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Why You Need a VPN to Protect Your Online Privacy

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Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have existed since the dawn of the Internet. However, you probably didn’t hear about these secure portals to your web activity until 2005. Almost all of the well-known VPN providers began in or after 2005, including StrongVPN (one of the most widely used and highly-rated VPNs, NordVPN wasn’t released until 2012). 

So, how were VPNs invented? Why do people use VPNs? Why did 2005 mark the beginning of their popularity? In what parts of the world are VPNs most popular? What did the pandemic shutdown do to the VPN market?

We’re so glad you asked. Let’s take a look.

How VPNs work

A virtual private network protects your privacy and secures your online connection. By using a VPN, your IP address remains hidden to hackers, your data remains encrypted, and you can connect to a public Wi-Fi network without worrying about malicious virtual threats.

You may want to use a VPN if you’re utilizing an entertainment streaming service such as Netflix or Hulu in a space other than your home. If you’re a remote worker, accessing a VPN will protect you if you work on your laptop in a myriad of spaces. If you live in an apartment building, a VPN can keep neighbors from piggybacking onto your IP address. At work, your employer may give you a VPN to protect company data from a breach. 

How a VPN may save your life

Could a VPN help to save your life? In short, yes. For example, say you have a tech-savvy stalker–this creepy human pops up everywhere you go, and you’re not sure how it happens. You’re extremely careful not to post your whereabouts on social media, and you’ve even convinced loved ones to text you in code when discussing plans. But there Creepy McCreeperton lurks…outside of your new gym, at the movie theater, at the house party of a stranger. There’s a good chance this disturbed individual accessed your internet address and can see your search history. If you only use public Wi-Fi, you’re leaving yourself exposed and vulnerable. A VPN can hide your location, and block the stalker from knowing your whereabouts based on Internet activity.

Perhaps you’re more concerned about protecting your finances. One day, you’re working on your laptop at a coffee shop. You take a break to access your bank account balance on a public Wi-Fi network. The next day, you notice that your checking account has been drained. You were most likely the victim of a hacker. If you had used a VPN, a hacker would have greater difficulty accessing your laptop and breaking into your bank account. 

Many VPN users tout the peace of mind and security that using a VPN brings. Glowing reviews flood most of the popular VPN websites, and most talk about privacy and security. NordVPN user and popular YouTube personality, Philip “Philly D” DeFranco offers this testimonial about working sans a VPN, ”…you’re missing out on the peace of mind one gets when securing your personal data and internet activity.”

If you’re online for much of the day, it’s a good idea to look into a VPN. Using a VPN rather than a static IP address can help add an extra layer of security to your network and data.

Individual users need VPN love too

Although many businesses still use VPNs, individual users have started to use them as well–especially when it comes to remote work, as secure, portable network addresses become an imperative. Some VPN companies allow you to pick the country, region, and city where your VPN address is located. Some statistics that show the significant use of VPNs by individuals include:

Per Security.org:

  • 38 million U.S. Internet users constantly utilize a VPN.142 million Americans have used a VPN at some point in time.
  • Also per Security.org, 49% of VPN users bypass static or public networks in the name of security.
  • 24% of all VPNs are purchased by businesses.
  • By 2019, 68% of Internet users in the U.S. used a VPN either at work or at home.

Shockingly, Gen Z isn’t the only demographic responsible for VPN users. Instead, 28% of VPN users fall in the 45-60 age range, where 75% of Internet users choose VPNs. However, 75% of all VPN users fall under the age of 37–older generations tend not to be as accustomed to (or as well-versed in) the ways of Internet technology.

VPN breakdown by state, country, and region

The demographics of VPN use definitely skew toward specific areas–we thought we’d break them down for you and attempt to answer why.

  • 1 in 5 stateside VPN users live in Pacific coastal states.
  • 55% of Indonesian Internet users have a VPN.
  • In 2021, VPN use in Slovakia increased by 300%.
  • Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Iceland, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain and the United Emirates also saw a huge uptick in 2021 VPN users.
  • Southeast Asia has the highest number of VPN users.
  • 785 million customers downloaded VPNs in 2021.

There are several reasons for these statistics. Many giant technology firms are based in Pacific states, and in 2017, Praxis Strategy Group slotted Pacific regions in the top ten spots for IT jobs (per Forbes). Thus, overall, users in these states tend to naturally take extra Internet security and privacy precautions. In Indonesia and Slovakia, some Western world entertainment and content is prohibited, and the government restricts access to U.S. websites. VPN users access an address in the U.S. or Europe to explore content and use streaming services such as Netflix.

How the pandemic impacted the VPN market

As the COVID-19 pandemic slammed into shores across the globe, unheard of shutdowns ensued. Many of us were trapped at home for months, and remote work–already trending in freelance, consulting, and IT professions–became the norm for a plethora of people all over the world. Those reluctant to use a VPN in 2019 may have jumped on the VPN train in 2020. 

Binge-watching Netflix and other streaming services accounted for much VPN use during the pandemic shut down as well…One can only read so many books and work on so many DIY home projects while a “stay at home” mandate is in order.

In 2020:

  • VPN use increased by 27.1%.
  • International streaming revenues soared to $69 billion (from $53 billion in 2019…that’s a lot of Netflix).
  • One in three people used VPNs to access the Internet
  • In the U.S. and Italy, VPN use jumped to 124% and 168 % per week (respectively) during the pandemic.

Although many VPN providers require a paid subscription, and there are VPN scams to be wary of as well, the benefits outweigh the deterrents. If you access sensitive Internet accounts outside of your home, work in public spaces, or are a small business owner, VPNs may give you peace of mind and a sense of security.

Not sure how to choose the right VPN for you? Try our VPN Simplifier.

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