What beginners need to know about running a VPN on Android

by: Brad WardMay 8, 2013
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If you’ve ever gone to Starbucks or Tim Hortons to use their public network on your smartphone or tablet, you should know that this could potentially be a bad idea. A public network isn’t very secure, thus it is easy for hackers to steal your data. While it is very uncommon. it’d be a terrible thing if they got their hands on your bank account credentials, personal information, and worse of all, your array of cute kitten GIFs.

So, how do you keep your data away from hackers? You can use something called a VPN or a Virtual Private Network to keep your information encrypted from prying eyes.

What is a VPN?

In short, a VPN allows you to connect your device up to a secure connection over the Internet. VPNs can do a lot of things, such as letting you access region-restricted websites, keep your data secure, hide your browsing activity on a public Wi-Fi network and more.

To answer the question more technically, when you connect your device up to a VPN your browsing is routed through servers across the world, which provide a proxy I.P. address. In example, let’s say there’s a server based in Japan that you connect up to. All your Internet traffic is routed to that server where you’ll be be provided with a proxy I.P. address. So, if you’re based in the United States and are surfing the web, websites won’t see a U.S.-based I.P. address — they’ll see a Japanese one.

Just to be as clear as possible, let’s use YouTube as an example. Without a VPN, pointing your browser towards www.youtube.com would show that you have a United States I.P. address. After connecting up to a VPN, you will longer appear to be connecting from the U.S., but from Japan.

Why would I want to use VPN?

As mentioned above, data simply isn’t secure over a public network. So, if you’re doing banking, sending private documents via email or just anything you don’t want other people to see, a VPN will keep all of that data secure, which is one reason why you would want to use one.

Secondly, maybe you want to access a region-restricted website, such as the BBC iPlayer. Say you’re in the United States and you can’t access the BBC iPlayer because of the region lock. By connecting to a Wi-Fi network, firing up a VPN like Hideman, you’ll be able to trick the website into thinking you’re connecting from the United Kingdom. At that point, you’ll be able to access the BBC iPlayer all you want.

Those two reasons aside, the video below gives you a few additional reasons as to why you should use a VPN.

A word of caution

VPNs are great, and while free solutions may look even better, it would be wise to either stay away from those or avoid transmitting sensitive data through them. Most free VPNs do employ a little bit of security, just not as much as a paid- or subscription-based service. Free solutions are great for general browsing, but it’d be wise to avoid looking at important information that needs your Social Security number and etc.

On another note, a VPN, in some cases, can also slow your connection down drastically. If you’re on broadband connection, you should barely notice a difference in speed, but if you’re using a mobile network, a VPN may prove to have a negative effect rather than a positive.

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Are you ready to give a VPN a try? Check out our list of the best Android VPN apps!