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How many people have access to your data?

Looney Tunes

Today's newsletter will cover Virtual Private Networks, or commonly referred to as VPNs. Think of this as your crash course, because I'm going to start by telling you what these are and how they can help you, and even how you can use VPNs to access streaming services from other countries (because sometimes Netflix UK is way more entertaining than Netflix US).

P.S. New reader? Lurker? Admirer? Maybe subscribe to The Tech-Letter for more privacy-filled apps.

Application Label

VPN

NordVPN on Macbook Pro

Feel free to skip this part if you already know what a VPN is.

If you've ever accessed public Wi-Fi (at airports, coffee shops..), I can assure you that someone could very possibly have accessed your data (and I'm serious).

You've probably heard of VPN and privacy in the same sentence but don't exactly know how it works. Think of it as a tunnel between you and a server (e.g. from your laptop/device - to any website or Internet-connecting application you use).

Without VPNs, whenever you do anything online, there are several eyes that track your path to a server. For instance, your ISP (Internet Service Provider: AT&T, Spectrum, Cable Onda, and so on) knows everything you do. The company you literally pay for Internet can figure out what shady websites you visit, and how many hours you waste on which social media. 

Oh but there's more! If you enter personal information (passwords, credit card info..) in unsecured websites (the ones that start with http:// and not https://) even that information could be compromised. 

You guessed it: there's more! Unfortunately in the US, thanks to a law passed in 2017, your ISP can now even sell your "anonymised" data to consumers, which is why you might have started noticing personalised ads a LOT more.

    NameCheap visualisation of how VPNs work

    So back to the tunnel reference, the image above is the best example I could find. Using VPNs, you're able to disguise yourself online. For example: if your IP address is 1.2.3.4, a VPN can change that to 2.3.4.5, or 6.3.5.6, or 1.5.8.6, or literally anything else; really depending on what country and/or city you choose. 

    A VPN lets you access the server, but through an encrypted (private, secure) tunnel. It says "Hey Prithvi (or whatever your name is), before you access this website, let me disguise your personal information so that no one knows who you are". So the next time you're trying to visit a certain website, instead of your ISP knowing exactly what you're trying to access, all they know is that you're accessing the Internet. It, and other organisations or parties that are eye-ing your data, know that you're trying to do something, they just don't know what. If you really think about it, it's your data; there's no real reason others should have access to all of it.

    Now that you hopefully understand VPNs a bit more, let me talk about the one I use and why it's my favourite.

    NordVPN 🔐

    NordVPN on mobile

    I'll have you know that I've been on a journey to find the perfect VPN for a while now. There are plenty free ones but they are full of ads and bad experiences. I tried Private Internet Access (PIA) for a few years but it didn't work with any of the streaming services I used so that had to end.

    For the past few months I've been using a lot of NordVPN, almost more than I thought I would. For starters, this company is based in Panama (which is where I'm from). This is important, because Panama has no mandatory data retention law, which is another way of saying that this VPN does not need to store logs (information) about what you do online. 

    Generally, the lower-tier VPNs tend to slow down your Internet speed (because disguising you takes time), but I haven't found that to be the case with NordVPN. Available on Apple devices, Android phones, Windows & MacOS operating systems, and even as Google Chrome and Firefox extensions, this VPN does successfully what I've struggled with so many others: change my location for Netflix

    Many don't know but Netflix actually adds/ removes content based on your location; for reference, Panama doesn't have The Office, and the US does, but the US doesn't have Doctor Who, and the UK does. Using NordVPN, I am able to change my location on most platforms to access their specific location's content, whether it's Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, or a few others from the list.

    Accessing various servers through NordVPN on mobile

    Using this VPN is easy too. Once you're done installing it onto your device(s), you can choose any of 5,000+ servers in over 60 countries. You see all those pins in the image above? All those are different servers, so e.g. if you connect to any server in the UK, you should be able to check out the UK Netflix (or any other streaming platform). Same concept would apply for any other country you choose, for any other website you choose.

    The best part of that is that this VPN works in way too many countries, even ones like China or Iran where the government imposes limited Internet access. NordVPN would let you disguise your location while in these countries too (whereas many other paid VPNs do not).

    Pro tip! Now and then, some platforms will realize you're using a VPN, I've mostly had this happen on Netflix. But all you do then is switch to a different server until Netflix shuts up for another episode or two. A small price to pay for foreign content.

    To sum up: using a VPN makes your digital life a bit more secure, and lets you access content from/in other countries. 

    Lastly, as far as payment goes, there are several plans. I've added my referral links on this tech-letter (if you don't want to use them, you can just search for this VPN on Google), that let you take advantage of their current sale, which is 70% off right now (though I'm pretty sure this sale ends in a week).

    Getscreen dashboard

    Regardless of the plan you choose, you get a 30-day money back guarantee. Personally, I'm on the 3-year plan because paying $125 for $400+ worth of privacy only makes too much sense to me. 

    Either way, now you know what a VPN is (if you didn't before) and why you should probably consider investing in a decent one, regardless of the brand.

    Price? Multiple paid options (best one is $125 for 3 years) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    Format? All devices (up to 6 at a time) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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