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How VPNs help with online privacy

Keep your internet activities free of prying external eyes with a right-fit VPN.

Nathan Lawrence
Jun 18, 2020
Icon Time To Read3 min read

A virtual private network (VPN) service can be used for many things, including streaming and online gaming. But the job of a VPN, first and foremost, is to protect and anonymise the internet connection of a device. Here’s how the right VPN can help protect and anonymise your internet connection in Australia.

VPN privacy vs protection

Ideally, a good VPN will keep your internet connection private and protected. The standard among the dozen-plus VPNs we’ve reviewed is military-grade encryption. In technical terms, this includes 256-bit data encryption and either 2048-bit or 4096-bit channel encryption. Translation: a very secure connection for any of your devices connected to a VPN server.

Military-grade encryption is great for security but it also helps with privacy. How a VPN works is by connecting to a server, either nearby or from location choices around the globe. Your typical provider-allocated IP address changes to the one associated with the VPN server and all of your downloaded and uploaded data is encrypted. For starters, this acts as a great mask for your location specifics from prying eyes, but the fact that VPN server encryption makes your internet data almost impossible to monitor.

That’s great news for VPN users looking to keep their internet goings-on private for a range of privacy reasons. Below is a selection of VPNs that we’ve reviewed, which have 256-bit data encryption and 4096-bit channel encryption to boost baseline privacy and security.

Best for
VPN
View more
Global locations
Simultaneous connections
Zero logging?
RAM-only servers?
Headquarters

Best VPN overall

83

6

Yes

YesPanama

Best VPN for unlimited devices

146

Unlimited

Yes

YesUSA

Best VPN for ease of use

151

5

Yes

YesBritish Virgin Islands

Best VPN for download speeds

116

7

Yes

YesRomania

Best VPN for anonymity

90

10

Yes

NoSwitzerland

Best VPN for streaming

112

Unlimited

Yes

NoCanada

Best lifetime VPN

69

5

Yes

NoUSA

Best VPN for competitive pricing

46

Unlimited

Yes

NoUSA

Best VPN for predictable pricing

70

5

Yes

MostSweden

VPN logging policy

Military-grade encryption is a great starting point but there are other factors to consider if you want the ultimate anonymised VPN experience. One of the big talking points among VPN providers is what’s called a “zero-logging policy”. As the phrase implies, this refers to VPN providers that pledge to not log any user activity.

Effectively, if there is a data breach or something similar, the VPN provider isn’t storing any user-identifying logs. The better examples come from VPN providers with RAM servers. Typical VPN servers are capable of logging data, while RAM servers are incapable of long-term storage of user data, adding extra peace of mind. Look to NordVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost VPN for RAM servers.

The importance of VPN headquarters

Where a VPN is headquartered can add an additional peace of mind. There are several countries that are part of data-sharing agreements. Hypothetically, this means if a particular government or country requests user data, a VPN provider may be compelled to share it. The way around this is to use a VPN provider that’s headquartered in a country that doesn’t participate in these kinds of data-sharing agreements.

There are many data-sharing alliances around the world, so government agencies can potentially compel certain countries to share user data, including any stored VPN user data. These agreements cover the so-called Five Eyes, Nine Eyes and Fourteen Eyes countries, which includes the USA, the Netherlands, Canada and Switzerland, to name a few.

Here’s a full list of the countries involved in these data-sharing alliances.

Five Eyes countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America

Nine Eyes countries (Five Eyes, plus):

  • Denmark
  • France
  • Netherlands
  • Norway

Fourteen Eyes countries (Nine Eyes, plus):

  • Germany
  • Belgium
  • Italy
  • Spain
  • Sweden

I mentioned those specific example countries above because they are nations that are home to the headquarters of certain popular VPNs. For ultimate security, stick with VPNs that are headquartered in countries like Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Romania and Switzerland. In terms of specific VPNs, consider NordVPN, ExpressVPN, PureVPN, CyberGhost, Proton VPN and PrivadoVPN.

How VPN protocols impact security

If you want to take your VPN privacy another step further, factor in the available protocols used for connecting devices to VPN servers. VPN protocols dictate the overall speed, security and privacy of a connection.

OpenVPN is a private and auditable VPN protocol that’s a great starting point. While most VPNs default to automatically selecting a VPN protocol, you’ll find OpenVPN in the following VPNs:

One of the better VPN protocols is L2TP, which isn’t the fastest VPN protocol out there but it does preference user anonymity. You’ll find L2TP as a VPN protocol option in ExpressVPN. Note that VPNs like ExpressVPN offer proprietary VPN protocols, which may offer additional privacy benefits. If unique VPN protocols are of interest, consider NordVPN, Proton VPN, Hotspot Shield VPN and VPN Unlimited.

VPN privacy frequently asked questions

Yes, a good VPN from a reliable brand is a great way to protect your online privacy. The best VPNs for privacy offer a mix of zero-logging of user data, RAM servers and headquarters outside of data-sharing agreements to help prioritise user anonymity.

Not all VPNs are created equal, and the ones that offer the best privacy are those that have an auditable zero-logging policy, RAM-only servers and are headquartered in countries that aren’t part of data-sharing agreements. Consider VPNs like NordVPN, ExpressVPN and CyberGhost for the best privacy.

No, you can’t be traced while using a reliable VPN because connecting to a VPN server encrypts all of your online activities and changes your IP address. If you’re worried about potential tracing, consider a VPN with multi-hope servers, which route your connection via two VPN servers instead of one.
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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