Cybersecurity has always seemed like a black art that is the domain of multinationals seeking to deter foreign nation-states hacking their IT system for secrets. For the man in the street, the tech-savvy will have invested in anti-virus and malware detection software and, for many years, that was deemed enough. Not any longer if you choose a robust VPN.
A VPN Is Now Essential For Privacy
Being online carries a heavy responsibility to ensure that your private data is not only safe, but your very online presence is screened from a wide range of individuals involved in ransomware, phishing, identity theft and tracking your online movements to sell on to marketing companies, very few of whom have your best interests at heart. Sadly, nowadays a virtual private network service (VPN) is an essential part of your personal cybersecurity armoury.
If you Google VPN services you will be overrun with choices, so how do you choose between the wheat and the chaff and ensure you opt for an ethical VPN service provider? Here are some guidelines to help you walk that tightrope.
Essentially, the VPN provider must be reliable. I know that is a No Shit Sherlock scenario, but how do you cut through the PR bullshit? A good place to start is Trustpilot. If you type VPN into the search bar you are made to wade through a motley collection of VPN services. If you have managed to create a shortlist from the reviews here on VPN Briefing, then you can see the Trustpilot scores for each individual service.
Avoid Free VPNs
Part of the reliability test must be to establish if they keep logs. If they do, it’s the trash bin for them as you know the old adage, if a service is free, you are the product whose data is sold on to cover the costs of running the service. The only difference to this rule is ProtonVPN which runs a very robust free VPN service through a limited and speed-reduced service and it is run out of Switzerland. The free options is really a loss leader to bring you into the premium service which is expensive but very private.
Location is another important factor. Some governments such as the US, UK and German have formed an intelligence alliance called Five Eyes or Seven Eyes depending on the type of alliance, that has a data-sharing agreement and legislation that forces companies to hand over data relevant to their clients.
VPN Payment Methods
So, opting for a VPN that does not operate in these locations is important. Surfshark and ExpressVPN operate from the British Virgin Islands and NordVPN operates from Panama, neither territory is bound by data handing over rules.
Payment methods is another factor that needs to be looked at. OK, not everyone can pay by Bitcoin, but disreputable companies can learn a lot about you to sell on. Buying by credit card is a favoured method, but if a service sells via PayPal, that would be an important part of my choice.
Getting the views of trusted IT-focused blogs and online magazines is a helpful way of seeing if a VPN service is up to scratch. Google your VPN choices and add reviews to the search string and you can spend many a happy hour wading through reams of news, views and reviews.
In truth, I see that the choice of reputable and trustworthy VPN providers is limited to about 10 companies. The final decision is up to you.