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Hackernoon logo[Mythbusting] How to Choose the Right VPN Service? by@michielmulders

[Mythbusting] How to Choose the Right VPN Service?

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@michielmuldersMichiel Mulders

This is not a traditional bullshit article talking about common elements for finding the right VPN service. We will explore items like a VPN kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, or why the privacy policy matters.

If you already know what a VPN is, you can skip the next section.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is an acronym for Virtual Private Network. The goal of a VPN is to protect your data when communicating over the internet but also providing you with extra privacy.

Most often, a VPN is used for hiding the fact that you are torrenting films illegally. Another common use case is to protect your internet traffic while using a free public WiFi network. Such free public WiFi network is the ideal type of network to spy on as it often leaves traffic unprotected. It’s a great way for criminals to possibly steal your banking or credit card information by spying on the network.

In short, a VPN creates a private tunnel over the open internet. The idea is that all the traffic you send is encrypted and encapsulated inside this private tunnel. Even though a malicious person intercepts your packets, they are not able to decipher them.

This article will guide you through some interesting elements for choosing the best VPN service. To tease you, we’ll talk about a VPN kill switch, IPv6 leak protection, or protocol options.

Let’s first start with clearing two common misconceptions.

Misconception #1 - A VPN Makes Me 100% Untraceable?

No, a VPN does not make you 100% untraceable. It is true that you make it harder for websites to track your IP. However, nowadays many tracking methods exist that do not rely on an IP. Be mindful about the following elements when you try to protect your online behaviour.

Cookies

Cookies are pieces of text a website tells your browser to store. Upon subsequent visits, your browser sends those cookies back to the website. While cookies do have many legitimate uses, such as keeping track of what account you’re logged into, they can also be used to track you.

Basically, the website does not care that you log in with a different IP as it can identify you by the cookies you’ve sent. To reach more privacy, disable cookie storage, delete all existing cookies, and turn off auto-filling forms.

Source: Max Pixel

Logins

Logins are more a concern for your overall privacy than for your IP. A website can easily track you whenever you log in with your account to the website. The website doesn’t care how often you switch your IP address. For reaching true privacy, do not log in to websites although this makes the internet very useless for many of us.

DNS

A DNS helps your browser to convert an address like facebook.com into an IP address. It acts as an address book that knows the translation for each domain name to IP address. 

The problem here is that each DNS query your browser sends passes through your ISP. This means they can still track which websites you possibly want to visit. A solution to this is to use Cloudflare’s privacy-minded DNS (

1.1.1.1
).

Misconception #2 - A VPN Slows Down Internet Speed

It is possible for this to happen but it is not entirely true. Modern tunneling protocols have greatly improved speeds. 

The most important factor is the location of the server you want to use for setting up your secure tunnel. If you pick a server that is located in India but you are browsing from Europe, this can provide some lag on the connection of course. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic will be routed through the selected server. As India is quite far from Europe, this can create some lag on the connection. Therefore, pick your VPN operator carefully by making sure the service has plenty of options close to your location.

5 Elements To Look For When Choosing A VPN

There are many things you should look for when trying to find a VPN service provider that fits your needs. However, instead of covering the general tips, let’s take a look at some more interesting options you should spend attention on.

Did I get you hooked? Let’s take a look!

Tip 1 - VPN Kill Switch (Network Lock)

If you are keen on retaining your online privacy and not revealing your IP, a VPN Kill switch might save “your life” some time. The kill switch makes sure whenever the VPN drops the connection, your real IP is not leaked. The kill switch makes sure that it cuts your devices’ network access instantly. This way, your IP won’t be leaked in case of a disconnection.

While this is an advanced feature for most VPN users, it still makes sense to have this option for protecting your privacy.

Tip 2 - IPv6 Leak Protection

IPv6 has been created to provide new devices with an IP in case we run out of IPv4 addresses. With so many new devices joining the online world, we have to provide them all with an IP address. Therefore, there is always a chance your device gets assigned an IPv6 address.

Now comes the interesting part. Whenever a VPN does not handle IPv6 requests, it can leak your real location. Again, it’s an optional feature but still worth looking for.

Tip 3 - Clear Connection Protocol

You might not know, but different connection protocols exist. Protocols differ in security, speed, and the level of encryption.

Some of the existing connection protocols include L2TP, PPTP, or “OpenVPN”. This last one OpenVPN is a very secure one which I recommend using. In short, make sure your VPN provider offers the ability to specify the protocol you want to use.

Tip 4 - Clear Privacy Policy

I believe that a clear Privacy Policy is the most important element for evaluating VPN services. Many VPN companies actually lie about the fact that they are not logging data. Therefore, I prefer a VPN provider that clearly states in their Privacy Policy what they log and what not. 

Don’t get fooled by statements on the homepage of a VPN provider. Always check out the details in the Privacy Policy. A perfect example is ExpressVPN who care about users’ security and clearly state what they do log and what info is not logged.

Source: https://www.expressvpn.com/privacy-policy

Tip 5 - Split Tunneling

Split tunneling is an optional feature but still worth looking for. The idea of split tunneling is that you can define which apps’ network traffic should be transmitted via the encrypted tunnel

The idea can be useful if you have a limited amount of data you can transfer via your VPN service. This allows you to exactly define which services their network traffic should be sent through the VPN.

Picking The Right VPN

While it might seem very simple to pick a VPN, many elements do matter when trying to make the right choice. The most important one I recommend always checking is the privacy policy. If you want to make sure your real location won’t be leaked, opt for a VPN kill switch in combination with IPv6 leak protection.

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