🌎 The Joys and Pains of using a VPN
There’s a lot of talk about VPNs these days, to the point they’re sponsored in YouTube videos. And if it’s in YouTube video, it has to be good.
But, are they worth it?
Most people/ads advise using a VPN when connecting to a public WiFi. Good advice, but I use a VPN 100% of the time on my home connection.
To be blunt, everyone is spying. Search engines track what you search for and where you go. ISPs track every place you visit and for damn sure are using or selling that info. Sites pinpoint your location and sell the metrics. Oh look, he’s searching for X, in location Y, send an ad! Blanket the area with flyers! Investigate the zip code!
Using a VPN adds a level of privacy and security. Where you go, what you look at, and your interests are your own business. Your ISP doesn’t need to know the research you’re doing on Wikipedia, or what kind of news you follow.
I’ve actually got two VPNs, SurfShark and AdGuard. I’m getting rid of SurfShark.
AdGuard is the subscription I’ll continue to renew. I have more confidence in their abilities to write a solid app and protect user privacy.
SurfShark isn’t terrible, when it works, but I’ve had way too many problems with on my other Mac Pro.
It repeatedly gets in a state where it won’t make a connection. It’s not just switching locations to reset the connection, but a need to completely delete the network connection, remove the app with an uninstaller, then set it all back up again. That’s safe and convenient.
This hasn’t happened once, or twice, but dozens of times. When it works, it’s fine, but it’s woefully unreliable so it will eventually get uninstalled for good.
I’ve had AdGuard VPN running for nearly two years and it’s been a positive experience and I won’t ever use an exposed connection again.
However, using a VPN has some problems.
There are plenty of sites that won’t load if they sense you’re on a VPN. They get mad because their geo tracking goofs up, or they can’t send ads over to you.
I’ve had a couple issues paying bills while on a VPN.
There is a massive drop in bandwidth. You’ll be lucky to get 15Mbps. Videos play fine, but you don’t have a fibre connection anymore.
Amazon can pitch a fit if it detects you’re on a VPN. If you connect from California, then from New York, the site thinks it’s getting hacked and makes you change your password. Not verify it’s you, but change the password before moving forward.
Despite what the sponsors say, switching locations to watch movies doesn’t always work. Amazon immediately detects you’re on a VPN and displays an alert you need to disable it.
I haven’t tried Netflix, but I wouldn’t expect it to work much longer.
I’ve had plenty of slow and bad connections, especially with the machine coming out of Sleep in the morning. I need to disconnect, then reconnect. That fixes it, but it’s still annoying. It seems more frequent as more secure DNS features get added.
Still, I’m not going anywhere without a VPN.
The main reason for a VPN is a secure connection, a way to tunnel traffic to the specific server your want to communicate with. It’s also a way to obscure your traffic so others can’t track your behavior.
My traffic routes through secure DNS, not owned by my ISP. I route my traffic through a virtual server, not in my true location, and my destination remains obscured.
From this standpoint, AdGuard works well enough for me to keep renewing the subscription.
My ISP doesn’t need to know where I shop or what I’m interested in. Sites don’t need to know where I’m connecting from. Nobody needs to know my digital movements.
With all the dubious behavior and tracking going on out there, I feel a VPN isn’t a luxury, but a necessity. It simply isn’t safe to navigate around without one, even when you’re home on your own secure connection.
Despite the hype and selling points, there’s a lot a VPN won’t do, but it will make your browsing and Internet experience much safer and shouldn’t be taken for granted.