Best tips on how to use a VPN

Having the right digital privacy and security tools at your disposal is a great way to stay protected. But what makes these tools even more effective is knowing how to use them to your advantage.

Bitdefender cybersecurity experts share their best tips on how to use a VPN in a way that really makes a difference, so that your personal data is safe online.

How Does a VPN Work?

A secure VPN combines features that strengthen the privacy and security of your personal data every time you go online, regardless of the devices used. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Strong encryption is fundamental for any trustworthy VPN. It is what creates a safe tunnel for your data as it travels back and forth between your device and the online resources you access.
  • Robust VPN protocols protect the confidentiality of your data. They also prevent unauthorized access to your information, while ensuring flexibility in the way the VPN works.
  • The automatic kill switch immediately closes specific programs if you lose your Internet connection, preventing private data leaks.
  • IP and DNS leak protection ensures your Internet service provider (ISP) cannot monitor, store, and filter your DNS traffic. This makes it harder for malicious actors to track and pinpoint your exact location and activities.
  • Two-factor (or multifactor) authentication significantly reduces the risk of account takeover. This feature adds a much-needed protection layer to your VPN provider account.
  • No-logs policy is how you know the VPN provider is not storing details of your web behavior while the app is enabled, effectively guaranteeing your anonymity.

All these VPN features blend to shield you from those who seek to abuse your data – whether they are cyber-criminals, scammers or other private entities that see your personal information as lucrative business.

The moment you start using a VPN, your Internet connection gets routed through remote servers. The VPN effectively hides your real IP address and keeps you safe from third parties that want to identify you, your network, or your device.

How to Get the Most out of Your VPN

VPNs are mostly used for online activities that combine your needs of staying productive, enjoying your Internet freedom, and keeping your data safe from prying eyes.

Let’s take a look at all the ways you can use a VPN like a cybersecurity pro (with several quick wins even for non-techies).

Your VPN Protects Your Digital Footprint

Keeping your digital footprint under control is no easy task, especially when it is growing every day. You may not even realize how much and fast it is happening. A VPN is a reliable way to map, monitor, and manage your digital footprint. This one tool can help curb the amount of data you leave in your trail as you go about your day in a way that truly makes a difference. One of the keys uses for a VPN is to hide your IP address (and your actual location). It can be shocking to discover just how many entities keep track of your physical whereabouts. This information can be used for advertising purposes, surveillance or even to profile you for scams and cyber-attacks. One of the worst-case scenarios is having your digital identity stolen. This type of cybercrime can have devastating long-term consequences. Turning on your VPN when you power up your device is a small and simple action you can take every single day that has compound benefits for your safety in the long run.
“The most important information is the one that cannot be easily changed. Even if you can change your username or password, you cannot do the same with a social security number, your date of birth or your name. Those just stick with you for the rest of your life.” Bogdan Botezatu (Director of Threat Research and Reporting, Bitdefender)

Your VPN Keeps Your Browsing History Private

Malicious actors whose main line of business is to turn personal data into money are constantly working to get more of it. Cyber-criminals can target you with scams, try to install malicious software on your device, or even hold your data for ransom. And when your digital footprint is exposed, it makes their job considerably easier. Take your browsing history as an example. It packs a lot of personal details for them to prey on:
  • Your online banking activity
  • Your email provider
  • All your online searches (which can reveal your health condition and other specific information about you)
So when you go online without using a VPN, everything you do on your device could be tracked and exposed. The moment you turn your VPN on, that information automatically gets protected and never stored. Exactly as it should be.

Your VPN Secures Public Wi-Fi Connections

We are so used to being online all the time that we do not even notice it unless our connection drops. This is especially true when we are away from home and need to jump on a public Wi-Fi to get things done. Sometimes you feel pressed for time or circumstances, so it gets easier to just join any available network, even if it can be unprotected. Which is exactly what cyber-criminals want. With so much personal information exposed online, cyber-criminals and scammers constantly launch mass attacks that are largely automated and can target virtually everyone. Even if the risk of a hacker coming specifically after you is rather low, the probability of a “spray and pray” cyber-attack that can hit you when using an unprotected Wi-Fi network is much, much higher. To throw attackers off and close these windows of opportunity, use a secure VPN. You can set it up to automatically protect you when you connect to any network, be it a public hotspot or your hotel Wi-Fi.

Your VPN Secures Your Online Banking

Is using a VPN necessary for all online activities? Bitdefender cybersecurity experts say “yes”, especially for online banking activities. Your bank’s website or mobile app can be secure but keeping your accounts safe from intrusion and fraud is a shared responsibility. A lot is going on with your device that you may not be aware of. If you have never checked if your personal information is exposed, you may be surprised to find out your card details could have been leaked in one of the many data breaches from the past years. Not to mention the browser add-on that may be infected with malicious code (malware). That one is just waiting for you to go to your online banking website and put in your credentials so it can harvest and send them off to cyber-criminals. When you look at your online activity through the eyes of a malicious outsider, there are plenty of scenarios where you can be exposed to fraud and cyber-crime. Starting to use a VPN regularly protects your financial data with an extra layer of encryption and helps you reduce risk in a meaningful way. And it only takes one click on the “Connect” button to do it.

