Waiting for a flight or hanging out at the local coffee shop leads to plenty of time to scroll through the news or complete a couple of tasks on your Android device. Many Android owners enjoy the opportunity to connect to the free Wi-Fi networks at such places to save as much costly cellular data as possible.
Sadly, free Wi-Fi networks that are accessible by the public often feature significant security vulnerabilities. Many small networks like those found in cafés are not set up correctly and allow anyone to spy on those connected to them. Some unsuspecting victims attach their devices to a network set up specifically for hacking.
A virtual private network (VPN) can help protect Android devices from malicious attacks and provide value in other ways.
What is a VPN and what does it do?
When your Android is connected to an unsecured wireless network, anything you do over the internet could be monitored. Email addresses, passwords, and banking information are all made available if a skilled hacker has network access. Sophisticated attacks can result in the loss of almost any private information being sent over the wireless connection.
A VPN provides data security
A VPN provides security for data being sent to and from an Android device in the form of an encrypted tunnel. The information goes to the server provided by the VPN in a secure manner, preventing easy theft.
The privacy offered by a VPN is beneficial even to those who do not connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi networks.
A VPN offers privacy
Networks considered safe from hackers are still not entirely private without some extra help. Internet service providers (ISPs) often sell data about web traffic to ad companies and other third-party data collectors. This may sound like an illegal invasion of privacy, but federal law indicates it is not.
Digital advertising has also been under fire for using advanced tactics to monitor your internet behaviors and present you with ads that may be more impactful to you. Many people associate this phenomenon with computer-based web browsing, but the same thing occurs on your Android.
Furthermore, government agencies can monitor unencrypted traffic going to and from certain Android apps that you may have installed on your device. It may seem silly to you that an agency would be monitoring your innocent activities, but the point is that it is possible to watch your device.
A VPN installed on your device can encrypt your data making it impossible to see. It will also make your IP address appear to be wherever the VPN server is, enabling you to avoid tracking by ad agencies or more mysterious entities.
What a VPN does not do
There is often confusion about what a VPN does and does not do. Now that what a VPN does has been detailed, a reaffirmation of what it does not do will clarify further.
A VPN is not fully capable of making you anonymous. There are sophisticated ways of determining an origin IP address and thus parts of your personal information. It also is not a connection to the darker areas of the internet. There are apps for Android in the Tor client category that are more appropriate for that kind of activity.
The primary role of a VPN is not antivirus or antimalware, so you will want to download software to your Android that protects against those problems.
Data is encrypted from your device to the VPN server but loses encryption after opening to the internet from that server. If you are genuinely concerned about encrypting things like messages, some apps ensure the messages are scrambled from origin to destination.
VPN for Android: will it work with Netflix?
It is now common knowledge that many Android users install a VPN in hopes of evading the geo-blocking practices that restrict content based on location. A VPN can be effective for this task as it can make the request appear to be coming from a region where access is permitted.
This reasoning behind having a VPN is often used by people in countries that are more restrictive with web content. Certain professions require employees to travel to these regions, but the employee also needs to have internet access.
Others download a VPN to their devices to attempt to gain access to streaming media content available in other countries. This tactic can allow access to sporting events, TV channels, or content that is being held back for copyright purposes.
Netflix has caught on to this behavior and is exceptional at preventing it. This leads to some unreliability amongst VPNs that work with Netflix. A VPN could allow access to Netflix one day and no longer work the next. You may be able to watch your favorite UK show on your Android today, but you may not want to get used to it.
Things to look for in an Android VPN
Whether you have an Android phone, tablet, or another mobile device with the Android OS, the qualities to look for in the best VPN are the same. Many VPN providers offer similar features in each category below. Take advantage of any free trial offers to compare them on your device with your typical tasks.
Speed itself is not the best descriptor of how a VPN will truly perform. Testing for a fast connection is important, but it has more to do than the speed of the VPN. It is more beneficial to account for how many servers a VPN has in its network and where they reside.
For those who connect while streaming or gaming, servers that are close by may be faster than those in distant places. Location can impact download speeds and overall performance.
In addition to finding out VPN server locations for the sake of convenience, security and privacy are other concerns. Local laws typically apply to the country where a VPN is headquartered. If it resides in a nation that requires user data logging, you may want to consider another option that can offer better privacy practices.
If you are considering a VPN and travel frequently, pay close attention to the distribution of VPN servers. A server in many countries is better than ten in one region. A well-distributed selection of servers can give you confidence in your ability to connect while traveling abroad.
Those looking to attempt avoiding geo-blocking will want to verify if servers are in the relevant countries. If you want to access content only available to those in the EU, you will need your VPN to have a server located there.
Consider your typical internet uses before committing to a VPN. If you frequently perform activities with large upload and download volumes, you will want to be sure the VPN allows these activities. Few VPN providers have restrictions on torrenting or file sharing but those that do take violations seriously and will shut down accounts quickly.
Pricing and licensing
First and foremost, do not download a free VPN with the expectation that it will be useful. Most of them make money back by presenting ads and even selling user data.
Many reasonably priced VPNs are available for Android for less than $10 a month. Pricing relies on features and add-ons, but basic offerings can be affordable. It is important to note that VPN providers limit the number of devices per account so pay attention if you have more than one Android.
5 Great VPNs for Android
Now that you have an idea of what to look for in a VPN, it is time to start narrowing down your choices. Keep your needs in mind with the qualities noted above as your browse this list of great VPNs for your Android device.
Express VPN – Free 7-day trial and 30-day money back guarantee.
- Easy to use design while maintaining advanced features.
- Fast speeds with almost 150 server locations.
- Three simultaneous connections at one time.
NordVPN – Free 7-day trial and 30-day money back guarantee.
- Strong emphasis on security including double VPN technology.
- Privacy is paramount as NordVPN does not keep logs.
- Six simultaneous connections at one time.
- Some people express dissatisfaction with the basic app, lacking advanced options.
Private Internet Access – No free trial but considered reasonably priced.
- Flexible interface with loads of advanced settings.
- Features a kill switch to prevent sudden IP revelation.
- Very simple and effective VPN.
VyprVPN – No free trial but inexpensive annually.
- Fast download speeds with a highly optimized app.
- App is well regarded for its design, performance, and ease-of-use.
- Multiple protocols available to choose from including a custom design by VyprVPN.
IPVanish – No free trial and 7-day money back guarantee.
- Considered one of the fastest VPN options.
- Lacks a kill switch but features some unique security options.
- No logging policy in place to protect your privacy.
Download a VPN to your Android
Consider a VPN a necessity for your Android device. The increase in questionable data security combined with a massive number of hackers looking for personal information to steal demands one.
While a VPN cannot guarantee the security of all your data and information, it can provide you with a great sense of confidence when interacting over the internet. Any enhanced security you can get is a good idea. Consider your needs and download a VPN to your Android.