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How to Use a VPN: a Beginner’s Guide

* VPNs create secure tunnel between your browser and sites you visit
* Apps are available for most devices
* Can be used to browse anonymously and unblock sites and services 

With the Senate recently voting to repeal FCC privacy regulations, ISPs are now able to profit off your web browsing habits. The sites you visit, the searches you type and even your health and financial information can be collected and sold, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Except there is. In addition to calling your local representatives, you can go a step further and actually encrypt your browsing entirely. That’s where VPNs come in.

A VPN, or virtual private network, hides your online information from your ISP by spoofing your location. When you connect to a VPN, your network traffic is automatically sent through an encrypted tunnel. Your ISP and the sites you browse have no idea where (or who) you are, and you’re able to unblock sites and services that may not be available in your particular area.

Sounds complicated, right? It’s not.

When you open a VPN client, you’re able to choose which server location to connect to. If you live in New York, then your ISP uses your physical address to match your browser. So when you connect to a VPN server in, say, London, you’re able to take on a virtual IP in the U.K., even though you’re in the U.S. Your ISP won’t be able to log your browsing activity, and you’re able to browse the web as if you were in London.

When looking for a VPN service, look for services that offer multiple server locations, and make sure they host their own servers. Also, look for VPNs that don’t keep logs, as the main reason people use VPNs is for privacy. Choosing one that records your browsing information is basically worthless.

Finally, stay away from free VPNs. Most free services actually make money by collecting and selling your browsing habits. By paying a monthly fee, VPN services are able to provide their own encrypted server networks, and therefore let you browse with more privacy. Most reputable VPN services cost anywhere from $5-10 a month.