Your VPN Secures Remote Access to Resources and Data

It is a good idea to use a VPN if you need to constantly leverage resources stored in a remote location. If your employer is already providing you with a corporate VPN to use for connecting to company assets, you probably know how this works. The same type of security extends to your personal projects or files that can be safely accessed from a distance. When you use a trusted VPN, it makes sure a hacker cannot track and discover where you store important documents, intellectual property or other sensitive information. It has never been easier to combine security with productivity. A solution like Bitdefender VPN supports both while adding flexibility to your digital life.

Your VPN Can Bypass Profiling and Surveillance

The threat of surveillance does not apply exclusively to political regimes with invasive laws that restrict the human right to freedom. It also concerns entities that work on data enrichment, an activity that aims to improve the level of detail and accuracy for massive volumes of information that is constantly collected from millions of individuals. One of the most reliable solutions at your disposal is to use a VPN to minimize your digital footprint. By curbing the amount of information you leave on the web, you are also making it more difficult to be profiled and specifically targeted.

Your VPN Helps Protect Mobile Devices

“Attackers will often try to plant threats designed to collect everything you type. That means every social network account, every password, everything you type into your keyboard can potentially reach the attackers and be used to compromise all of your other accounts.” Liviu Arsene (Senior E-threat Analyst, Bitdefender)
This is important to remember when using mobile devices. We tend to pay less attention to our smartphones or tablets because we think of them as being inherently secure. Many of us do not even consider the URLs we click on, most of which we cannot fully read. It is something that cyber-criminals have picked up on and they now use shortened links to trick our perception and get us to access harmful websites. That is just one example of how easily one can lose control over their mobile devices. When combined, all these tiny details punch a big hole in your security and privacy online. This is one of those situations where you can make the best use of a VPN. It will add an extra layer of protection to every connection, whether you are on Wi-Fi or your telecom provider’s network. It also keeps your data private and safe as you jump from one network to another when traveling.

Your VPN Keeps Your Online Chats Private

You may not realize it, but you give away lots of information through your online chats. Hackers are keenly aware of this fact, and they are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to access those conversations. When you learn how to protect your online privacy, it is important to know that the use of a VPN is an excellent addition to your setup. Because your data goes through the encrypted tunnel the VPN creates, it is shielded from cyber-attacks such as ‘Man in the Middle’, which cyber-criminals use to eavesdrop on your conversations.

Your VPN Secures Your Downloads and Streaming

Your downloads and streaming history are also a big part of your digital identity and there is nothing cyber-criminals love more than a chance to interfere with both.

A surefire way to ruin their plans is to turn on your VPN whenever you go online. That way, you know you are safer every time you download something or stream your favorite content.

However, a VPN cannot protect you if you visit suspicious websites. You will need an antivirus or antimalware solution for that. Bitdefender cybersecurity experts recommend that you build your digital security setup in layers, so having both VPN and security software is ideal!

Your VPN Can Access Geo-blocked Content

Whether you are at home and want to watch something that is blocked in your current location, or you are traveling, and your favorite TV shows make you feel less homesick, using a VPN is the way to go.

Your VPN Lets You Enjoy Safer Vacations

To safely relax and unwind without a care anywhere in the world, just put your VPN on autopilot and let it work in the background.

Since you probably spend more time on your phone while on holiday than you would like to admit, this is a matter of safety, just like putting on SPF.

Take it from a cybersecurity expert:

“We’re interacting with the Internet at a pace that we’ve never done before and this increases the chances of us becoming a victim.“
Bogdan Botezatu (Director of Threat Research and Reporting, Bitdefender)

Your VPN Helps Avoid Price Discrimination

Speaking of vacations, the next time you are planning one, try using a VPN to compare prices for transportation and accommodation as seen from various locations.

When you turn on your virtual private network, you may discover that pricing varies based on your perceived location. This includes plane tickets, hotel rooms and even cruises. The same applies to software or other products you may want to buy online.

Your VPN Can Bypass Censorship and Content

One of the best things about the Internet is the freedom to use it to access information from all over the world.

That is why using a VPN can prove to be essential in certain countries and regions, where it helps people overcome obstacles imposed by restrictive regimes.

With all of these uses for a VPN, you now know how to make the most of your subscription. Use these expert tips to take your online privacy to the next level and choose the right VPN app for your needs. With ultra-fast speeds and a large network of servers, using a solution like Bitdefender VPN ensures the privacy protection you deserve.