Consumer Advocate

Sign up for newsletters and other news
Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > February 2024 > The basics of virtual private networks: Is a VPN right for me?

Consumer Advocate RSS feeds

The basics of virtual private networks: Is a VPN right for me?

Installing a virtual private network (VPN) is a wise step to ensure security and privacy while on the internet, whether at home or on the go. A VPN establishes a secure connection between an individual’s device and the internet, enhancing safety when browsing, shopping or working on any internet-connected device.

VPNs serve three primary functions: privacy, anonymity and security for electronic devices. VPNs help protect your personal data, passwords, credit card and banking information and browsing history -- all items that are vulnerable to being sold to others.

Primarily utilized for remote access to private networks, VPNs enable secure connections to company intranets or restricted applications, particularly for employees working from branch offices or remotely from home. Without a VPN, connections are less secure when connecting to company networks remotely, traveling and accessing unencrypted websites.

VPNs are compatible with computers, tablets and mobile devices. Devices at home often use Wi-Fi by connecting to a router, so if you install a VPN on your router, every device that connects to your home network will automatically enjoy the VPN’s added layer of protection.

You can access your VPN anywhere with any device or operating system through a secure username and password. One of the benefits of a VPN is that you can have protected internet anywhere – at an airport, a hotel, a coffee shop, or anywhere else.

While it is still recommended that you not put personal information and passwords on any device relying on free public Wi-Fi, if you routinely use Wi-Fi outside of your secure home network, using a VPN may be a good fit for you.

Deciding whether a VPN is suitable for your needs involves consulting trusted acquaintances for their experiences with VPN products and conducting thorough research on companies. Check for any complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Better Business Bureau and seek out online reviews using relevant keywords.

Regardless of VPN usage, adopting additional online protection measures is prudent.
  • Create unique, long passwords (at least 12 characters) for each account and device.
  • Use a password manager and regularly change your passwords. Password managers make it easy to maintain dozens of passwords securely.
  • Turn on multifactor authentication (MFA) wherever it is permitted. This keeps your data safe even if your password is compromised. MFA generally requires something you know (for example, a password) and something you have (a cellphone to receive a special code or an email address).
  • Turn on automatic device, software and browser updates, or make sure you install updates as soon as they are available.
  • Use secured Wi-Fi.
  • Use firewalls and anti-virus software on all devices.
Consumers who need help resolving a complaint against a business, or who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice, should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.