Once upon a time VPNs were only ever really used by nerds and geeks like me.
That was until Edward Snowden blew the lid off the surveillance programs used by almost every single government in the world.
Now everyone and their uncle can see the benefit of using one.
In the not too distant future, using a VPN will be as common as having an email address.
So now is as good a time as any to become familiar with them.
That’s why we put together this VPN FAQ for you – it covers all the questions you probably don’t have answers for.
1. Is it bad to have my VPN on all the time?
While there’s no need to have your VPN active 24/7, doing that does ensure that all of your online activities remain private. And if you have a reasonably fast broadband connection you probably won’t even notice the speed difference.
The only time you might run into a problem is when sending an email using a desktop email client like Thunderbird or Outlook, for example. VPNs block certain outgoing SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) ports so your outgoing mails could get blocked as a result.
You can find alternative SMTP ports by contacting your email or web hosting provider.
2. Do I need a VPN when using mobile data?
You should use a VPN while connected to the Internet via mobile data if you want to remain anonymous online. This is the same reason you would use a VPN while connected to any Wi-Fi network, but especially a public one.
So while you don’t need to use a VPN when connected to the Internet via mobile data, it’s a good idea to make it a habit to have your VPN on when you want to keep your online activities private.
3. Does the average person need a VPN?
Yes, the average person can and should use a VPN pretty much at all times.
The growth in online censorship and the loss of Internet privacy due to government snooping means the only people who don’t need to use a VPN right now is anyone who doesn’t care about government officials being able to snoop on them.
Basically, Edward Snowden’s exposé is proof of why everyone should use a VPN more often than they don’t.
4. Do I need a VPN on my router?
Having a VPN installed on your router is the ultimate privacy solution because it offers anyone connected to that router an anonymous connection to the Internet.
Unfortunately, there is an upfront cost involved in buying a VPN router of around $200, so not everyone will want to make that investment.
It’s also worth taking into account that you’ll still need VPN software on your phone or tablet when you’re away from your home Wi-Fi network.
5. How safe is a free VPN?
The majority of free VPN services are really nothing more than data mining operations.
You get what is allegedly a free VPN service with a limited number of international servers – most of which either don’t work at all or leak your DNS data i.e. they do not mask your real location.
But the bigger issue is that, in order to cover the costs of their services, most free VPN services will sell your data to third parties without asking your permission.
6. What does a VPN not protect you from?
A worrying number of people think that being connected to a VPN protects their computer or device from any malicious software, hacking attempts, or identity theft.
A VPN does not protect your computer or device from viruses or malware.
You still need to have separate antivirus software installed on your device.
A VPN is not security software, it simply masks your online identity.
7. Will a VPN slow down my Internet speed?
Yes, using a VPN can slow down your internet speed although the speed difference with a high-quality VPN service is often so small that you’ll barely notice.
It does really help if you have a fast broadband connection though – this is usually the deciding factor.
If, however, you’re living in the US and connected to a VPN server in Korea, this will add some lag to your online connection speed.
So it’s all down to how you’re actually using your VPN.
8. Does a VPN only work on one device?
Most paid VPNs can be used across multiple devices, so you do not need an account for each device or computer.
Private Internet access, for example, allows for 10 whereas Express VPN allows for 5.
A single paid VPN subscription provides secure and anonymous internet connections for your desktop computer, tablet, phone, and other devices.
9. What is the difference between paid and free VPN?
Besides the obvious difference that a paid VPN costs money and that a free VPN does not, there are other important factors.
These include that a free VPN will typically lack real encryption, you’ll have a limited number of servers to work with, and free VPN services are far more likely to suffer security breaches.
Basically, if you value your privacy and your personal information, don’t use a free VPN.
10. Can VPNs steal passwords?
Yes, it is technically possible for a fake VPN service to steal your passwords or other data by not encrypting your data and then using malware to collect password or payment information.
Another possible way for passwords to be stolen is if you connect to an HTTP site via a “free” VPN service – this means your personal data isn’t encrypted when being typed into an online form or login page.
The above is why you should only use HTTPS sites and a paid VPN subscription.
11. Are there any VPNs that don’t keep logs?
The short answer to this is “No”.
Legitimate VPN services should not keep logs of what your account does online, but that goes against the nature of businesses in terms of record-keeping and how IT infrastructure works.
So while a VPN provider might have a “No Logs!” policy, you have absolutely no way to guarantee that your VPN service doesn’t keep logs.
You’re simply taking their word for it.
12. Can you use a VPN within a VPN?
Yes, you can create a VPN within a VPN without spending any extra money by using TOR in conjunction with your current VPN.
This will give you a very stable and pretty much untraceable VPN within a VPN.
And when combined with something like the Tailz OS this is the closest you’ll get to true online anonymity.
13. Which VPNs sell your data?
This is worth remembering in relation to this question, “If the product is free, then you are the product”.
A free VPN service has only one or two ways to make money from you. The first is to pepper your screen with ads, and the second is to sell your data.
Many of them do both, but you’ll have no idea your personal data is being sold for profit until it’s too late.
So the VPN services that sell your data are typically the ones you don’t pay any money for.
14. What VPN does Edward Snowden use?
Tails is a “disposable” operating system so it erases itself and all data once you close it down, and Qubes OS allows you to create temporary virtual machines, which serves the same purpose.
Snowden doesn’t use a paid VPN because he’s clearly indicated that government agencies can get access to user logs if they want to.
15. Is a free VPN better than no VPN?
A free VPN is actually worse than no VPN because many of the free VPNs are designed to mine your data, and then sell it to a third party.
Your ISP might be a nuisance but they won’t knowingly sell your data.
You could sue them for doing that.
Wrapping it up
Hopefully, you found the answer to your VPN question here.
If not hit us up with a blog comment or an email and we’ll update the article as soon as possible.
Either way, you’re now way more informed about the nuances of using a VPN service than you were before you started reading this post.
It’s always important to do your due diligence with this stuff.
Especially when it involves your personal information.
Oh, and stay away from free VPNs.