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2016 was noteworthy for countless reasons, among which include a record high number of cyberattacks perpetuated across the web. During last year alone, hackers stole over 2 billion records from countless targets — with many comprising the world’s biggest corporations and organizations.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the biggest data breaches: Yahoo suffered from the largest hack in history, with 500 million affected accounts, and its property Tumblr saw 65 million accounts get compromised. Meanwhile, LinkedIn revealed it had 117 million accounts stolen, while MySpace admitted that hackers had gotten ahold of the logins to 427 million accounts.
And this doesn’t even include the cyberattacks executed by political operatives, including Russia’s infamous hack of the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 US election, or even the NSA itself getting a whopping 50 TB of data stolen from its facilities.
Bottom line: if the world’s most powerful entities are at risk of getting hacked, then individual web users also must be vigilant about defending themselves against opportunistic cybercriminals. Luckily, there’s a simple, easy measure anyone can take to safeguard their online activity: use a VPN.
What is a VPN?
To understand what a VPN (Virtual Private Network) does, consider how the web itself functions. Think of the internet as a vast public network in which you send and receive data, which happens every time you log into an app, make a transaction, shoot out a message…basically do anything and everything online.
A VPN works as a private network (hence the name) you can use to navigate the internet safely. Users simply log into their VPN via special credentials to access a series of discrete networks or computers that encrypt their data. All information is transmitted only under that VPN’s cloak of anonymity, rendering it inaccessible to hackers, snoops, and government entities alike.
Why should you use a VPN?
Payment data. All those credit card and bank routing numbers used in online transactions? Those are at risk of getting stolen, meaning you risk a bunch of fraudulent charges or mysteriously depleted assets.
Authentication details for sensitive accounts. Every online account you’ve ever created a login for is at risk. We’re talking email, retirement portfolios, cloud storage accounts…and that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Medical records. It’s a thing. Many thieves steal personal health information and resell it on the internet black market. Or they’ll use your data to create fake insurance accounts that you’ll be billed for when you least expect it.
Classified information. Any sensitive documents stored in the cloud, any correspondence you want to keep private — all these are at risk to prying eyes.
All this makes using a VPN even more urgent a matter when you consider the breadth of common hacking techniques used by online criminals to procure this data. Keyloggers record each keystroke you tap, fake WAPs (Wireless Access Points) trick you into accessing what seem like legitimate web portals, phishing links infect your computer the second you click them…and that’s only a fraction of the various ways hackers can wreak their havoc.
Savvy browsers can protect themselves against all this with a well-chosen VPN, with many equipped with extra features specifically designed to guard against one or all of these different threats: military-grade 256-AES encryption, ad blockers, kill switches that drop an insecure connection, and more. Which begs the question…
Which VPN is best for you?
There is a flood of VPNs available to discerning consumers online, but not all are created equal. To make things easier for you, we’ve compiled the list of our top three recommended VPNs and broken them down by distinguishing feature to help you select one that’s right for you:
Top Feature: All-Around Performer
With VPNSecure, you’ll protect up to five devices at once by routing your data through private servers in over 46 countries worldwide. All this means your data stays encrypted, your location hidden, and your online browsing protected against malicious threats like DNS leak fixes and kill switches.
Top Feature: World’s Fastest VPN
PureVPN is widely touted for its blistering-fast connection speeds and robust network of 500+ servers, ensuring you’ll stay protected without compromising your browsing experience. Plus, users can rest assured knowing that PureVPN logs absolutely no activity whatsoever.
Top Feature: Multi-layered protection
If you’re looking for multiple layers of protection to truly get your privacy on lockdown, go with Private Internet Access. This full-featured VPN features a murderer’s row of potent privacy tools: ad blocking, IP cloaking, anti-data mining capabilities, and even a kill switch that stops traffic if your VPN connection drops.