Yes, you need a VPN, too


Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist

Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist


Editor’s note — This is the second part of a multi-part column.

Last week we covered some of the concepts embodied in Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). This week we’ll discuss several VPNs and go into some details around them.

As a quick review, why do you need a VPN? If you care about your privacy or are worried about your personal interests being sold elsewhere or you are concerned that some of your credentials might be stolen, you want a VPN. It ensures that the data leaving from or coming to your device is securely encrypted so nothing between you and your VPN can “see” your data.

For the most part I encourage you to actually pay for your VPN. It’s an expensive service to run and, in general, anyone that provides it for free is using other means to defray their costs — possibly even selling your information. There is one free VPN that I recommend and we’ll cover that a little later.

As with any business there are some VPN providers whose privacy practices aren’t the best, so it’s important to check some trustworthy sites for reviews. Three good sites to check: https://go.ttot.link/BestVPNs-1, https://go.ttot.link/BestVPNs-2, and https://go.ttot.link/BestVPNs-3. Best is a label that changes with just about every review so read the reviews, pick one or several that sound good to you, and look for deals. Just about every VPN provider offers deals throughout the year. Personally, I check https://www.stacksocial.com/ every so often, and I’ve gotten some really good deals.

One term you should be familiar with is “split tunnel.” That’s a fancy term that’s pretty simple in concept. There are some apps that for one reason or another, don’t operate correctly over a VPN. You can exclude those apps from the VPN and the fact that they can be excluded is what’s called a split tunnel. As an example, some streaming apps won’t work if they detect you’re using a VPN (perhaps they don’t want you to geoshift — see last week’s column for a definition) so they need to be excluded from the VPN. As far as I’m aware all good VPNs have the ability to provide a split tunnel but, if possible, you should verify that your selected VPN has that capability.

I have several VPNs that I use. My two main VPNs that I pay for are NordVPN (https://go.ttot.link/NordVPN) and CyberGhost (https://go.ttot.link/CyberGhost). Why did I choose them? Honestly, they tend to rate pretty well in reviews and I got a good deal on both of them. In fact, they both have deals going on as I write this, but so does just about every other VPN provider so be sure to check around. All reliable VPNs have free trials or money back guarantees so, rather than just taking my word for it, I encourage you to give several a try. While they all provide pretty much the same service, each has their own user interface and one might make more sense to you than another. Some offer additional services like secure file storage or a password manager so take those into account, too.

The one free VPN I can recommend is WARP by Cloudflare (https://go.ttot.link/WARP). Cloudflare is a CDN (Content Delivery Network). They provide sites like Doordash and Lyft a way to deliver their content more quickly to users like you and me. How they do that isn’t important for this discussion, what isS relevant is that Cloudflare has a very large network that you can tap into with their VPN client. You don’t choose an endpoint, Cloudflare does that for you, choosing one that will provide the best service. Since it chooses the endpoint, you can’t use it to geoshift. Even so, many streaming services like Netflix won’t work with it but you can use the split tunnel to exclude them from the VPN.

One other term you might encounter is the “Internet kill switch,” sometimes known as “Always On VPN.” Enabling this will prevent Internet access if your VPN isn’t active. Enabling this switch means that you have to have your VPN running all the time and it’s not something I recommend to new or inexperienced users. Why? The VPN will have to be active all the time even when you’re at home and some apps and services that you use at home will have to be made a part of that split tunnel. Have a printer at home? That service needs to be part of that split tunnel and it’s not always easy to figure out what to add. Some VPNs provide ways around this. Some might allow you to exclude certain WiFi networks (e.g. your home or work network) from the VPN so, while technically you’ve got Always On VPN, it’s not really on when you’re connected to specific WiFi networks and your traffic isn’t encrypted. My recommendation is to forget about Always On VPN and just remember to turn it on when you leave home.

OK, I’ve covered VPNs and I hope it’s all been clear. Iif you have questions or need clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact me. And, as always, let me know if you have any topics you’d like me to cover.

As always, my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Please feel free to email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at [email protected] or just drop me a quick note and say hi! And don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at https://go.ttot.link/TGColumns+Links or https://go.ttot.link/TGC+L – it should be updated shortly after this column appears online.

Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.

Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist
https://www.timesgazette.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/33/2022/12/web1_Sumrall-Tony-latest.jpgTony Sumrall Contributing columnist