If you thought a
VPN’s were never intended for the average online user
Initially created in the mid-1990s for employees to access their company files and intranet servers remotely, VPNs‘ or Virtual Private Networks’ were never intended for the general public or the average internet user.
I didn’t know much about
I first started using a
This is precisely what
In 2004, I didn’t know much about
Safe and secure from what, who?
I was ok with that because I didn’t know how my TV worked either, but I managed just fine.
Flash forward many years- VPNs’ are not just for employees and cybersecurity anymore…
The web has changed a lot over the years. It has experienced exponential growth. Internet users have become savvier, and hackers sneakier, which created an increasing demand for more sophisticated cybersecurity methods for the internet.
That’s where VPNs came in.
Some smart people figured out that the technology behind VPNs could be used in other situations, not just for employees to access their company servers.
I never imagined I would ever use a
In 2010 we started using
It all started when we couldn’t watch Netflix from France. Back then, Netflix was not available outside of the US for licensing reasons. Basically, we were region blocked. Through some research, we discovered that by installing and using a
Slowly over the years, we’ve found multiple uses for a
VPN Picks for watching Streaming Video
Before we get started, for those of you here strictly to watch Netflix, Hulu, HBO BBC or some other streaming site while abroad, let me save you some time. There are two
Not familiar with VPNs? Here’s a quick definition.
When turned on, the
Also, once connected to a
VPN can unblock regional websites by hiding your actual geographic location.
When a site you visit on the internet blocks you based on your location, it’s called geo-blocking re region blocking, and you’ll usually know you’ve been blocked because you’ll see a splash page stating as much.
There are different reasons why sites might block you based on your location, but the two most common are licensing laws or complying with federal economic sanctions such as the EU’s GDPR privacy rules.
The sites you visit, which are region-blocked, will let you know by showing you a special page stating that their content is only available in a specific region. If you are outside that region, you won’t be able to access their content.
Below are three examples of region blocked streaming website services: BBC I player, not available outside of the UK, HBO NOW and Lifetime channel, not available outside of the USA.
Since VPNs allow you to change your IP address, all you need to do is logon to a
2) You can watch Free streaming TV Networks from other Countries
Many TV channels worldwide offer streaming TV for free on their websites to remain relevant.
The only catch is that viewers need to be physically located in the country of origin most of the time.
Want to watch original programming from ABC and Lifetime from the US or BBC from the UK. No problem with a
3) You can unblock geo-restricted e-commerce sites
Nothing is more frustrating than getting blocked from your favourite e-commerce site while travelling. For instance, if you’re travelling through Europe, and this happens to you, it’s probably because of the EU’s GDPR privacy rules.
Take ModCloth, an American online retailer of indie and vintage-inspired women’s clothing, which isn’t accessible to anyone in the EU. The screenshot below is the message I get when I try to access their site from France. I can’t even browse their products. I just see this annoying message.
To access geo-blocked websites, just fire up your
Below is a screenshot of the ModCloth website after I started up my
It’s not just shopping sites and video streaming sites that can block you from viewing their content based on your location. I followed a link to a youth soccer organization in Salt Lake City and was greeted with the following page.
I was geo-blocked from viewing the site because I was trying to access the website from within the EU.
4) You can unblock geo-restricted news websites
If you live in the US and travel to Europe, it’s natural to check out the news back home. Unfortunately, some news sites are also blocked in the EU, specifically US news sites, thanks again to GDPR privacy laws.
VPN can save you money shopping at websites online that use dynamic pricing to get you to pay more.
When it comes to shopping online, most people assume they’re getting the same price for the same product or service as everyone else. That’s not always the case.
Thanks to the intelligent design behind the Internet, wireless networks and Internet Protocols, online sellers know your exact physical location and browsing history. Some online sellers use this information to change the price dynamically in real-time to get you to pay more for identical products. This practice is known as “dynamic pricing.”
- Browsing history: Every time you visit a website, an internet cookie is dropped in your browser. These web tracking cookies identify users, save your website login information and make it possible for sites to serve you up customized web pages. They can also track your online history, which means online sellers know if you’ve visited their website more than once.
- Some sellers use this information to charge you more since you clearly wanted an item enough to come back multiple times.
- Sometimes the best deals are given to visitors who appear to be new to that site. A
VPNcan make it appear as if you are a new visitor to their site by hiding your search history.
- Geo-targeted pricing based on your location (your IP address): Sometimes, online retailers charge people from wealthier countries or more affluent postal codes more because sellers know they can afford to spend more.
How to hack dynamic pricing:
The secret to hacking “dynamic pricing” is to hide any trace of your personal details, browsing history, and, in some cases, your location before a website’s bots can access this information.
Unfortunately, most online e-commerce stores and services that use dynamic pricing are not very open about their practices, so you won’t know for sure if it’s happening to you unless you use a
How does a
VPN work to save you money?
Here’s a look at some types of websites that use dynamic pricing.
