The answer is “Yes!” You need a Virtual Private Network. Fortunately, they are not expensive and are easy to use.
This post contains affiliate links. Should you choose to purchase via these links I will receive a small commission. This will not increase the cost of your purchase. Thank you!
The internet was not created with privacy in mind.
In the USA, Congress has made it legal for your Internet Service Provider to sell your browsing history. There are also people who can skim your private information from open WiFi networks – like the ones you quickly connect to at Starbucks or McDonald.
I took a vacation to the Caribbean recently. On my way to my destination, I connected to five unsecured wireless networks. Three open airport Wifis, the airline’s WiFi and the resort’s WiFi. It wasn’t until I had to log on to my bank that I paused and asked myself “what the hell was I thinking?”
I started using the internet when we wrote the code then plugged the computer into the phone and dialed the computer at another University. It is far from that simple these days and in many ways the technical stuff is overwhelming.
The most important thing to understand is that it is up to you to protect your information. Your Internet Service Provider is not obliged to.
Your own private home network is fairly secure from people skimming info off your network if you use a good password. Your browsing data is, however, visible to your ISP. When using your cellular data to access the internet you are also fairly safe. But data is expensive and lots of places have free WiFi. Protect yourself with a Virtual Private Network or VPN.
At the resort, with my fruity umbrella drink and sassy sunglasses, I got Googling. Somewhere in the Magic 8 ball of my brain, the idea surfaced that such a thing as VPNs existed. I apologize that I can not recall the original article where I learned that. The first article that popped up in my search was this PC magazine review. It is a very good read!
Another excellent article worth reading is Cloudwards Beginner Guide to VPN ” Which explains the creation of these little networks to protect your data and anonymity
“However, the main use for VPNs isn’t the little network they create for themselves, but rather using the network to access the internet. The reason for this is quite simple: when you’re using a VPN, you don’t show up as “you” on the internet, but as the network, instead. This means that you’re essentially hiding your identity behind that of the network, making it impossible to trace you. Cloudwards.net
This is the great strength of VPNs and why they are the number one tool when it comes to protecting your identity online. If you use a VPN to access a dodgy website, for instance, and they try and trace you back, all they will find is the network you gained access through. Cloudwards.net
This anonymity extends to your internet service provider, too: all they can see is the connection you made to the VPN, nothing else. ”
I read the PC Magazine review and visited several of the editors’ choices. Their sites showed me how unprotected my data was. They showed my IP (my computer’s physical address) and where I was accessing the internet from and how much data was flowing back and forth between me and the WWW. YERK!!! (Time to order a cappucino and get working!)
A VPN is described as a tunnel. While you’re connected to a VPN, all your network traffic passes through this protected tunnel, and no one— not the guy sitting at the next table, not even your Internet Service Provider—can see your traffic until it exits the tunnel from the VPN server and enters the public internet. If you make sure to only connect to websites secured with HTTPS, your data will continue to be encrypted even after it leaves the VPN.
Check and see if you are leaking data with these sites
I chose to go with Private Internet Access VPN. Nord VPN’s price was slightly better but I found Private Internet Access VPN’s information and educations pages to be more helpful and readable. Check out their How It Works Page
A PIA plan covers up to five devices using any operating software- including Android and iOS so your phones can use it too. I have this on both my laptops and my iPhone. You do have to check if it is running. If you reboot your phone or close the app it will need to be turned on.
If you decide to use Private Internet Access as your VPN please click on my affiliate link – PIA AFFILIATE LINK
As a postscript: another potential benefit of a VPN, but NOT why I got one, is that you can choose your virtual location – Canada, USA, UK, etc. This can allow you to access different content from video streaming services that is not available to your physical location. Fun for Netflix etc but this can be a problem for banking and shopping from your computer as they use your physical location as part of the security for the purchase. Use two-factor authentication to help with this and protect yourself. I find the couple of security questions are worth it to protect my data when I am out and about.