A VPN helps to protect your information from being intercepted by third parties, such as your ISP, government, or local network admin – school, work, club owner, etc.
The thing is, not all VPNs were created equal. Some VPN providers do not have a strict no-logs policy, which means that they keep track of your online activity and could potentially hand over your data to authorities. Others may have weak encryption and vulnerabilities which could leave your data vulnerable to interception.
That’s why it’s important to choose a VPN provider that has been audited by a reputable third party.
An external audit will verify that the VPN provider is following best practices for security and privacy. It will check that there are no logs being collected and stress-test the VPN’s server simulating various types of attacks to ensure the provider is up to the task. The fact of the matter is that a VPN with leaks and issues is more dangerous than not using a VPN at all, so you really need to pick a reputable one, preferably one that costs money. Free VPNs aren’t worth it.
What is a VPN?
A virtual private network, or VPN, encrypts your data and routes it through an intermediary server.
From watching Hollywood movies we all know that encryption makes it impossible for anyone to read a message unless they have a special password or key to unlock the encryption. All the internet traffic that’s leaving your computer is put in a sort of encrypted envelope. Your ISP still carries this envelope to the VPN’s address which is written on the front, but they are unable to open it. Once the envelope arrives at the server, it can be decrypted and forwarded to the intended recipient. Providing that the VPN isn’t keeping logs, there’s no link back to you.
This helps to protect your information from being intercepted by third parties, such as your ISP or government agencies.
Why external audits are important for VPN providers
When you connect to a VPN, it becomes your internet provider, allowing any VPN to track and log everything you do online. While many VPNs promise no-logs policies, these promises are sometimes broken when put to the test.
It’s rare that a VPN provider lets you look at their code to see how the servers work for yourself, and unless you’re a trained cybersecurity professional, it’s unlikely you’d be able to follow along.
Letting an independent 3rd party into the servers is a way to build trust. The auditor’s reputation is on the line. They have no incentive to lie because if they give a provider’s servers the all good, and they get hacked, it hurts the auditor’s reputation. Audits are also an opportunity for the VPN itself to find out if there are any issues with its software. Developers try their hardest to make secure software, but auditors have spent their professional energy mastering finding bugs and issues.
The benefits of using a VPN
Privacy is a big one. If you live in a state with strict internet control, a VPN is essential, but VPNs aren’t just for China, Russia, and Iran. Recently the US ended net neutrality, and let ISPs sell user browsing habits to advertisers. It also lets ISPs stop people from accessing the sites of their competitors. It’s unlikely they will, but if they were slowing down speeds to their competitor’s sites, it would be really difficult to tell.
It’s not just governments and ISPs that people want to hide their activity from. Say you have a scholarship at a conservative school. It’s in your best interest to keep what you are doing private from the system’s admin.
In short, anyone who is trying to keep their activity hidden from someone else can benefit from a VPN.
How to pick the best VPN provider
There are some key factors you should look for when choosing a VPN:
– Reputation: Read online reviews and look for independent external audits. If a provider is being dishonest about its no-logs policy, chances are someone has written about it.
– Ease of use: A good VPN should be easy to set up and use. If it’s not, you’re likely to give up on using it altogether.
– Price: Free VPNs are tempting, but they’re rarely worth it. If a provider is offering a good service, it’s likely that they’re charging for it.
– Server locations: The more server locations a VPN has, the more likely you are to find one that’s close to you, and the better your connection will be.
Let’s Wrap This Up
A VPN is only as good as its no-logs policy. Before you trust a provider with your data, make sure that they’ve been externally audited, and that their servers are up to snuff. Once you’ve found a reputable provider, using a VPN is easy and provides a wealth of benefits.
If you’re looking for a reputable, external audit of a VPN’s no-logs policy, look no further than SurfShark. They even have a VPN free trial if you want to test it out.