You may have heard of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), maybe in the context of working remotely or in a guide to internet security. Most people who choose to use them do so from a client on their computer, but installing a VPN directly to your router is also an option, and one that you definitely need to consider.
There are lots of reasons to install a VPN on your router, whether you want a safe way to do banking or to take an ideological stand. VPNs were traditionally used so that remote workers could connect to company networks no matter where they were. Now, they’re gaining popularity among individuals who care about security and privacy.
A VPN essentially creates a secure tunnel from your computer to the server it’s accessing and back again. Data is both protected and encrypted while it’s in that tunnel, preventing others from accessing it.
A VPN Will Enhance Your Security
The encryption that VPNs use ensures that any information that is intercepted by others (which is very unlikely when using a VPN) can’t be decrypted. Therefore, hackers who would like to access your bank account, passwords and other sensitive information would have to jump through hoops to do so. Like more traditional criminals (think pickpockets and burglars), making things harder for them is often enough of a deterrent that they will turn to an easier target.
Many VPN services also come with anti-spyware and anti-malware services built in, which will enhance any protection your computer already has.
A VPN Will Protect Your Privacy
Using a VPN will replace your IP address. This allows you to be anonymous and prevents others from tracking your activity back to your IP without the VPN service’s cooperation.
Torrenters (and other people whose internet activities might not be approved by their government) who fear action from the legal system or from their internet service provider absolutely need a VPN, since it prevents your activity from being traced back to you.
Even those who are engaging in perfectly legal activities need to keep their privacy in mind. Everyone has information that they don’t want others to know, such as your Social Security number, credit card numbers and your passwords.
A VPN Will Prevent Circumvent Internet Censorship and Geo-blocking
If you live in a country where popular sites such as YouTube or Twitter are censored, you can dodge the censorship by using a VPN. Since your IP address will pin your activity somewhere outside of your home country, you can browse freely.
Regardless of the censorship rules in your country, you have probably been affected by geo-blocking in some way. For example, many Netflix users are frustrated by the inability to access certain TV shows that users in another country can watch. What are you missing? American Netflix has the most shows, but some people may prefer what other countries are offering. Visit the Netflixable resource to see what your area doesn’t have that other countries do.
Security on Devices without VPN Support
Okay, so I’ve sold you on why you need to use a VPN, but why do you need to install one on your router? Can’t you just use one on your computer? Installing a VPN on your router will give you these benefits when you’re using devices that don’t have VPN support.
What about security when you’re using your XBox or your Kindle? Just because you’re not on your primary computer, it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Important information, such as credit card numbers and your geographical location, still get sent by these devices. Also, if you use your Xbox or a device such as Roku for Netflix, this will allow you to dodge geo-blocking on that device too.
Protection from Less Security-Savvy Users
Maybe you’re not the sole internet user in your household. Maybe you have a child or an irresponsible roommate who might stumble onto an unsecured website or buy things off the Silk Road without telling you. Even if everyone in your house is as savvy as you are, your security is on the line. To prevent the element of human error leading to unfortunate consequences for you, disable access to your network or restrict which web sites can be visited.
If this sounds like something you need, you can check out this Secure Thoughts article on the best VPN services. Their first recommendation, ExpressVPN, has a page that will instruct you on installing their service on a variety of devices, including different routers.
Join the conversation. Are you going to install a VPN on your router? Which service? On what router? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Cassie Philips
About the Author: Cassie Philips is a blogger and VPN expert passionate about internet security and helping others stay as safe as possible when accessing the web.