Encrypted communication using VPN. sasha85ru : 123RF

Why now?

On Tuesday, March 28th, the House of Representatives passed an Act that allows Internet Service Providers to collect and share their users’ data without their consent. The Act is a repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules issued late last year that required ISPs to do the opposite. The 215-205 win also served to ensure that the FCC could never reinstate any laws of a similar nature in the future.

Passing this Act means that any ISP you use can now record what sites you visit, or any other personal information that it can mine. Your ISP also will not be breaking any legal boundaries if it sells this data to advertising firms and any related financial institutions. If you feel the need to keep your data to yourself, getting a VPN now might be your only option to secure your online data use.

What is a VPN?

A VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network. It is a network that allows you to encrypt your online activity. The VPN also enables users to bypass any blocks so that they can access websites or apps that may be banned in their countries, say, like Facebook in China. And a VPN will allow the user to do all this without restriction or censorship.

Another thing any VPN user will have going is that his or her ISP cannot view what websites he or she visits so it cannot share user data. The ISP will only report that the user has been online but not what he or she has been viewing. Some VPNs will even allow the subscriber to change his or her IP address so that the ISP does not have his or her geographical location.

How to get a VPN

The mode of acquiring a VPN depends on how secure the user wants his or her data to be.

For those people who want the simplest option, the first step would be to download a web browser. Most web browsers have an incognito window, but this tab is not very secure because the ISPs can still view consumer data from it. Once the browser is installed, turn on the advertisement blocker feature and the VPN. For a web browser like Opera, install the HTTPS Everywhere feature for extra security.

The average VPN acquisition model is to subscribe to a VPN service provider. Pay varies from one provider to the next, and there is no guarantee of the product functioning as well as advertised, which is a major downside. Also, some providers such as ExpressVPN, which has partnered with Futurism, have some additional advantages. ExpressVPN is based outside the US and cannot be coerced into giving up data. Others have kill switches in case your data becomes insecure. Other VPN service providers include F-Secure Freedome and Private Internet Access.

The last option to get VPN is to utilize The Onion Router (TOR) which is extremely encrypted. This ‘layered’ service bounces your connection on various servers to protect user information. On the other hand, it causes slow internet connection. If Tor is too extreme, an individual can access Google pages while hidden using the DuckDuckGo search engine. All one has to type into it is the search keys with the prefix ‘igoogle.’

Keep your data safe; get a VPN.