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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > June 2018 > Privacy and Security on the Web: Is a VPN Right for You?

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Privacy and Security on the Web: Is a VPN Right for You?

One option for consumers concerned about their privacy and security on public networks is to subscribe to a virtual private network or VPN service.

Security and privacy are important concepts to consider before using the internet, especially if you are typing in passwords, revealing personal information, or conducting any financial transactions such as checking your bank or credit card activity.

For Ohioans who have attended one of the Ohio Attorney General’s cybersecurity presentations, one important tip is to not to log in with passwords or enter any personal or financial information into devices while using free, public Wi-Fi.

Another possible way to protect your information is to consider using a virtual private network. We’ve outlined some questions and answers about VPNs.

What is a virtual private network (VPN)?
Some experts compare a VPN to a private tunnel, where a secure, encrypted connection is established between your device and the websites you visit. Encryption scrambles the data before it is sent through the internet, and the VPN-enabled device has the key to unscramble it. The network and others on the network cannot see what you are doing, so VPNs allow individuals to use public Wi-Fi to access private websites without as much risk of others accessing their information.

Who might use a VPN?
Using a VPN may help consumers and businesses keep web browsing activity and personal information private. Businesses have used VPNs to allow a secure virtual office environment to employees who work remotely from home or another out-of-office location. Increasingly, VPN products are being used by individuals who want a private channel onto the internet when they are in coffee shops, hotels, airports, and other locations that have free, public Wi-Fi available.

How can I start using a VPN?
VPN services marketed for consumer use typically have software or an app that can be installed on your device. Like many technology products and services, some VPNs are free and some require payment. Before subscribing to a VPN, check reviews and ratings from other consumers and experts. For example, consider checking popular computer magazines and expert blogs and columns for their recommended VPN services. Also consider whether you can use the VPN product on multiple devices – such as your phone, tablet, and laptop – or whether the VPN can only be used on one specific device.   

How else can I protect my information online?
Whether you choose to use a VPN or not, it is important to use “secure” websites whenever you are typing in personal or financial information. On a secure website, the web address generally begins with “https” instead of merely “http”; the “s” stands for secure. On some web browsers, you may see a lock icon and the whole address bar may turn green to let you know you are on a secure site. Even if you’re using a secure VPN, your computer may still be vulnerable to malware, so it’s important to have up-to-date malware protection. Find more cybersecurity tips on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

To learn more from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office or to schedule a free presentation on the Cybersecurity Help, Information, and Protection Program (CHIPP), visit, or call 800-282-0515.