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Use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) When Surfing the Internet With Your Smartphone

Jason R. Rich is a consumer electronics expert who hosts the Featured App of the Week podcast and contributes articles to many publications.

The web browser that comes preinstalled with your Apple iPhone or Android-based smartphone offers a handful of built-in security features. You also have the option of downloading, installing, and using an alternate web browser, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, or DuckDuck Go.

What’s great about the optional DuckDuck Go web browser is that it’s free and it includes automatic privacy features that many other web browsers don’t offer. A variety of alternate web browsers are available from the App Store or Google Play Store.

If you’re an iPhone user who uses the Safari web browser, for example, to activate the security features built into Safari, you’ll need to launch the Settings app on your iPhone, select the Safari submenu option from the main Settings menu, and then scroll down within the Safari submenu to manually adjust each setting or option.

If you frequently access the Internet via a public Wi-Fi hotspot – from a coffee shop, hotel, airport, school, or library, or if you live in a large apartment building, for example, one additional security measure you should take is to install a Virtual Private Network app onto your smartphone.

A Virtual Private Network, also called a VPN, is an optional app that automatically handles multiple tasks on your behalf to enhance your privacy and security when surfing the web.

The two main things a VPN does are encrypt all data coming and going from your smartphone while you’re surfing the web, and at the same time, it keeps your current location private.

Some VPNs also offer a built-in Ad Blocking feature, or prevent online advertisers or companies from tracking your web surfing activities in order to target advertising messages to you.

To get started using a VPN takes just a few minutes. However, in addition to downloading and installing a VPN app onto your smartphone, you’ll also typically need to pay a monthly or annual fee for the service. This typically costs between $5.00 and $8.00 per month, or around $50.00 per year.

The good news is that when you subscribe to a VPN service, you’re typically able to use your single account with all of your own computers and mobile devices.

So if you have a desktop computer, laptop computer, a tablet, and a smartphone, for example, all of your equipment will be protected when you use the Internet with a single VPN service account. You just need to install the VPN software or mobile app separately onto each of your devices.

There are many different VPN services available to consumers. Many of the anti-virus software developers you may already be familiar with, such as McAffe and Norton, offer VPN services. In fact, if you already subscribe to an anti-virus software application for your computer, it may already include a VPN service that you’re paying for but not using with your smartphone.

Some cellular service providers and Internet service providers also include a virtual private network with their service bundles, so before you pay separately for a VPN, make sure you don’t already have access to one.

When choosing a VPN service, focus on:

  • What features and functions are offered
  • The reputation of the company offering the VPN service
  • How many devices you can use with your paid subscription
  • The monthly or annual subscription fee
  • And if you travel around the world, make sure that the VPN service has servers around the world so you’ll be able to use the VPN during your travels without your Internet connection speed slowing down.

To find a VPN service and discover what’s available directly from your smartphone, on an iPhone, for example, launch the App Store app.

Within the Search field of the App Store, type “VPN” or “Virtual Private Network,” and then review the individual app listings to see the various offerings, like: NordVPN, ExpressVPN, CyberGhost VPN, Norton Secure VPN, and McAffe Safe VPN Connect.

Read each app’s Description to determine what’s offered, pay attention to each app’s average star-based rating, and its reviews. You can also determine pricing for the VPN service by looking under the In-App Purchases heading within the app’s Description.

Once you choose which VPN service you want, download and install its proprietary app onto your smartphone.

Next, launch the app and set up your account. You’ll need to provide a credit card to pay for the monthly or annual subscription fee. This process should take 5 minutes or less.

After setting up the account, you’ll be able to activate the VPN service, which will automatically turn on anytime you’re using your mobile device to access the Internet via a Wi-Fi hotspot.

While you’re surfing the web, you always have the option to turn off the VPN service manually. However, if you’re planning to do online banking, online shopping, or anything that utilizes personal or financial information, I definitely recommend leaving the VPN service turned on for the added security and privacy it offers.

Using a VPN will help protect you against hackers and some types of cybercrime, but like all other tools, a VPN does not offer a complete or 100 percent foolproof security solution, so always use common sense when surfing the Internet.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Jason R Rich