In 1995, Clifford Stoll wrote an article for Newsweek that he’s probably very embarrassed about now. Originally titled “The Internet? Bah!”, Stoll boldly asserted that the internet would never catch on. The idea of reading articles online, of digitising books and newspapers, and of convenient telecommunications seemed ridiculous to him.
Just one quote from the now hilarious article reads:
“Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Internet. Uh, sure.”
Yet there was a certain something to his arguments. He believed the internet would not catch on because of how it would devalue information, and open us up to all kinds of fake news, hoaxes, and risks to our autonomy. While his reasoning was somewhat correct, he did not take into account humanity’s penchant for throwing caution to the wind in favor of technological advancement.
The internet caught on in a big way, without solving all of the problems Stoll brought up. Which is why most people online are unbelievably vulnerable to hackers with just a smidgen of experience.
Today, virtual private networks (VPNs) are getting a lot of attention because of this. And if you're not convinced you need one, here are 3 reasons to change your mind.
- Your very identity is at stake
We’re way past the point where our biggest worry was a virus shutting down our computer. We’re even past the point where our concern lay in the loss of written content or the potential for plagiarism. Now, our biggest concern is identity theft.
In old movies, this tended to happen when someone dropped their wallet, and its finder took the opportunity handed to them. They took over the person’s identity with a mixture of luck and slapstick hijinks. In real life, doing the same would prove a lot more difficult.
Now, with all our personal information easily hackable, identity theft is no longer the domain of expert conmen. You're probably not even aware of how much of your life is online. Did you know your phone keeps records of everywhere you've been, what apps you've been using, and much much more? If you have an Android device, you can actually access this information and see for yourself!
A VPN makes it much more difficult for hackers to get hold of this data. It’s irresponsible not to use one.
- We want to live in a free world
I’m not going to get all melodramatic and spout conspiracy theories. However, there is truth to the fact that governments should not be able to surveil us at their whims, even for the sake of our security. After all, the government level security organizations are not run by saints. By tracking us, they're limiting our freedom to feel like we’re not being watched. And there’s the all-too-real chance that our information can fall into the wrong hands.
Apple actually made a stand for our freedom from surveillance when refusing to create technology to bypass its own security measures, even for investigations into terrorism. A VPN makes surveillance much more difficult, and grants us the level of freedom we deserve.
- Access to content
Finally, a side point for us, but something very real for people living in other countries. Certain governments limit access to content that goes against their dominion or their values. They won’t allow people to watch YouTube videos that criticise them or promote ideas outside of the culture that they're imposing. For a guide to unblocking YouTube videos, check out Best Online Reviews.
VPNs allow people to get around this by masking their location, making it seem like they're in another country. For this reason alone, VPNs are important pieces of software.