Using a VPN to Protect Your Privacy
Do you have a home filled with connected devices? Are you concerned about privacy in general when you’re operating online? If so, you might want to consider a VPN or virtual private network. Here at Smarthome, we try to bring something for all levels of home automation experience. Today, our look at using a VPN to protect your privacy is more geared toward beginners. With that in mind, we’ll kick off with a basic definition.

What is a VPN?

A VPN (virtual private network) allows you to build out a secure connection even if the network between your device and the internet isn’t so secure. Using a VPN safeguards your privacy since you’ll appear to be operating from anywhere you choose. VPNs are ideal if your network infrastructure can’t deliver the privacy you demand. When you connect to a VPN, your computer behaves like it’s on the same network as the VPN giving you completely secure access. When you visit any site using a VPN, your computer contacts the site through an encrypted connection.

Why Use a VPN?

VPNs have many use cases like avoiding geo-restrictions, but for the purposes of today we’ll be focusing on accessing your smart devices as securely as possible. And it’s that precious extra layer of security that’s prompting more and more consumers to rack up a virtual private network at home. If someone manages to hack into your home WiFi network, your smart devices will all be potentially compromised. How does a VPN manage to protect you, though?

How Does a VPN Work?

VPNs aim to help you in a number of areas. The premise of using a VPN is that you reroute all your internet traffic through a third-party server. By doing so, your identity and IP address are effectively masked. You’ll be able to operate without leaving the same traces as when your device connects to the web directly. As a result, it will be tougher for hackers to find a route into your devices. Get the right VPN and you can ensure your location, IP address, and data is encrypted and hidden from plain sight. If you’re using a VPN and you have smart devices in the house, the data transmitted between those devices and the server is encrypted. As such, it remains unreadable to anyone with ill intent. We recently outlined some general tips for cyber security and smart homes to help you further strengthen your protection whenever you’re online. As with using a VPN, you won’t need any specialist knowledge to operate more safely.

How to Choose a VPN for Your Smart Home

With so many VPNs glutting the market, choosing one requires a little patience. You’ll also get a far stronger VPN if you consider paying a small monthly fee. There are many free VPNs but they usually come burdened by significant restrictions.
  • Price
  • Security
  • Reliability
  • Bandwidth Restrictions?
  • Apps

Price

VPNs are typically not too expensive but price varies substantially from vendor to vendor. You can certainly try a free service but these tend to be mobbed out with users and sorely limited in terms of functionality. You can also expect fairly drastic bandwidth limitations. Since free services tend to be ad-supported, you’ll find they’re usually pretty sluggish.

Security

You should look for the following security features as standard:
  • 128-bit encryption
  • No connection logs
  • Anonymous DNS servers

Reliability

The best method of determining whether a VPN consistently delivers is to check up on plenty of user reviews. Having a secure connection that works most of the time is not what you’re looking for. The quest for consistent and reliable service should motivate your buying decision.

Bandwidth Restrictions?

Most free VPNs impose pretty stringent bandwidth limitations. While this restricted access might be OK for occasional web users, if you’re looking to spend a lot of time online and to manage smart devices, you’ll be better off paying for more bandwidth. As you would expect, as you step up through the tiers of paid packages, you’ll get correspondingly more bandwidth at your disposal.

Apps

Check to see whether there’s an Android or iOS app for your phone. This is doubly important if you plan to use your phone as a method of controlling smart devices. It goes unsaid you should make sure the app also delivers a secure internet experience. OK, with those basics in place, which are the best VPNs up for grabs?

5 Great VPNs for Your Connected Home

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. Surfshark
  4. CyberGhostVPN
  5. Hotspot Shield

1) ExpressVPN

One of the most popular VPNs with more than 3000 servers and 30,000 IP addresses, speed is impressive. Operating out of the British Virgin Islands, the company is fully committed to your privacy with no logs of user activity stored. In business since 2009 and boasting a network of servers in 94 countries, this should be your go-to option if you want the privacy a VPN affords without taking a hit on speed. The cheapest plan is just $6.67 a month if you pay for an annual subscription. This includes 3 months free.

2) NordVPN

NordVPN has a solid reputation and allows for up to 6 simultaneous connections. Based out of Panama and operating with servers in 62 countries, you’ll get dependably swift speeds with a kill switch feature baked in. You can pay as little as $3.49 a month if you lock yourself in for 3 years. If you’re disinclined to do this, a standard yearly subscription works out at $6.99 a month, roughly comparable with the opposition.

3) Surfshark

A feature-rich VPN with unlimited device support, Surfshark is a neat choice for larger households. Ad blocking, tracker blocking, and anti-malware come as standard. App support is comprehensive extending from iOS and Android phones to Mac OSX and Windows, Fire TV and routers. Privacy is assured and you can choose from 3 modes depending on the level of discretion you need.

4) CyberGhostVPN

In business for a decade, CyberGhostVPN is a staunch proponent of an uncensored internet culture. No logs are stored and you can get going for as little as $2.75 a month if you’re happy to commit to a 3-year contract. Benefit from over 6000 servers throughout 90 countries and keep your online footprints concealed from malicious eyes with CyberGhostVPN.

5) Hotspot Shield

A classic VPN, Hotspot Shield has fought back after privacy issues. As a response, malware, phishing, and spam all comes built in. 3200 servers in 80 countries and a reasonable cost of just $2.99 a month based on a 3-year contract, Hotspot Shield is worth a second look. With a 45-day money-back guarantee in place, what have you got to lose by giving Hotspot Shield a try?

Final Word

We hope you can see some of the advantages you could reap from using a VPN when you’re online. You don’t need to know much about tech and you don’t need to spend a fortune. VPNs might not be failsafe but they’re certainly better than choosing to surf unprotected. Bookmark our blog for more detailed guides, the best home automation gear, and all the latest smart home news. Don’t forget to sign up for the Smarthome email newsletter, too. You’ll get carefully curated content pinged straight to your inbox and a coupon code for 20% off your first order. Sign up right here.

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