If you’ve considered using a virtual private network (VPN) at all, it’s likely to establish a secure connection while working remotely or to connect to public networks. But privacy enthusiasts appreciate the benefits of a VPN even from the comfort of their own homes. Depending on your level of comfort with your internet service provider (ISP) – and what country you live in – setting one up for your household may be a smart bet.
Before diving into why, here is a brief refresher on what a VPN is and why they’re useful.
The VPN basics
Think of a VPN as a tunnel your internet traffic travels through to keep nosy onlookers from being able to see what you’re doing online. More literally, VPNs are tools used to encrypt network traffic and to hide a user’s IP address by masking it with a proxy one – in this case one belonging to the VPN provider.
A VPN may route your encrypted traffic through a datacenter located anywhere in the world (though it’s best when it’s nearby so the user’s experience doesn’t suffer).
Why would one want to use a VPN?
Typically, they’re used by individuals logging onto public networks as an assurance their activities won’t be monitored. In addition to maintaining privacy, this also prevents cybercriminals from stealing sensitive data from banking transfers, paying bills or conducting other sensitive transactions from places like airports or coffee shops.
Corporations may also mandate the use of VPNs for remote workers so that sensitive company data is more difficult to compromise. To protect against data breaches or other leaks, network administrators typically encourage encrypting traffic using a tool like a VPN.
Check out this post for more on why you should use a VPN on public networks.
Do you need to use a VPN at home?
It depends on a number of factors.
It depends on where you live and how private you want to keep your web browsing habits. Physical location is a factor because, in the United States, it’s been legal since 2017 for ISPs to sell certain data they’re able to gather unless the customer explicitly opts out. Most major ISPs claim to not sell user data, especially anything that can be used to identify the user, but it’s technically not illegal.
In countries where this practice is prevented by law, users may have fewer privacy concerns regarding their ISP. In the European Union, for example, strict privacy standards laid out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) prevent even the gathering of user data by ISPs. This makes the case for a VPN at home harder to make, since most websites already encrypt data in transit and home networks are unlikely to be targeted by things like man-in-the-middle attacks.
For U.S. users, though, using a VPN at home makes good privacy sense. Despite some attempts to learn what major ISPs do with our data, they’re not always forthright with their policies. There are also no guarantees an ISP won’t suddenly change those policies regarding the sale of user data.
If you don’t want to leave the issue up to your ISP, shielding personal data with a VPN is a good choice.
Choose your VPN wisely
If you’re not careful, your VPN can end up doing the same thing you got it to avoid.
“If you’re not paying for it, you are the product,” or so the saying goes. This is especially true for many free VPN services. Free solutions often track and sell your browsing data to advertisers to generate revenue. Be sure to choose a “no-log” solution that doesn’t track your online activity for sale to third-parties.
It’s also important you choose a VPN from a vendor that:
After checking these boxes, it’s a smart choice to use a VPN at home under some circumstances.
For a proven, reliable solution, consider making Webroot® WiFi Security your VPN of choice on the go and at home.
Kyle Fiehler is a writer and brand journalist for Webroot. For over 5 years he’s written and published custom content for the tech, industrial, and service sectors. He now focuses on articulating the Webroot brand story through collaboration with customers, partners, and internal subject matter experts..