Believe the hype. We live in a capitalist world and everybody is out to get your money. If they can’t get your money they want information about you to sell to advertisers who then use that information to push ever more products in your face that also take your money.
Paranoid? Hey, if everybody is out to get you then a little paranoia might be just the right attitude to have. So, after digging around the interwebs for a few weeks I bit the bullet and went all in on a virtual private network for Mac, iPhone, and iPad. A VPN.
What a VPN does is rather simple on its face. It give your device a somewhat more secure, encrypted connection to the internet. Now, when your browser visits TeraTalks you have a secure SSL connection, and as a Villagers website I don’t have any trackers to follow your online visits here or anywhere else.
Unfortunately, the rest of the interwebs is not so considerate and websites, advertisers, and even your internet service provider is in on the tracking game, doing all they can, whenever and wherever they can to suck up information about you to be used against you later via Facebook and Google manipulation.
A VPN is just one more layer to reduce some of that personal private information culling. The idea is to be able to go online and be anonymous (or, as close to anonymous as you can). This kind of anonymity only goes so far, so if you use a VPN and sign into Gmail or Google then you’re right back where you started.
VPN’s are good for your iPhone and iPad when you’re at Starbucks sucking up their Wi-Fi because it adds another layer of encrypted and secure protection to your browsing sessions. Unfortunately, we live in a world of applications and many of those phone home with some of your private data and even a VPN won’t stop that.
Oddly enough, it’s a bit easier to hide your Mac online than it is to make iPhone or iPad anonymous, thanks to apps like Little Snitch which block all outbound connections until you give the all clear. No such app exists for iOS devices.
There are many VPNs available for Apple’s customers, each with apps that run on macOS and iOS; some far more popular than others. After a dutiful search I settled on ExpressVPN as fellow Mac360 colleague Wil Gomez picked it over NordVPN, but by a hair or two. I’ve been using ExpressVPN for a week. Once it’s set up it logs on to the VPN service automatically so connections are mostly a no-brainer experience.
Since I’m married to T-Mobile the only thing I’ve noticed different is that my home Wi-Fi connection to my iPhone or iPad is a little slower than when I’m mobile. Slower? Only from the standpoint of downloading apps or opening websites that are jam packed with ads and trackers. My Wi-Fi at home normally provides a faster connection that T-Mobile but now it’s about the same.
That’s not bad; just notable.
Now, the real question is, “Am I safer now than before the VPN?” The VPN folks say yes. Most online reviews say yes. Who am I to disagree? I just have to remember to be careful about which websites I log into because even when using a VPN the tracking starts as soon as you identify yourself to a website.
As to TeraTalks, my site is about as secure as you can get. The connection is SSL to your browser, and I don’t track; not with advertising trackers, and not even popular analytics trackers.
Enjoy the ride. A VPN seems like another good layer to help anonymize our presence online, but once it’s in place it’s mostly set it and forget it; you’ll never really know if it works or not.