In recent years, VPN’s have become synonymous with online privacy and security. They are fast becoming a must-have rather than a want due to the increased risk of cybercrime and how effective they are at combating certain threats.
But what does a VPN hide? What does a VPN not hide? Are there any risks involved?
We’ll cover each of these and more in this guide.
Let’s get started.
Yes. The principal feature of a VPN is that it hides your IP address. In simple terms, when you connect to a VPN your traffic is sent through an encrypted tunnel from your device to your chosen VPNs server, effectively shielding your traffic and data from anyone trying to see it. This includes your Internet Service Provider, ads and hackers.
Especially beneficial when connecting to public WIFI which can often be a haven for hackers and are susceptible to attack.
Does a VPN change your IP address?
Again, a resounding yes. When you connect to a VPN your IP address is changed, usually to the location of your choosing, making it appear to anyone who is looking that you are located in that designated country.
Most commonly used for people accessing geo-blocked content such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer or even finding cheaper flights! Also useful for a number of other reasons including living in countries with tough sanctions on online freedom.
It’s worth noting that some location-based apps or services can interfere with this due to the cookies that some websites save or you allow on your device.
Does a VPN hide your Mac address?
You don’t need a VPN to hide your Mac address because this is only visible between your mac and your router.
This is the case 99% of the time, however, some websites running malicious scrips can in theory get your Mac address from a remote website but this scenario is unlikely. In this situation a VPN wouldn’t help either.
Does a VPN hide your searches?
It does. As your browsing and search history are linked to your IP, even if you manually delete these from your device or use incognito mode, the searches linked to you will still be visible to your ISP or anyone else for that matter who wanted to dig deep enough.
This is done using cookies, web caches etc. and allows your ISP to create a profile using indicators such as browser type, operating system and plug-ins.
Using a VPN not only changes your IP but makes tracing the searches back to your device almost impossible.
If you don’t want the searches to be seen at all, be sure to delete these from your browser as these will still be visible to anyone with access to your device.
Another benefit of using a VPN is that it can hide your Google searches. Again, be sure not to be logged in to your Google account otherwise your searches will still be saved and still visible.
Does a VPN hide torrenting?
Without diving into the specifics of torrenting and their uses, certain ISPs, media conglomerates and government agencies don’t take too fondly to copyright infringement and rightly so. Although torrents do have their uses, oftentimes they are used for illegal filesharing and you can be subject to anything from fines to a jail sentence.
If you’re torrenting for perfectly good reason and don’t want the hassle then a VPN can take care of that as well. A VPN will hide your IP from your ISP so they keep your torrenting to yourself.
If you wanted to take it a step further, check out our guide to obfuscated VPN which changes your traffic signals to make it look like you’re not using a VPN at all.
Does a VPN hide browsing history from your router?
If your VPN is configured correctly then your router will only be able to see what times you were connected and not the actual history.
Because the connection between you and the VPN is encrypted, your router will only see the encrypted packet data. If you’re based in the UK and need a guide to setting up a VPN on your router, we have you covered.
Does a VPN block ads?
Many VPNs such as NordVPN (which we’ll get to shortly) come with advanced features which include ad-blockers like CyberSec which blocks suspicious domains and ads from mobile sites.
This doesn’t come as standard and not all VPNs come with this feature so be careful which one you opt for.
Does a VPN hide data usage?
Sadly, using a VPN will still count towards your data usage. Though the traffic is encrypted, it still uses bandwidth and needs to be sent via your ISP. A VPN can help with bandwidth throttling however, which we have covered on a previous article.
Does a VPN hide me from my employer?
This one is tricky because different employers and companies have differing levels of IT equipment and monitoring capabilities. As a general rule of thumb, most employers will mainly be suspicious of excessive bandwidth usage not the VPN itself.
So, if you’re not streaming or downloading large files then you should be fine.
A VPN can do a hell of a lot, from hiding your IP from your Internet Service Provider and Government Agencies to keeping torrenting activity hidden. They also come with limitations and things you need to remember such as signing out of your Google account.
Not all VPNs are created equal however, so whether you want to pay or want a free VPN, you need to make the right choice. Below are the best paid and free VPNs currently available on the market today.
1. NordVPN (Paid)
NordVPN is our number 1 rated VPN and with good reason.
Based in Panama, away from the 14-Eyes surveillance and an independently audit-verified no-logging policy, your data and privacy couldn’t be more secure.
Providing a multitude of additional features including split tunneling, kill-switch and ad-blocker as well as covering Android, Mac, iOS, Linux, Windows on top of the already incredible speeds, you need look no further if you want a paid VPN.
Currently offering a 30 day money back guarantee in case you change your mind.
1. ProtonVPN (Free)
Although the free version only has 3 countries available, you are still afforded unlimited data which all of the other free VPNs do not offer.
With fantastic security features, including a no-logging policy of it’s own, even on the free version, your online privacy is in good hands.
Backed by Swiss engineering and security, ProtonVPN is really the only free VPN to use.