One advantage of today’s fast-paced technology is that there is a vast amount of information available online, and it is possible to locate almost anything. However, it does put you at risk, so you need to take caution when online. This has contributed to the growing interest in virtual private networks (VPNs) during the past decade. VPNs are not only indispensable but also potentially lucrative.

With a virtual private network (VPN), it will be virtually impossible to track your online activity. Depending on your actions, you may be subject to a specific type of monitoring. After connecting to the VPN server, neither your internet service provider nor the government will be able to monitor your internet activity. It is possible for Google to engage in the monitoring of websites visited by individuals and the material they engage with.

What is a virtual private network?

The acronym "VPN" refers to a virtual private network, a service that encrypts your data and masks your IP address as it travels from your device to the internet. This encrypted connection will offer a secure route for your data and communications if you need to access public networks. So, why do people make use of VPNs? Virtual private networks (VPNs) shield users' online activities from prying eyes, such as hackers or those who could discriminate against them because of where they are located.

What does a virtual private network do?

A virtual private network (VPN) routes all of your internet activity (searches, visited websites, uploads, and downloads) through its own servers before sending it to your actual ISP. When you send data to the internet, it will appear to have originated from the VPN server, not your device.

If you don't have a virtual private network (VPN), everyone on the internet can see what your IP address is. By sending your data through a third party, a virtual private network (VPN) hides your online identity. Encryption, or a "tunnel," is also included to safeguard your privacy during the connection process. The encrypted VPN tunnel and remote server prevent anyone, including your ISP, governments, and hackers, from monitoring your online activities.

How does a virtual private network prevent snooping?

When you connect to a virtual private network (VPN), your data travels through an encrypted tunnel that is inaccessible to anyone, including your Internet service provider (ISP), hackers, and the government. A VPN will prevent, in particular:

New IP address:

The VPN server replaces your actual IP address with a new one when you connect to a VPN. Your true IP address will not be disclosed, granting you greater anonymity while browsing the internet. It can also make you appear to be in a different location, anywhere on the globe.

Encrypted data:

The data you send is encrypted so that only the intended recipient, whether it be a person or a website, can read it. No one will be able to eavesdrop on your internet activities or steal your personal information if they attempt to intercept your transmission.

The difference between private browsing and anonymous browsing

Anonymous browsing prevents any kind of web browsing monitoring by obscuring your IP address and other identifying data. Therefore, a VPN or additional tools are necessary for genuinely anonymous web browsing. By not keeping data locally, it restricts others from viewing your browser history on the same device. Private surfing, on the other hand, does not conceal your online actions from your Internet service provider, employer (if you use a work network), or the websites you visit.

Cookies will retain basic information from your last visit to a website. Due to the fact that a VPN encrypts data transmissions, it is an excellent method of privacy. The key to online anonymity is leaving no digital footprint. Because there are so many web trackers, this task is nearly impossible. On the internet, privacy is more readily attained than anonymity. A lot of online snoops are capable of discovering your identity using a variety of techniques. However, some services require your real name and email address prior to granting access. The following sources may be covertly monitoring your online activity:

1. Wi-Fi systems

The administrator of the Wi-Fi network has complete control over your connection and can even monitor your online activities. If you use a public network, an intruder with sufficient technical expertise can monitor your internet usage. There is widespread use of tracking and cookie technology on the web. Cookies are useful because they can retain information such as login states and shopping lists. However, they are also essential for constructing your "user profile." Your identity and the details of your interactions with advertisements and products can be sold to third parties. To avoid this, you can delete cookies from your browser's cache or manually eliminate them at the conclusion of each browsing session.

2. Websites  

Even when using a VPN, websites can still determine your operating system, browser, plugins, and social media authentication status. Your browser, not a VPN, can prevent you from collecting cookies. The utilization of a virtual private network (VPN) enables individuals to hide their IP address from websites and the tracking mechanisms, such as cookies, that they use.

3. Internet service provider (ISP)

Because it processes all of your internet traffic, your Internet service provider (ISP) has unparalleled insight into your digital existence. In most nations, ISPs are granted extensive authority to either profit from or share customer data with government surveillance agencies. Without a VPN, your ISP can readily determine your true location and identity based on your original IP address.

After connecting to a VPN server, your ISP will no longer be able to monitor your online activity. However, your ISP will always be aware of your genuine IP address because they have created a user profile for you. The only way to avoid your ISP is to use someone else's (through public Wi-Fi, for example), but you'll still need a VPN to protect your privacy.

4. Social media sites

The amount of information you reveal determines your level of anonymity on social media. If you reveal your true location on social media, even the most secure VPN is rendered useless. If you allow anyone to view your social media profiles or distribute personal information without restriction, you are not protecting your privacy.

If you do not disable your location settings, every online post you make will disclose your precise location to the largest social media platforms on the planet and everyone else. Maintain the utmost privacy settings possible for your social media accounts. The dark aspect of human nature is prevalent on social media platforms. Avoid becoming a victim of fraud, cyberbullying, or any other form of online abuse by keeping your personal information concealed from public view. If criminals obtain this information, they can cause you significant inconvenience.

