline's public Wi-Fi. But again, anyone else on that network with the right software will be able to see what you're doing and could catch your personal information, so using a VPN in these situations is a must.
Beyond that, a VPN should be used when dealing with sensitive information that could potentially be exposed. Some people use VPN services on every cell phone or desktop computer they own for advanced protection. This practice is completely legal. It just hasn't entirely caught on in the United States yet in part because people perceive it to be much more complicated than it actually is. If you've ever worried about what might happen if your personal information falls into the wrong hands, now is an excellent time to consider moving in this direction.
Of course, there are other benefits to using a VPN. As mentioned, you can access region-locked libraries on video streaming services that would otherwise be unavailable in your country. You can also view different prices when booking travel accommodations, as pricing for hotels, flights, and car rentals are typically based on the user's location.
Likewise, when you want to avoid being tracked by your Internet Service Provider and other businesses, using a VPN is essential.
A VPN will protect your essential information from getting into the hands of those who wish to harm you. There's no need to worry about corporate data breaches anymore since with a VPN you'll be connected to a remote server. A VPN offers location privacy, unlocking region-restricted content, and much more.
These benefits would be enough to get most people to consider a VPN. When you realize that you get them all simultaneously, this is one opportunity you cannot afford to pass up.
Personal data protection is a serious matter. While VPN services protect you while online, they won't help against other modern threats like malicious spam calls. Robokiller is the #1 robocall blocking app and the best solution to end your unwanted call problem. Besides protecting you from spam calls and robocalls through real-time caller identification, the app even gets on the phone to fight unwanted callers for you with hilarious Answer Bots.