Headline: What is a VPN?


Body:  OK, back to basics night.  To  really take advantage of cryptocurrency and NFTs, it might be important to make use of a secure browser and perhaps a VPN (Virtual Private Network.)  So, what are these things and how might they be used in your pursuit of virtual riches?  Might it also make your continuing remote work more palatable to your boss.

What is an VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) can be used when you are using a public network.  They can be helpful to disguise your identity.  This makes it harder to track your activities and also masks where you are signing on from.  This is important because not all sections of the Internet are available to residents of every country.  People often think of North Korea, or China when they think of a VPN, and it is true, as far s that  goes.   But, perhaps there is a gameshow that is available online only to those within the U.K.  A VPN will mask where you are logging in from, and presents you with a much more comprehensive set of options.  In addition to disguising your location, the VPN  will offer you secure encryption and secure data transfer.

The VPN offers you some real security.  It encrypts your IP address and your protocols.  It also offers a kill switch, where if there is unusual traffic, the connection is shut down immediately.     Finally, it offers extra security by use of 2-factor authentication.    At first a password is required.   But then, they will also text you a one-time use code.   Once you enter it, you will be given access to the VPN.  Unfortunately, it is not a silver bullet.  The use of a VPN does not protect you from malware of any type.  So, even if you are using a VPN, please be sure to also have an updated anti-virus program running.

Is this a large movement?

Yes, it is.  The number of people using VPNs increased more than 4-fold from 2016-18.  Now, in countries like China, it is estimated that 20% of  Internet users are connecting thru a VPN.

Are there different flavors of VPNs?

Yes, there are different varieties of VPN, mainly 2 different ones.  First there is a site-to-site VPN and this is used mostly in very large companies with facilities all around the world.  (Think of Boeing or Airbus.)  They might want to send engineering plans from a new airliner to their other facility.  On the intranet, things are pretty secure, and there is an intranet at each facility.   The VPN acts as an encrypted tunnel between the 2 networks.  The other variety is a Client-to-Server connection  Think for a moment (hey, no cussing) about your ISP, whether it be Xfinity, Cox, whatever.  The VPN forms an untraceable tunnel for your now-encrypted data, before it hits Cox or Xfinity, taking your transmissions DIRECTLY down the encrypted rabbit hole.  That way the rest of the Internet has no idea of where you’re  transmitting from.

How Do I choose the right VPN for me?

Choosing the best VPN comes down to what you want to get out of a VPN. You should consider locations, cost, speed and security protocols. You may want to choose a VPN service based on whether it will maintain a connection as your internet changes (from Wi-Fi to cellular, for example).

NordVPNExpressVPNHotspot ShieldSurfsharkPrivate Internet Access
Price Range (per Month)$3.99 to $11.99$8.32 to $12.95$7.99 to $11.99$2.49 to $12.95$2.03 to $9.95
Free PlanXXXX
Number of Devices$6$51 to 25Unlimited10
Number of Countries$60$94$809584
Encryption Type256-bit AES256-bit AES256-bit AES256-bit AES256-bit AES
Money-Back Guarantee30 days30 days45 days30 days30 days
24/7 Support

OK, I’m sold.  Is there any reason NOT to get a VPN?

While a VPN will keep your connection secure and your data safe, there are some potential drawbacks to using one.

Blocked servicesI take Uber a lot, and this requires that Uber knows where I am.  If I had a VPN, there would have to be a very carefully considered carveout for Uber.  If you have similar location-dependent apps, this could be an issue.
DowntimeMaintenance is required on any system, and the VPN is no exception.  During these periods, your VPN will not be available.
Dropped VPN connectionsIf your connection to the VPN is temporarily down, you might be browsing the internet without the protection of the VPN, without knowing it.  THE EMPEROR IS NAKED!!  It can happen.
Connection speedUsing a VPN, you are dependent upon a server that can be very distant from you, and this could slow down your connection speed.

The Verdict

Depending on what you do on the internet, investing in an VPN might be a good idea.   Perhaps you are looking for academic information that your country’s leadership doesn’t want you to have, perhaps you are doing cryptocurrency transactions, and you just wish to have a safe connection to the internet.  Both of these are completely valid reasons to get a VPN.  It’s pretty simple to do, too.  Consider it carefully.






Editor’s Note: Please note that the information contained herein is meant only for general education: This should not be construed as Tax Advice.   Personal attributes could make a material difference in the advice given, so, before taking action, please consult your tax advisor or CPA.


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