Getting a VPN: Why, how and which one?

31 Oct 2016

VPNs tunnel (red) past interfering bad actors. Image: optimarc/Shutterstock

The pursuit of anonymity on the internet is an endless one that can only result in tears, though a reduced online presence is certainly something worth targeting. For that, VPNs are your answer.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) serve numerous purposes for online browsing, allowing users things like added encryption, no cookie trails and kill switches.


Future Human

The reasons why people use them are numerous and pretty straightforward. The internet is full of baddies, and you want to be a goodie. VPNs allow you to safely, privately and – if you get the right one – quickly avoid dodgy actors.

If you want access to a company programme from off-site, the most common way to access this is via VPN. Constructed to control the connection between servers and computing clusters, it essentially only allows connections between devices with certain permissions.

You log in via the VPN and that shapes your internet use.

Kaspersky Labs recently tried to explain what a VPN does in one sentence but, failing to find a way to fully encompass all the good and bad on the internet in one succinct phrase, it was left doodling.

The underlying logic behind using a VPN is: it is often the best way to ensure that your data is always protected.

If you already operate on a private, secure network, it can seem redundant but, once you’re dealing with open WiFi networks where bad actors often operate in plain sight, VPNs can eliminate most of the risks.

How do you do it? After buying a VPN (there are free versions out there but, much like any form of cybersecurity, you often get what you pay for), it’s simple.

VPNs need to be enacted, primarily through a personal login. Once you’re in, the internet in front of you is shielded and you’re hidden, to an extent.

Despite the added security, this is still the internet – you’re never truly safe and secure.

“A VPN can’t protect you if you choose to download malicious files, which is why you still have to be as cautious as ever about the emails you open, the attachments you download and the links you click through,” said Kaspersky.

Five of the better VPNs available:

VPN Unlimited

One of the more popular ones available, VPN Unlimited’s main appeal is what you get for how little you pay. At just a couple of euros a month, it reports decent, not great, speeds.


A little more expensive, NordVPN is perhaps the best known on the market. Terribly active in their marketing, it has most of the bells and whistles needed to satisfy a broad market. It’s less than €5 per month if you buy the yearly subscription.


Namechecked by Kaspersky, Hamachi is from the makers of LogMeIn, perhaps the most ubiquitous VPN on the market. People can sit at their office computer while an off-site IT worker fixes their machine. It’s around €4 per month.

IPVanish VPN

Armed with 40,000 IP addresses (40 times that of NordVPN), IPVanish has serious technology supporting it. Ranking as one of the higher-scoring VPNs in many areas, it comes in at around €6 per month.

Hide My Ass

Despite the benefit of a 30-day money back guarantee, Hide My Ass is still one of the more expensive VPNs doing the rounds. Signing up for a year will cost €6 per month. Still, Hide My Ass has more IP addresses and servers than any of the above, meaning more avenues to hide your data through.

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Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic