What is a VPN?

VPN = Virtual Private Network

It secures devices connected to the internet with end-to-end encryption, to stop man-in-the-middle attacks.

Information transferred between devices and the internet (and vice-versa) is encrypted from prying eyes. Every device has an IP (internet protocol) address, which identifies each device using a unique string of numbers. It is a standard system used across the world. It is the IP address (identifying the geographical location) which allows or restricts access to certain websites on devices.

Why do you need a VPN?

The internet isn’t as safe as it could be and is akin to a digital Wild West.

A VPN hides online activity from hackers, spies, internet service providers (ISPs), and governments. For many users, the best feature of a VPN is fooling an online service you’re in a particular country.

For instance, outside the UK, you won’t be able to access BBC iPlayer.

Netflix will only stream some shows in certain geographical locations.

Some countries block websites/apps such as Google, WhatsApp, BBC, and social media platforms, such as Facebook.

VPNs are used to:

  • protect devices and data when using open or public Wi-Fi
  • access sites which are blocked in a particular country
  • hide from regimes restricting freedom of speech, monitoring online discussions, and/or opposing political ideology
  • surf the web without being under constant surveillance (by NSA & GCHQ. Thank you, Edward Snowden)

For many of us, our biggest concern is not evading government surveillance or protecting our freedom of speech.

Instead, those of us who travel and work internationally need to protect ourselves when using public and/or open Wi-Fi networks. Socially, our main concern is probably ensuring we can access social media or our favourite programmes on BBC iPlayer, Netflix, HBO etc.

Benefits of using a VPN

VPNs allow access to online services from anywhere in the world.

However, all VPNs are not created equal. Each has its strengths and, depending on a user’s needs, their unique selling points.

Is a VPN legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries.

Individuals and businesses have used VPNs for years.

Countries such as China, Russia and Turkey have banned VPNs.

Foreigners using a VPN are unlikely to get in trouble if caught using one.

But research the country you’re visiting, as ignorance is no defence.

What you access via a VPN is what will get you into trouble, should you get caught, but only if a VPN keeps (and provides authorities with) data logs. Streaming Netflix or watching YouTube cat videos are unlikely to call attention.

How do you use a VPN?

Investigate your options. Choose a VPN. Sign-up.

Download & install a VPN on your device/s.

Choose a server in a country for a service you want i.e. UK for the BBC.

Use the internet as normal. That’s it. Simples.

So, which VPN?

It depends on what is important: ease of use, price, speed, accessing a particular platform, or customer support. We researched and tested numerous VPNs.

3 best paid-for VPNs
(based on our experience, and online reviews)


Other noteworthy VPNs are:

  • CyberGhost
  • PureVPN
  • TunnelBear
  • ZenMate
  • Hide My Ass
  • VyprVPN
  • HotSpot