5. Search engines

This digital company, like many others, has achieved success through the use of analytics and advertising. The problem with Google, though, is that the more apps you use, the more data it collects about you because it possesses so many different platforms. The generated "user profile" is reasonably accurate and includes your location, age, gender, search history, and YouTube videos watched. Even if you disable Google's location services, the company will still monitor your movements.

Chrome logs every website you visit and ad you interact with, scours Gmail and Google Drive, and uses facial recognition technology to scan your images. This data will result in more relevant advertisements being displayed. Determine what data Google has collected about you, and then transfer it to a search engine that respects your privacy.

6. Government surveillance

The degree to which a VPN protects your privacy from prying authorities is highly dependent on the specifics of how your country monitors its citizens. Virtual private network (VPN) security against government surveillance is limited. However, if your only concern is your online activity, a VPN can do much to secure your anonymity.

Keep in mind that some nations have outright banned or made VPN usage unlawful. In totalitarian nations where online speech is rigorously regulated, governments seek total control over cyberspace. Therefore, they devise methods to track your online activity and compromise your privacy. In some regions, VPNs that have been granted official permission to operate are the only ones permitted to function, which typically entails the government gaining access to user data.

7. Payment providers

Credit cards and other digital payment platforms leave a digital footprint that can be used to identify you. They can reveal the stores you visited and when, the train stations you enter and depart, as well as the cities and countries you visit. Since financial institutions typically require this form of identification, it can be difficult to remain anonymous without using cryptocurrencies or hard currency. Because of this, privacy-focused businesses such as NordVPN accept cryptocurrency payments.

8. Apps installation

We have a great deal of confidence in applications the moment we install them on our devices. Nearly all apps require you to permit them access to certain portions of your smartphone before they can be used. Developers of the app are accountable for how this information is utilized.

Then there are the applications, such as chat and photo editing programs, that have access to our personal information. Keep in mind that the app's developers or service providers may still have access to your personally identifying information, which may not make a significant difference if you're seeking to enhance your online anonymity. Ensure that you have faith in the app's developers before installing it. Additionally, ensure that they have robust privacy and security settings. You may prefer to use a secure and encrypted messaging app instead of one of the most popular messaging applications.

9. Cross-Site Request Forgery (CSRF)

Because social engineering is so effective, many cybercriminals use it. A user must be tricked into conducting an unauthorized operation within a web application for cross-site request forgery to occur. A successful CSRF attack could compromise sensitive data or result in the unintended transfer of funds to an unauthorized account. The administrator's account has been compromised.

Remember that fraud artists will attempt to get what they want by appealing to your emotions, also known as social engineering. There is a good reason why many financial institutions repeatedly assure their customers that they will never contact them via email or text message: these are two of the most common channels through which hackers obtain sensitive information.

Considerations for choosing a VPN service provider

Even though virtual private networks (VPNs) are easy to install and use, they cannot prevent users from voluntarily disclosing personal information or location online. If you have enabled this setting, a VPN cannot prevent a website from using cookies. In the same vein, a VPN will not prevent a website from discovering your identity if you log in using a username and password.

If you reside in a totalitarian state with strict internet laws, you may trust your ISP to transmit connection logs and data to the government. The government will be able to see that you connected to a VPN, but not what you did while connected.  Although it is nearly impossible to construct an untraceable VPN, it is possible to make it extremely difficult for anyone attempting to do so. When a virtual private network (VPN) guarantees "anonymous" service, it means the service will not record my activity.

You must keep in mind that advertising claims are not always true. Some businesses present their offerings in one light, only for it to later become clear that they intended something wholly different. On the promotional pages of multiple VPN providers, for instance, you may find the assurance of total anonymity. However, the actual terms of their privacy policy differ from those advertised. This implies that you should not go absolutely insane over an unexpectedly profitable opportunity. Never make any assumptions about a company's guarantees unless you have read the fine print. If you compare various offers, you will soon discover where the differences lie. For instance, you could select:

  • Access from remote locations.
  • Hosted site-to-site VPN.
  • VPN with multiple security protocols.
  • Feature-rich mobile apps and browser extensions.

Although using a VPN significantly improves your security, you should be aware that no VPN provider can guarantee absolute anonymity. This is partly due to the fact that users can choose what information to disclose. Numerous developers will make extravagant claims in an attempt to gain your business, but you will be better able to identify scams and select a trustworthy service provider after asking these questions:

1. Can you validate that this program performs as advertised?

2. Can it guarantee that my confidential information will always remain secure?

3. How safe and confidential is the use of your virtual private network?

Every business has its own objectives. Some service providers are devoted to expanding their businesses, while others are committed to enhancing internet security. Find a dependable service and ensure that your values align with theirs before working with them.

In a nutshell, can you truly remain anonymous when using a VPN?

When we say "anonymous VPN," we are referring to a service that takes every precaution to safeguard your online anonymity. However, there are limits to this security. Even with a VPN, it is difficult to maintain complete anonymity while perusing the internet. You may be inadvertently disclosing your current location and personal information despite your best efforts. So, in reality, it is impossible to completely conceal your online activity using privacy tools. A virtual private network (VPN) can defend your privacy by encrypting your data and concealing your IP address, but it cannot guarantee complete anonymity.