Tips on how to stay safe on the Internet without a VPN

Have you ever wondered if a VPN does so much for your privacy and security when you are online? VPNs have always been our favorite way to hide our identity online and help us access geo-restricted content.

But history has shown us that VPNs Not always a silver bullet for privacy and digital security and because running a VPN requires money, VPN providers will also require free service customers to agree to other ways to earn money, which may include tracking and selling their private data.

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This entails people looking for other ways to stay safe online. In this guide, we’ll look at over 10 ways to practice digital hygiene and stay safe without having to use a VPN.

But first, let’s take a look at how your devices connect to the internet

The thing is, most VPN service providers market their premium service as an arsenal of ammunition that helps with online security and privacy and always appears to be the only solution you will need. Looking at the basics of how your devices connect to the internet can be helpful in demystifying these claims and help you make an informed decision before spending on a premium VPN.

As you can see, when your computer or phone connects to the Internet, it sends packets that are tagged with the source and destination IP address. It passes a series of Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to reach its final destination. Anything that logs traffic between (WireSharks) can see your source IP address, which can be geolocated a few blocks from your home. Your IP address is shared by a million other people, so it’s only an approximate location, not where you sleep at night.

With a VPN, the original packets are encrypted and encapsulated in another IP address with the VPN server as the destination address. The VPN server will unpack the packet and forward it through its ISP, using its IP address as the source.

The devices in front of the VPN server can see your IP address but not the destination. Meanwhile, devices after the VPN server can see the destination but not the source. The regions within the Grid Path are now divided.

Focusing on just an IP address is like focusing on the tip of an iceberg. When you look at a network packet, the raw data is spread across all layers of the OSI model. Depending on the observer’s view of your network path, there is a different view of your packets. In short, this is the main reason why you should not trust a VPN to protect your identity on the Internet.

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Every piece of software you install, whether it’s a program, an app, or a plug-in, is potentially malicious and erases your data and activity before it leaves your device.

On the local network, there is Layer 2 addressing information that allows technology companies to determine your location without an IP address through locating via WiFi or Bluetooth. Looking at the proximity and signal strength of nearby devices with known geolocations like your friend’s phone, smartwatch, or wireless access point can also help identify your device.

It is possible that your local ISP will know that you are using a VPN based on the IP address alone. exactly like Tor Exit nodes, there is a fixed number of VPN addresses to keep track of in your watch list. The VPN company and its ISP are privileged to see the entire packet’s metadata and can fingerprint your device type using IP, TCP, and TLS headers. A VPN can claim not to log these things, but you can bet the cloud service providers and ISPs they serve. The server you’re going to can also tell you that you’re on a VPN because the MTU, or the maximum transferable unit size on a packet, will be smaller than normal because you’re piecing together a packet within another.

Watchlists and this type of fingerprinting can help sites like banks identify any VPN connections and refuse service.

VPN use cases

You know, you might be wondering about VPN use cases, or should I try to hide my IP? First, you have to measure your threat level. Is it cybercrime, big tech, or your government? Understanding your threat level helps adapt your paranoia level accordingly, so that you are neither overweight nor underweight.

There are instances where you have hidden your IP address and this includes but is not limited to;

  1. Cirmuventiing IP is prohibited for watching Netflix and geo-restricted content.
  2. Getting around national firewalls, when certain websites or apps are blocked in your country.
  3. Exceed download limits
  4. Conduct offensive security assessments
  5. OSINT procedure and search

For most people, practicing digital hygiene and cleaning up your online identity isn’t that complicated. Here are some tips that you can use to keep yourself safe on the Internet without having to use a VPN:

  1. Use a unique password for each site.
  2. Use a unique email for each site.
  3. Use hardware security codes for two-factor authentication.
  4. Use random answers to recovery questions.
  5. Go through all of your privacy settings on all of your accounts. Sanitize your social media.
  6. Use multiple virtual machines and phones for different types of activities.
  7. Don’t click links or scan QR codes without analyzing them first.
  8. Set up a business address so you don’t get it at home.
  9. Keep apps to a minimum and avoid pirated software.
  10. Use the host-based firewall to alert outgoing connections that you need to manually check for each application.
  11. If you are traveling and lured into public WiFI, simply bring your own internet through mobile hotspots or tether your phone.

None of these options involve using a VPN, but they do a lot for your overall security and privacy. Share with us in the comments section your thoughts and opinions on how to stay safe online. Is there anything special you do that we missed?

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