The biggest flaw with your knowledge is not in the things you don’t know; it’s in the things you know that are wrong. You see when you are aware that you don’t know something, you have an easy way of finding the answer. The problem is that you may have heard and misinterpreted something, which creates a false sense of security, which means that every time that topic is brought up, you just assume that you know the answer and move on.

The perfect example is VPNs. Sure, most people know that these tools help you bypass geo-restrictions and provide extra security, but how these bypasses are possible and what kind of security remains shrouded in the veil of mystery.

With that in mind, and in order to dispel some myths, here are the top seven untrue things you still believe about VPNs. 

1. All VPNs are the same

The first massive misconception about VPNs is that they’re all the same. This is believed by people who assume that a VPN is simply a switch that allows you to change your location. In their minds, it’s just a tool that you click on and pick which flag should be in your flair when you are somewhere online. 

In reality, this is as wrong as it gets. First of all, the discrepancy between different VPNs is huge. All you need to do to understand this is take a look at a VPN services comparison in order to see exactly what we’re talking about. For example, software reviews expert Aleksandar Stevanovic doesn’t recommend using “free” services that come with severe usage restrictions or, in the worst cases, may otherwise expose your data to malicious actors.

A VPN does much more than just allow you to pretend that you’re from someplace else; until you understand this, you won’t be able to tell the full difference.

It’s also worth pointing out that there’s an additional misconception out there – believing that there’s no difference between paid and free VPNs or that the only difference is the number of servers/proxies. 

2. VPNs slow your internet connection down

This one is technically true (but only technically). Sure, it will slow down your connection/device slightly, but it doesn’t have to be a significant (or even noticeable) decrease in speed. In fact, the decrease in speed is caused and depends on a series of factors.

First, you have the server distance. Physical distance to a server matters, even in a digital world and even with fiber optic internet. If your speed is incredibly high, you may not be able to feel it, but it’s there.

The server load, protocols used, encryption overhead, and even network conditions will all have an effect on how much the VPN is slowing you down.

Now, a VPN is an application that uses the internet, which means that, by its definition, it’s using some of your connection and processor power. However, if all the above-listed factors are favorable, you won’t be able to feel it. In other words, it will be non-existent in practice. 

3. They provide complete anonymity

While it is true that VPNs protect you from others being able to tell your IP and (thus your physical address), they aren’t guaranteeing complete anonymity online.

For instance, they don’t protect you from cookies, trackers installed on your computer, or from platforms that collect data in other ways. There are tools and trackers that can bypass VPNs, but this doesn’t mean that they’re useless or worth using. 

The fact that they keep your physical address safe will, on its own, protect you from threats like doxing and swatting, both of which have the potential to have a very negative (even fatal) outcome.

Now, it’s important to understand one thing: while a lot of people believe the utter nonsense that Microsoft Windows is saving your every keystroke, this is simply not true. This is a lie perpetuated on the internet, and you should dispel it as soon as possible. Still, as you already saw, there are other ways to handle this. 

4. They are used just by tech experts

If you’re not a hacker from the early 2000s TV show, there’s absolutely no reason for you to have a VPN installed on your device. While this statement is clearly hyperbolic, you would be surprised at how many people actually believe something in this ballpark. 

You see, a few years back, VPNs were really just a niche thing. Today, they’re widely accessible, simple, and used by audiences all over the globe.

Now, the main reason why something breaks into mainstream use is because there’s a need for it. Let’s be honest: The majority of people do not use VPNs for safety or privacy reasons. They’re using it to access geo-restricted content. Once streaming services became a huge thing, everyone started using VPNs.

Massive advertisements by the biggest software in the field (like NordVPN) also contributed to raising awareness. Overall, everyone and their grandmother uses a VPN in 2024. 

5. VPNs can protect you from viruses and malware

Out of everything we’ve listed so far, this belief is, by far, the most dangerous and least grounded in reality. Why? Well, because it makes no logical sense once you start examining it and because it can give you a false sense of confidence.

In order to stay safe from viruses and malware, you need other tools. In other words, just because you have a VPN doesn’t mean that you also don’t need an antivirus. Also, keep in mind that there are some antiviruses that add a VPN as an extra feature for premium users. In other words, it’s a common feature in a bundle, and there’s a logical connection to using it this way.

6. It will prevent ISP throttling

While it can prevent ISP throttling, it will only do so under a certain set of circumstances.

You see, your ISP may discriminate against you based on your online activity. They may identify you as a streamer, which may make them assume that you’re using more data than the others. When you install a VPN, they won’t be able to see what you’re using the data for. They’ll still see the amount of data that you’re using, but they won’t be able to identify the activity.

The reason why this matters is because some ISPs are actually discriminating based on the purpose of your data use, which is quite unfair.

A VPN can help you avoid this altogether. 

7. VPNs are illegal

Another big misconception surrounding VPNs is that they’re somehow illegal. In reality, they’re completely legal. You don’t even have to see the law; just think about it logically. How many times have you heard about this or that app being pulled from an app store because it was violating this or that law? VPNs are still there; they’re being advertised (even in the mainstream media), which further supports the fact that they’re legal.

Sure, there are some regions where they could be illegal, and you should always check before assuming.

At the same time, if you’re using a VPN to watch content that’s geo-restricted in your region, you’re probably violating the user agreement. Copyright laws still exist, and if you’ve discovered violating this user agreement, the platform could technically terminate your account.

In practice, this almost never happens. While streaming services could, technically, do this, no one bothers actually to do so. Still, precedents exist, and so do legal grounds, so be extra careful when doing so. 

You need to understand what a software does in order to evaluate it

You can’t evaluate software based on your own expectations of what they are and what they’re supposed to do. This would be like evaluating video games by their desktop icons. So, in order to choose and use the right VPN, you need to start by understanding the features and dispelling the myths surrounding it. There’s no other way. 

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Last Update: July 8, 2024