When should I use a VPN?

It’s becoming common knowledge to use Virtual Private Network (VPN) connections for protection when browsing the Internet or using apps on your phone.  However, there are also times when it’s better to use your VPN carefully, especially if you’re a traveler.

When to use a VPN 

Public Wifi – Whenever you connect your devices to public Wifi you are opening your devices up to tampering by malicious actors.  Here, VPN is your privacy screen.

Password Protected Wifi – There is a misconception that just because a Wifi Network has encryption that automatically means that the connection is secure.  The Wifi encryption used may be weak (e.g. WEP or WPA) and you don’t know who else has the Wireless key.  If you use a VPN while on a password-protected Wifi connection, you are making it harder for your connection to be tampered with and your traffic is secure while it’s routed to its destination.

Home Wifi – There could be an argument for not using a VPN at home if your Wifi Network is properly configured with appropriate encryption and router hardening.  That said, using a VPN can help afford a level of privacy from your internet service provider (ISP).  If you are at all concerned about protecting your online activities from your ISP and potentially having your online activities sold to third-parties, then you will want to use a VPN when you’re at home.  Also, remember to have a guest network with its own password that none of your devices or IoT devices connect to.

When not to use a VPN

For our travelers, there are a few times when it’s better not to use a VPN.

While a VPN whose servers are located in other countries can make it possible to use certain kinds of sites, tools, or social media (like Instagram or SnapChat) in places where that is banned, make sure it’s legal to use a VPN in the country you’re in.

There are a few locations where VPNs themselves are banned, so it’s wise to be cautious and understand your risks.  For example, China, Russia, and the U.A.E make it illegal to use the software so make your digital travel plans carefully.

A last thought on legal issues and VPNs: though it might be legal to use a VPN in your country, it doesn’t protect you if you’re using it to do illegal things.  Along the same vein, make sure your VPN provider discloses if and how long they keep their logs.  If you happen to do fringe activities online, make sure your VPN provider has a stance on when and if they keep your data.  Rubica deletes all temporary logs used for threat hunting within three weeks to make this a non-issue for our customers, so there isn’t enough time to subpoena them in the first place should legal issues arise in your ecosystem.