How safe is your information while using VPN?

Tuesday February 09 2021
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A girl surfs the Internet. Some people use Virtual Private Networks to browse the Internet. PHOTOS/EDGAR R. BATTE

By Charlotte Ninsiima

While Virtual Private Networks (VPN) offer some degree of online anonymity, it’s important to stress that they are not completely invisible.

Although using a VPN will cover up your real internet protocol address (IP) from websites you do not log in to, the VPN provider must know your real IP address so that its servers know where to direct the data you are requesting.

So, how safe is your information when using VPN?

It  depends on the protocol and service provider you have chosen. “There is growing business in search of user data. Some advertising companies would like to know what one is interested in as they browse the Internet. Once they are in know, they build a profile and send adverts related to your interests,” John Birungi Babirukamu, a digital director at QG Saatchi & Saatchi says.

It brings in a level of convenience and increases sales for the advertising companies.

If one chose a free Virtual Private Network (VPN), the quick question that crosses one’s mind is how these people man this service. For a fact, all operational costs: maintaining VPN servers, powering servers, Internet bandwidth and the technical people cost money. Like they say, anything for free comes at a cost. So, free VPN service providers will either out rightly sell your data or run adverts on the interface.

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Mr Babirukamu agrees that free VPNs are a huge window of hackers while logging into personal and corporate accounts.

Alternatively, Nicholas Kyomuhendo, an ethical hacker and Information Technology expert, says for those who front privacy and security in their lifestyle or work, perhaps you have to get into a paid for service costing from $3 to $15 per month. It is least likely to sell out your data of browsing history because it is a paid for service.

“The cheaper options might have supplementary sources to mark up to their budgets but the actual premiums will give you the best protection.”

Data runs out faster on VPNs

He adds, making a request or surfing online, using VPN will incur data in terms of an encryption overhead. The overhead means that the package you are downloading has been wrapped into a protective layer which adds on an amount of data. In other words, encrypted data is heavier than non-encrypted data.

Increased latency for your communication increases the round trip time for all your connections. So, connections might appear a bit slow. Traffic traverses the device to VPN service providers then proceeds to the visited site after then back to the service provider to finally get to the device.

Perhaps some applications are not well setup to use VPN. During delays, they continuously request for data hence driving up your data bills or charges.

Another drive of latency is server load especially while using free or discounted VPN services. Congestion occurs due to many VPN clients connecting to a few or resource constrained servers, perhaps because it is free ideally, hence requests are queued. As it queues the requests, it will serve a few at a time or what it can handle. So delays will occur in there.

In a nut shell, Over the top tax (OTT) and VPNs are not mutually exclusive! You could pay OTT tax and use VPN to keep your Internet, browsing history and all your online activities private and secure. OTT is a government imposed tax while VPN use gives you privacy. Much as you pay OTT, without VPN services or other privacy enhancement tools, you may not have the much desired privacy and freedom to go online untracked if privacy is of key concern to you.

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