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What is a VPN and why do I need one?

What is a VPN and why do I need one?
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Hackers and cybercriminals are out to get you. Heck, nefarious governments are spying on you, too.

It sounds like the plot of a low-budget sci-fi movie. But, unfortunately, your family and you are targets.

These days, it's so easy for people to steal your ID, credit card credentials and your online passwords. The problem is, the internet's worst downside is that criminals can remotely track your online movements from anywhere in the world.

You hear about the unfortunate results every day. Hackers steal billions of dollars from people just like you every year.

Criminals steal your tax refunds. They use your home address, Social Security number and other stolen information to use your ID to buy things, apply for credit and even take your home from you.

This is a serious problem in the digital age we're living in. Fortunately, you do not have to be an easy target.

In fact, it's fairly straightforward to remain anonymous when you're online by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. That's especially important when you're using public Wi-Fi at places like your local coffee shop or fast-food restaurant.

Bonus: VPNs can hide you from advertisers by masking your IP address - keep reading for more details.

How VPNs keep you safe

Virtual Private Networks hide your online activity in two key ways. First, your online activity is sent to the VPN's servers and sent back to you with their IP address.

You have an IP or Internet Protocol address that identifies the device you're using to get online, even though you may not know it. Your computer, tablet and smartphone each have a distinct IP address.

VPNs hide you by making it appear that you're using their IP address. That IP address could be halfway around the world, so hackers have no idea where you are.

Second, VPNs use encryption to make it nearly impossible for hackers, cybercriminals or government snoops to find you. Encryption, you might remember from the 2015 San Bernardino terrorist attack, scrambles your information.

The result is, hackers cannot access your online activity without a password. They also cannot see anything valuable because it's scrambled into jibberish.

Bonus: Apple and the FBI battled over encryption when the U.S. government wanted to access the San Bernardino terrorist's iPhone - read about it here.

Using VPNs on Windows 10

There are several ways to use Virtual Private Networks, including some good VPNs that charge you money. If you're fine with that, great.

However, there are several FREE options to remain anonymous online. That includes accessing a VPN if you're using Microsoft's Windows 10.

First, you have to create a VPN profile. Here's what you do: Start button >> Settings >> choose Network & Internet >> VPN >> Add a VPN connection. Then, choose Windows (built-in) under VPN provider >> create a name for it >> choose VPN type and Type of sign-in info >> Save.

Second, you can connect to a VPN. Here's how to do that: Select Network >> choose the VPN connection >> Connect >> type in your profile name if it asks for that.

Note: Look in Windows Store for VPN apps if you don't have one.

Free VPNs

You always pay a price, right? In the case of free websites, including free VPNs, that usually means you'll see ads before you can access the free features.

But, so what? A lot of free VPNs do a good job of hiding you from hackers and keeping advertisers from grabbing your IP address.

There are quite a few FREE VPNs. These include TunnelBear, Hotspot Shield, CyberGhost, NordVPN and VPNbook.

Note: Do you know of a free VPN that we haven't mentioned here? Let other Komando readers know by sharing it in the Comments section.

Premium VPNs and features

Many free VPN sites offer more features for a price. You may need these, especially if you are using a VPN for your job or your small business.

You may also want to forgo ads on free VPNs. If so, you can pay for VPN services such as StrongVPN, ExpressVPN and others.

Browse the internet anonymously with this easy-to-use VPN tool

You can easily remain anonymous when you're online. That's important because otherwise hackers and cybercriminals can easily track you to steal your ID and credit card credentials.

Check out this download for Windows, Mac computers, Android smartphones and iPhones. Give it a try, it's FREE.

Click here to find out how you can safely browse the internet.

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