Online Activities That Require a VPN

If you're engaging in these online activities, you're going to need a VPN.

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Last Updated: Dec 20, 2023
Man using VPN on a laptop
A VPN offers several advantages, including protection from hackers. (Image: Shutterstock)

If you live in the U.S., you should know that your internet service provider (ISP) can track your online activities, which is not something you want them to do. That’s where a virtual private network (VPN), which encrypts your internal traffic to mask your identity and location, comes into play. This makes it difficult for any third party to track your online activity or to restrict you from visiting certain websites and apps.

While using a VPN may slow down your internet speed, you should definitely consider one for some online activities. Here are seven online activities that benefit from using a VPN.

Accessing Blocked Websites When Traveling

You have access to all of your favorite streaming services and websites at home, but when traveling abroad, you may have issues accessing them. For example, China doesn’t allow access to Facebook, Dropbox, Slack, and several other websites. If you travel to Dubai, you can’t use WhatsApp or FaceTime to talk to loved ones. You’d be surprised by how many countries around the world block websites and apps that are accessible in the U.S.

When you download a VPN before you visit a country where the sites and apps you use are blocked, you can connect to a server to bypass the restriction. For example, if you want to use WhatsApp calling in Dubai, you can connect to any server in Europe. Similarly, if you want to use Facebook in China, you can connect to any servers in Southeast Asia or Europe, as these regions typically don’t have any restrictions on accessing Facebook.

Keep in mind that servers that are closer to your location will generally be faster than servers that are farther away.

Playing Online Games

Your physical location is a major factor in your online gaming experience. Online games have a centralized server to connect people from different locations around the world. If your physical location is close to the location of the centralized server, you’re more likely to get a smooth gaming experience.

It’s common for online gamers who play reactive games to experience lag because of delays in receiving and sending data packets over the internet. This is known as ping, which is a measurement to determine the communication lag between networks. A VPN can help solve this problem by allowing you to connect to a server close to the centralized gaming server.

The benefit of using a VPN for online gaming is not limited to long-distance connections. A VPN can also help stabilize your internet connection to minimize internet throttling, which disrupts the gaming experience. Internet throttling is a practice in which an ISP limits your bandwidth. Using a VPN also protects you from cyber trolling, as the VPN hides your online activity from your ISP.

Browsing the Internet on Public Wi-Fi

Woman using her laptop and sitting at a counter
Everyone knows that public Wi-Fi isn’t the safest connection. (Image: Shutterstock)

Although 79 percent of people understand the risks of using public Wi-Fi, only 27 percent use a VPN service to protect themselves. When you connect to public Wi-Fi, you’re vulnerable to hackers and other types of malicious actors. Anyone with the right tools can access your online activity on public Wi-Fi. They can watch your online activity and access your private data, including your passwords.

Hackers use software applications that offer several hacking tools, including “sidejacking,” which is a method to hijack your connection. Hackers can also deploy a fake Wi-Fi network to lure unsuspecting users to their network. A VPN adds a layer of security by encrypting your data so hackers can’t intercept it over a public network.

Streaming Sports

Sporting events usually have licensing restrictions and blackouts, especially regional sports. Streaming services often black out regional sports in specific regions as an incentive for people to physically attend sporting events. Unfortunately, attending sporting events isn’t always possible or in the individual’s best interest. Local cable providers might not offer a live option to view the games, but connecting to a VPN will let you bypass geo-blocking and gain access to your favorite sporting events.

Keep in mind that using a VPN might slow down your internet speeds, so check your internet speed to determine if it will be enough for watching sports online.

Torrenting

Torrenting is legal in the U.S. as long as you’re not downloading or uploading copyrighted media or software. That said, ISPs often block torrent websites, and certain monitoring agencies might track users on these websites. Even if you’re downloading or uploading legal content, you may get flagged for visiting a torrent website or using torrenting software.

As a result, it’s best to use a VPN to protect yourself by encrypting all the internet traffic on your device and hiding your IP address. It’ll also allow you to circumvent the restrictions of your ISP.

Connecting to Remote Network

Another major advantage of installing a VPN on your computer or mobile device is connecting to remote networks. The two-way tunnel provided by a VPN offers unrestricted access to your workplace or home office network from anywhere in the world.

Some employers require employees to use a VPN when connecting to workplace networks if they need to use the company’s drives or resources. Similarly, many universities require their students to use a VPN to access course management websites, online libraries, and other online tools. Whenever you sift through sensitive or classified information or resources, a VPN ensures that it doesn’t give unwanted users access.

Online Shopping

Woman using a credit card for online shopping
Online pricing can be different based on location. (Image: Shutterstock)

Internet users might not be aware that using a VPN gets them better deals when shopping online. Most websites use your IP address to determine your location and offer you pricing and packages based on that. If you connect to a server in a country where pricing is cheaper, you may be able to get a better deal on an item.

For example, booking an airline ticket from Thailand might be cheaper than booking the same ticket from the U.S. It’s no secret that airlines employ user profiling and dynamic pricing to maximize their profits. Other online websites, such as hotels and ride-hailing services, use similar pricing strategies.

This method doesn’t guarantee you’ll get better pricing when connected to servers from cheaper countries. Still, it’s worth checking the difference in price by quickly connecting to an international VPN server.