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A VPN is a virtual private network. The purpose of a VPN is to provide you with a layer of privacy and security while you’re using the internet. VPNs first became popular when people started to go to public places, such as coffee houses and hotels to use the internet, but have since become a crucial tool for people who use the internet to earn a living, including Youtubers, bloggers, and podcasts hosts.

When you are using a VPN, your internet connection is encrypted. This means that no one can use the internet to spy on you while you are doing things like checking online bank balances, updating social media accounts, and working from home.

If you’re not already using a VPN when you log into the internet, there are several reasons why now is the time to start doing so.

The biggest challenge people face when they log into a public wi-fi network while not using a VPN is that they make it possible for cybercriminals to essentially eavesdrop while they’re using the internet. This might not seem like a big deal when you’re simply reading the online version of the local newspaper or watching YouTube videos, but if you’re doing things like chatting with friends via a social media link, depositing funds into your savings account, or using a credit card to complete some online shopping, you’re giving the eavesdroppers valuable information about yourself.

Another thing to consider when using a public network without the benefit of a VPN is that you can’t be one hundred percent certain that you’re using the location’s actual wi-fi. It’s not uncommon for cyber criminals to seek out popular public locations and create a mirror of the location’s wi-fi connection. Instead of connecting to the actual free wi-fi spot, you actually connect to the cybercriminal’s account, providing them with free rein to use the connection to not only see your surfing history but to also get a peek inside your computer files and history.

One of the reasons so many professionals who use the internet to make a living, particularly YouTubers and podcasters rely on VPNs is because the VPN helps protect their actual location. They can use the VPN to make it look like they’re in a different country, which makes it harder for stalkers and crazed fans to determine where they’re located and potentially threaten the individual’s safety.

While the primary reason to use a VPN is security, there’s an added advantage. Not only can you use the VPN to hide your location from cyber criminals, but you can also hide your location from location-based services, such as Netflix and Amazon. This is especially useful when you have a subscription service that you wish to get the maximum value. For example, if you use Netflix, you can alter the VPN so that instead of simply getting access to the movies that are available to U.S. subscribers, you can also watch the movies that are available to the U.K. and other parts of the world.