If you don’t use a VPN, your online activities may be exposed to potential risks such as data breaches, cyberattacks, and surveillance. Your sensitive information, like passwords and personal data, could be intercepted by hackers or government agencies. Additionally, your internet service provider (ISP) can track and sell your browsing data without protection. Using a VPN encrypts your internet connection and helps safeguard your privacy and security.
Increased Vulnerability to Cyber Attacks and Risk of Identity Theft
Increased Vulnerability to Cyber Attacks
The internet is like an ocean, vast and full of life, but it also hosts potential threats. When you don’t use a VPN, you may significantly increase your vulnerability to cyberattacks.
Increased Risk of Malware Attacks
One of the risks that significantly increase when not using a VPN is exposure to malware. In 2021 alone, there were over 10 million new malware variants, with an average of 350,000 new types of malware discovered daily. This increased susceptibility is due to the lack of a secure and encrypted connection, which is a feature provided by VPNs.
Higher Chances of Phishing Attacks
Without a VPN, the probability of falling victim to phishing attacks also increases. A study by the University of Maryland found that a hacking attempt occurs every 39 seconds, affecting one in three Americans each year. Such attacks often involve deceptive emails or websites that masquerade as trustworthy entities to trick individuals into disclosing sensitive information.
Risk of Identity Theft
Identity theft is another grave consequence of not using a VPN.
Personal Information at Risk
Without a secure VPN connection, your personal information such as IP address, location data, and browsing history can be easily accessed by cybercriminals. According to a report by Javelin Strategy & Research, there were 1.4 million victims of identity theft in the United States in 2020, resulting in a total loss of approximately $56 billion.
Identity theft could result in substantial financial loss. The victims often have to spend significant amounts of money, sometimes upwards of $1,000, on average, to recover their identity and restore their credit reputation. This cost does not factor in the potential loss due to stolen funds or fraudulent transactions, which could reach up to $5,000 per incident.
Limited Access to Global Content
Not using a VPN can severely limit your access to global content. VPNs mask your original IP address, allowing you to bypass geographical restrictions set by content providers.
Geographic Restrictions on Streaming Services
Popular streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer impose geographical restrictions. For instance, an extensive library of around 6000 shows and movies is available on Netflix USA, while other regions like Australia only have access to around 2000 titles. Without a VPN, you’re stuck with the content available in your geographical location, which could significantly limit your entertainment options.
Restricted Access to Social Media and News Websites
Access to social media platforms and news websites can also be limited based on your geographical location. For example, China’s Great Firewall has blocked access to popular global websites like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, affecting the approximately 989 million internet users in the country. A VPN allows bypassing such restrictions, providing uncensored access to global news and social platforms.
Bypassing Government Censorship
Governments in certain regions, like North Korea and Iran, implement severe online censorship. As of 2023, North Korea only allows about 30 websites for its 3 million internet users. Without a VPN, residents in these regions are unable to access global content, affecting their freedom of information.
Less Protection for Personal Communications
When not using a VPN, your personal communications, including emails, messages, and calls, are at an increased risk of being intercepted or eavesdropped.
Vulnerability to Interception
Without a VPN, your personal communications can easily be intercepted by cybercriminals. For instance, on an unsecured Wi-Fi network, hackers could potentially read your emails or text messages, leading to a breach of personal or even professional confidentiality. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports that approximately 20% of all Wi-Fi hotspot users have been victims of privacy breaches at least once.
Eavesdropping on VoIP Calls
Even your Voice over IP (VoIP) calls through platforms like Skype or WhatsApp can be tapped into if you are not using a VPN. In a 2022 survey, about 15% of Internet users reported unauthorized third-party access to their VoIP calls.
Potential Privacy Breaches
Not using a VPN can expose your online activities and personal data, leading to potential privacy breaches.
Exposed Online Activities
Without a VPN, your Internet Service Provider (ISP), advertisers, or third-party trackers can monitor your online activities. This lack of privacy can lead to targeted advertising, price discrimination, or even manipulation of your search results. A study by Princeton University found that over 70% of websites use third-party trackers for advertising.
Leakage of Personal Data
Sensitive personal data like your location, IP address, and browsing history can be tracked and collected without a VPN. This information can then be sold to advertising companies or even fall into the wrong hands. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), personal data trading is a multi-billion dollar industry, which, in 2022, was worth about $200 billion.
Using a VPN helps protect personal communications and prevent privacy breaches by encrypting your internet connection and hiding your online activities from potential eavesdroppers and trackers.
Without a VPN, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the capability to monitor your internet usage and browsing history.
Detailed Surveillance of Internet Usage
ISPs can observe and record the websites you visit, the online services you use, and the information you upload or download. For instance, a report by Stanford University in 2021 showed that the top five ISPs in the US could access the internet history of 70% of their users.
Misuse of Personal Data
The data collected by ISPs can be used for targeted advertising or even sold to third-party companies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimated that the data brokerage industry made over $200 billion in revenue in 2022, largely fueled by selling user data.
Another consequence of not using a VPN is the possibility of experiencing bandwidth throttling by your ISP.
Slower Internet Speeds
ISPs can deliberately slow down your internet speed, a practice known as throttling. This typically happens during peak usage times or when you’re streaming, gaming, or downloading large files. A 2021 report by Speedtest revealed that 30% of their users experienced noticeable throttling.
Impeded Streaming and Gaming Experience
Throttling can significantly degrade the quality of streaming and online gaming. Netflix users, for example, might have to settle for lower video quality or face buffering issues. According to a Consumer Reports survey, nearly 35% of users reported a worse online gaming experience due to throttling.
Data Security on Public Networks
Not using a VPN when connected to public Wi-Fi networks exposes your data to potential cyber threats.
Risk of Man-in-the-Middle Attacks
When you’re connected to a public Wi-Fi network without a VPN, you’re more susceptible to Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) attacks. In these attacks, a malicious actor intercepts your online communication, potentially gaining access to your sensitive information. A 2023 report by Symantec found that 25% of all Wi-Fi users have fallen victim to an MitM attack at least once.
Most public Wi-Fi networks are unsecured, meaning data you send or receive is not encrypted. Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky reported that around 24% of Wi-Fi hotspots around the world do not use any encryption, making them hotbeds for potential cyber attacks.
Exposure to Targeted Advertising
Without a VPN, your online activities can be tracked, leading to an increase in targeted advertising.
Online Activity Tracking
Advertisers track your online activities and use this data to show you personalized ads. A 2022 survey by Pew Research Center found that 77% of internet users reported seeing ads related to their recent searches or website visits.
Invasion of Privacy
This form of targeted advertising can feel invasive, as it often uses detailed profiling of your online behavior. According to a report by ProPublica, data brokers have up to 5,000 data points on every individual, much of which is used to tailor online ads.