6) You may be able to get lower prices for plane tickets and hotels with a
If you’ve ever researched the best deal on flights or hotels, I’m sure you’ve noticed that prices go up and down without rhyme or reason based on many factors such as the time of day, season, or even the day of the week. That’s primarily because airlines and hotels are notorious for using the practice of dynamic pricing, which I mention above.
Another way airlines and hotels can manipulate their prices is based on your physical location and browsing history.
If you make repeated searches for the same destinations or itineraries, some airlines or hotels use this to their advantage and charge you more since they know you’re interested in certain itineraries. And sometimes you’re charged more because of your location.
Not all hotels and airlines do this, so it’s up to you, the searcher, to do some testing.
Try installing a
7) You Can Access different country versions of websites.
Some websites like the “Food Network” and “Netflix” redirect you to different versions of their website, depending on your physical location.
There’s nothing sinister about this; however, it can be annoying in certain situations. For example, if you’ve bookmarked various recipes on the “.com” version of The Food Network, then travel to Europe, you can’t access those bookmarks because you’re automatically redirected to the UK version, which is not connected to the .COM version. The recipes are also very different on the two food network sites.
Several of my British friends have told me that they wished they could access the .com version because the UK version contains a fraction of the recipes included on the .com version.
Ironically if you’re outside of Europe, you can view both the .com and the UK version of the FoodNetwork’s website.
8) You can watch the US version of Netflix while you’re travelling
(US Netflix has the largest library)
Netflix is available in over 190 countries worldwide, and each country has its version of Netflix, which you’ll get redirected to automatically based on your location.
I live in France, so I automatically get redirected to the French version. When I visit my family in Montreal, I get redirected to the Canadian version. And in Switzerland, where my husband works, I get redirected to the Swiss version.
Most of the time, getting redirected to the local country’s version of Netflix is fine and even desirable; however, sometimes it’s not.
For instance, if you reside in the US and travel to France, suddenly some movies and TV shows are no longer available due to your new geographic location. Another situation that might occur is that not all seasons are available for a particular series in other countries.
The same is true the other way around.
Here in France, I can watch Poldark and Outlander on the French version of Netflix. I love these two shows. I can also watch the Vikings on the French version of Netflix, which is not available on Netflix’s US version.
At the time of this writing, the US version of Netflix only contains three outlander seasons, while the French version has five seasons. The BBC show Poldark is available on Netflix, France, but not on Netflix USA.
9) You can watch movies and TV shows only available on Netflix from other countries
Similarly, if you wanted to watch the French version of Netflix because you’re interested in original French TV shows and movies not available to you in your country, fire up your
Once logged on to Netflix with your
One thing to keep in mind is Netflix is cracking down hard on
10) You can circumvent censorship and blacklisted sites when travelling to countries like China
Most of us never wonder about Internet censorship because we’re not affected by it. We take for granted that the Internet allows us to keep up with world news, discuss or exchange ideas with others, and express our true opinions.
Unfortunately, some countries censor, block or filter the internet in hopes of silencing people’s voices and limiting their access to information.
Internet censoring and surveillance over what users can or cannot do online is typical of countries with strong authoritarian regimes.
Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF), a Paris-based organization, calls these countries “Enemies of the Internet” and claim there are roughly 18 such countries. One of those being China.
VPN in China to access censored websites like Facebook and Wikipedia.
The government of China and the ruling Communist Party, which has one of the most advanced Internet filtering programs in the world, blocks any website or app that has the potential to undermine communist party rule. This consists mainly of western news media, social network sites with user-generated content and pornography.
To circumvent censored websites, many travellers visiting China and ex-pats living in China use a
The issue is, would you want to, considering the government of these countries? Only you can make that decision, but no foreigner has ever been arrested for using a
11) You can prevent advertisers and marketing companies from tracking your online activity
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time online, you’ve probably seen ads that seem to follow you around the internet. It’s called retargeting, and it is kind of creepy.
Retargeting is a type of online advertising that usually relies on a cookie (a tiny code dropped into your browser when you visit a website). These third-party trackers give websites, eCommerce shops and search engines the ability to track your unique browsing habits and show you relevant ads when visiting other sites.
Retargeting looks something like this:
You start looking for a product- In my case, I was looking for a sander and a jigsaw. I searched on
After searching for power tools, every site I visited seemed to show me banner ads of the same Ryobi sander I was shopping for during the week. Creepy right? It must have worked because I ended up buying a sander online. Damn those retargeted ads!
How to stop marketers from showing you retargeted ads
If you’re concerned about advertisers tracking you and want to stop them from showing you retargeted ads, you have a few options.
The easiest way is to use a
If you want to stop retargeting but don’t want to fidget with your browser settings, A
Other ways to stop retargeted ads but more time consuming:
- You can manually manage your cookies in your web browser by deleting your cache and your web browsing history. Unfortunately, you’ll have to clear your cache after every website you visit. And if you tend to forget logins and passwords, you’ll end up deleting those too.
