If you don’t know how a VPN works, it is quite simple. Basically, when using a VPN you connect to a designated server that the VPN provider hosts. All data that goes from and to your computer passes through this server, where it becomes encrypted, meaning that if anyone actually intercepts the data, it will be useless to them since they won’t understand it. Now of course, a VPN can be completely useless if the VPN provider stores your unencrypted data before encrypting it and then selling it off to make a profit or just storing it and someone hacks into the database. But, if a VPN were to do that and get caught, they would be completely screwed because they would lose the entirety of their customer base.
The benefits of having a good VPN are extraordinary. For one, nearly nothing can access the actual data that is passing to and from your computer. So no one can externally view what you are actually doing. Secondly, they mask your actual IP address. So, if someone were to want to attack you with something like a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, they wouldn’t be able to since they can only view the IP address of the VPN, not your personal one. On top of this, VPNs can be used to access certain sites that are blocked in your region. This can be done because it appears you are accessing it from the VPN’s IP address, so the restrictions will be based on where that IP address actually is. So, say someone in North Korea had access to a VPN based in South Korea, then it could get past all the restrictions that the North Korean government has in place.
However, having a VPN doesn’t completely protect you from all forms of tracking. Cookies could still be used to track specific sites you go to and your tendencies, though the site that hosts the cookies may not actually be able to tell that you are the person that the cookie is tracking. VPNs also cannot prevent cookies from being installed on your personal computer and they cannot remove them either. Also, most respected VPNs cost money, as they should, since it isn’t exactly free to set up and maintain a working commercial VPN. Another possible issue that you may find with VPNs is that they can slow your network speed down considerably. This makes sense if you think about it for a bit since you are constantly retrieving and sending data to a server that may be far away from your location.
Overall, VPNs are a great first step if you want to ensure that your privacy is protected while online. But remember, VPNs are not the only solution, and you should always also invest in good anti-virus programs and certain browser extensions that can prevent your data from being penetrated.