When you are using your computer, smartphone or any device to browse the internet, know that you are leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs that includes your IP address, your browsing preferences, your consumer habits, usernames and other details related to your digital persona, and more.
All of those “fingerprints” you are leaving behind form a sort of vapor trail, making identifying you on the internet and tracking you down all the way to your physical address an easy task for those who have the right tools.
Also, a lot of websites -for legal and practical reasons- like video sharing platforms, video on demand providers and gaming services portals, will display different content depending on your country of origin.
In-app purchase options and pricing may differ, specific licensed content may be displayed for different geographical regions, and often, blocked content may be encountered reflecting the ban imposed on some IP addresses from accessing certain online portals to adhere to certain laws in specific countries.
For all those reasons and more, a growing number of internet users choose to hide their real IP addresses while surfing online, in order to protect their privacy and to keep their identities hidden away from the prying eyes of hackers and other entities. One of the most common means for this is through the use of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service.
What’s a VPN
Without getting you lost in the complexity of technical terms and the fuzziness of telecommunication engineering jargon, a VPN is a service that allows users to browse the internet safely and privately by means of routing their connections through an intermediary server, thus dissimulating their online actions.
So in theory, by using a VPN, you would obstruct hackers, governments’ intelligence services and network abusers from seeing your internet history, and prevent your internet service provider (ISP) from selling your internet traffic information to marketing companies.
Moreover, since not all ISPs believe in “Net Neutrality,” and taking into account that some may slow down traffic coming from certain IP addresses, by routing your internet connection to a VPN server located in another country, you may avoid being channeled to the “slower traffic lane.”
How Does It Work?
Once you turn the VPN service on, the software encrypts your data before it even gets to the ISP servers or the Wi-Fi network you are connected to. Your encrypted data is then routed to a VPN server (of your choice or automatically affected by the VPN software), before being redirected to the online destination you requested.
The online destination sees your data as if it is coming from the VPN server and its location, not from your own computer and your actual location.
It is worth mentioning that there is a lot of nuance in what is stated above, and that there is no guarantee at all that the VPN provider itself is not keeping clients’ data logs. This is the reason why we recommend you not to sign up for any free VPN service. Or as the saying goes, “if it is free, you are the product.”
Privacy and security often come at the expense of slow bandwidth, and disadvantageous ping times though. However, some VPN services that are better suited for gamers and have made connecting through their servers even faster in certain cases than using your own ISP bandwidth. First, let’s understand why some gamers choose to use a VPN.
Why Do Gamers Need a VPN?
The first obvious reason is unrestricted access. In fact, VPNs allow you to go past geo-restriction measures imposed by some game developers, and give you access to servers in unrestricted regions, making it look as if you are connecting from the VPN server’s address.
The second reason is security since VPNs undeniably reduce the risk of occurrence of Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that often happen to online players especially when they are dealing with “tech-savvy” online opponents –and many gamers definitely are- that also happen to be bad losers that want to cheat.
Another not so apparent reason is that sometimes, connecting to a VPN can reduce your ping time improving download/upload speed and overall lag, thus affecting the responsiveness of the game. This is due to shorter connection routes between you and the gaming servers, should the VPN server you are connected to happen to be in the same geographic region as the gaming servers.
Do VPNs Always Guarantee Absolute Private Browsing?
Even with the advances that VPN technology has reached so far, some flaws could still be exploited in order to uncover a user’s actual location or true identity. Besides that, in some cases of Force Majeure, involving cyber attacks, extremist propaganda, or terrorist communications, VPN providers may be forced by the host country to hand over logs of who connects to them and a copy of their browsing history.
Furthermore, it happens sometimes that DNS and IP leaks occur, especially when other software that is installed on the customer computer is using and sending over your real IP address on the background.
In fact, it is important to keep in mind that while researchers work on stronger encryption designs and absolute private browsing, others work actively on breaking it. Besides, in the past, many reports revealed that counterintelligence and specialized governmental agencies succeeded in breaking VPN shields on numerous occasions while tracking spies or trying to counter national security threats.
With that being said, without a VPN, your connection is fully open, and every person with the right tools is capable of looking at your browsing data. However, using a VPN encrypts your transmission and makes it look as if it comes from the server, which makes uncovering your identity extremely hard.
Top 3 VPNs for Gamers
NordVPN features a great app, and an easy to use and very intuitive user interface. It allows up to 6 simultaneous connections and follows a strict no logs policy. This VPN has the greatest number of geographically dispersed servers among the ones we are recommending and allows for P2P BitTorrenting – making it also one of the most popular VPNs for torrenting
The service costs $6.99 per month on a one-year plan, and a three-year plan comes with a whopping 75% discount bringing the cost down to only $2.99. The company has a 30-day money back guarantee.
5112 servers all over the world, 5+ simultaneous connections allowed, add blocker and a responsive and reliable customer support service.
Expensive as compared to some competitors and doesn’t allow for extra simultaneous connections to be purchased.
A viable option to consider for gamers taking into account the strong features and the huge number of servers to choose from. You can go through our in-depth NordVPN Review for a full list of its features.
VyprVPN is a fast, and very secure VPN, which also happens to have over 700 servers in more than 70 countries. The service allows for up to 5 simultaneous connections and is known to have installed his own infrastructure and servers.
VyprVPN has a unique feature which is its NAT firewall. The firewall actively blocks unrequested inbound traffic. The app offers a relatively easy to use interface in its recent versions. The developers do not have a money back guarantee policy in place but do offer a three day trial period.
Customers could make a choice among two versions to purchase: the Basic Version (allow for only three simultaneous connections) and the premium one (allows for five simultaneous connections along with other features for enhanced browsing security). The basic plan costs $5 per month billed yearly, while the premium plan is priced at $6.67 per month for the same period of time.
Affordable, doesn’t rely on third party servers since the company runs and manages its own, features an unrestricted internet speed for video on demand platforms, and has an independently audited no logs policy.
Limited global servers presence, could be hard to use for the average customer.
VyprVPN is an affordable alternative that comes with powerful in-house operated and managed servers. The company also claims to offer the fastest VPN service among its competitors which could be interesting for gamers.
IPVanish also runs its entire network offering 1300+ servers in over 75 locations for fast and unrestricted internet access. The app offers the option of sorting servers by ping time to make it easy for gamers to connect to the server that best fits their usage. The yearly plans come at $6.49 per month per year, and the company offers a 7-day money back guarantee option.
IPVanish is affordable, doesn’t rely on third party servers since the company runs and manages its own, allows for ten simultaneous connections, and features a unique Automatic IP cycling option as an extra layer of security. It has a no logs policy and anonymous torrenting is also permitted with this service.
It has a complicated user interface and a relatively limited global presence.
IPvanish is an affordable alternative that comes with powerful in-house operated and managed servers. IPvanish is the best bang for your buck kind of VPN with the only drawback being its interface. A full list of pros and cons for this service can be found in our detailed IPVanish Review.