- Another option is to turn off cookies in your web browser altogether. You’ll still see ads; they just won’t be based on other websites you’ve visited.
- In most browsers, you can choose a private window. In Chrome, it’s called an “incognito window.” This will prevent sites from dropping new cookies, but the old ones on your computer can still track you. So you’ll still need to clear your cache and delete your cookies before using Chrome.
12) You can avoid VAT
Taxes in Europe and other countries that charge Value Added Tax.
In Europe and many other parts of the world, you typically have to pay VAT (Value-Added Tax) on goods or services you purchase. In some countries such as France, they can be as high as 20%, which adds up. The one silver lining is you can request a VAT refund at the airport on your return home, which is great but kind of a hassle. It’s very similar to sales tax and unavoidable for products your purchase.
You can avoid VAT on digital purchases:
When it comes to digital products you purchase online, there is a way to circumvent VAT charges with a
I found an online course that teaches photo editing using Adobe Lightroom for USD 79. When I placed the course in my online shopping cart, I was automatically charged an extra $15.80 or 20% VAT tax because their website could sniff out my IP address and knew I was physically located in France.
I closed out the window, turned on my
You can do this for many other online services and digital purchases while in a country that charges VAT.
VPN protects your personal data on your mobile phone when you access public Wi-fi hotspots.
More and more people are using their mobile phones to access the internet, especially while travelling.
If you like to take advantage of free public wifi in places like airports, hotels and coffee shops, keep in mind that whenever you browse on your mobile phone, would-be hackers logged onto the same public Wi-fi hotspot can steal your private information, logins and passwords.
Slightly sketchy hacks: I wouldn’t usually recommend
Folks, it should come as no surprise that VPNs can be used for nefarious or questionable purposes. Here are a few.
14) Spoof your IP address and read more free articles
Have you ever visited one of those news websites that let you view a certain number of articles per month or day before you have to pay? The way that they know you’ve viewed multiple articles is through your IP address.
15) Spoof your location for PokemonGo and “catch ’em all”!
I’m not a PokemonGo player, but I know it’s trendy, even with grown men and women.
Unfortunately, the game is region blocked in some countries or banned from schools and campuses, while others may have access to the game but find themselves in areas where Pokémon are rare.
If you would like to hunt and catch Pokémon anywhere around the world from the comfort of your home, you’ll need to spoof your location.
To spoof your location, you’ll need these three things:
1) GPS spoofing app, 2) mock locations masking module, 3) and a
VPN protects you when you download torrents.
Although many people associate BitTorrents and torrenting illegal activities like downloading pirated films and music, there are legitimate and legal reasons for using a torrent for file sharing.
Many mainstream companies such as Facebook and Twitter use BitTorrent internally to share and move files around. Nasa and the UK government have also used this file-sharing technology to share large chunks of data because torrents are a quick and efficient way to distribute large files quickly, which can save money on bandwidth.
If you’ve used Torrents, you probably know that media companies are cracking down on torrent traffic on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks, so make sure the torrents you download are not copyright protected. If you accidentally download something that happens to be copyrighted, a
17) Bypass Restrictions When Gambling Online
Online gambling is extremely popular, especially in the UK, Australia and the US.
If you travel abroad and like to gamble online, it’s likely that at some point, you’ll end up somewhere where you won’t be able to access online gambling sites because it’s banned.
This can be due to local cultures that don’t approve of gambling, religious beliefs, or local laws.
Even if you’re not geo-blocked from online poker sites, it’s still a good idea to use a
18) Hide your browsing history from your employer
Assuming your employer gives you administrative rights to install
How to use a
For example, if you want to make it appear as if you are physically in the US, choose a server from the US. See my video below.
And for an added layer of privacy, open up a new private window or incognito window in Chrome.
Yes, there are free VPNs, but you get what you pay for, as the old saying goes. Free VPNs make money from you indirectly, using sometimes dishonest, hidden, and even dangerous methods.
- Free VPNs might not cost you any money, but the company needs to make money somehow, so some bombard you with ads. Very annoying!
- Many free VPNs contain advertising malware, which defeats the purpose of using a
VPN, in my opinion.
- The majority of free
VPN‘s track your online activity so advertisers can show you targeted ads. Ironic since one of the purposes of a VPNis to prevent this from happening.
- Free VPNs often limit the amount of data you can use. Not good if you are a heavy user or want to stream movies.
- Sometimes free
VPN‘s just don’t work or slow your internet speed to the point that you’ll notice and hate it.
If you’re going to use a
However, if you plan on using it regularly, then go with a premium or paid
VPN‘s I’ve Used: Results vary; nothing is full proof.
Nothing is full proof because results can vary based on your location, connection, what you want to use the
For example, if you want to use a
Here are the
VPN‘s I’ve tried over the years.
Overplay has a 5-day money-back guarantee.
You can try Cactus VPN free for 3 days.
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