Going for a coffee at Starbucks and accessing their free public Wi-Fi sounds like an excellent plan, but it could be a potentially dangerous idea. Hackers love public networks as they are easy to access and steal your data.
At times, hackers can get their hands on your personal information, bank account credentials, credit card details, and more. Fortunately, you can protect your data from prying eyes by using a VPN.
Below is what you need to know about how a VPN works and how to setup a VPN on Android.
What is a VPN and How Does it Work?
A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is a software through which computing devices can redirect internet traffic through a computer or a server that is anywhere in the world. Doing this makes it difficult for hackers to go through your data or other critical information.
Your browsing goes through servers and comes up with a proxy IP address when you connect a phone or a tablet to a VPN. For example, if you connect to a server in the UK, all the internet traffic is sent to that server, and you’ll now have a proxy IP address, this means that websites won’t see a US-based IP address, but the UK proxy address.
Using a VPN, service means that your encrypted data goes in this form to your internet service provider, and transmits to the VPN server. The VPN server acts as the third party, and it’s what connects you to the web.
With this, you can solve security and privacy problems as:
- Anyone viewing your data will see it in its encrypted form
- The destination site sees the proxy IP address as not your real IP address
- No one can identify your computer as the source of data
Understanding VPN Protocols
VPN protocols outline how the service controls data broadcast over a virtual private network. Some of the protocols include IKEV2, L2TP, SSTP, and PPTP.
The L2TP also the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol combines PPTP and Cisco’s L2F protocol. This protocol uses keys to find a secure connection on every end of a data tunnel. The inclusion of IPsec enhances security.
A PPTP is a product of Microsoft and one of the oldest protocols. Being part of the Windows OS makes it easy to configure. However, you should stay away from providers who only provide this as the only protocol.
The Internet Key Exchange version two is also a Microsoft protocol with more advanced features than previous protocols. It’s highly-recommended due to its security.
The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol uses TLS/SSL encryption. Both provide adequate security as they have symmetric-key cryptography. Only the two parties can decode the data.
Why Should You Use a VPN on Android?
Using a VPN on Android has various benefits like:
Allow you to Access Public Networks Safely
You can relax whether you’re at an internet café or a restaurant and you need to access the web. Setting up a VPN encrypts all your private data, which prevents hackers from accessing your information.
Protecting Your Online Privacy
Hackers, Internet service providers, and copyright trolls can track the apps you use and the website you visit on your android device. They can trace back all the information to your IP address. You can prevent this by installing a VPN on your phone to mask your address.
Access Geographic Restrictions
You may find it difficult to access specific online streaming channels due to geo-blocking. Some channels are only available in a few regions, and you may encounter an error message when abroad. A VPN allows you to change your IP address and access geo-restricted channels.
Tips on How to Choose an Android VPN
It can be daunting to find the best Android VPN with over 100 VPNs available in the play store. Fortunately, we’ve done the homework.
Some of the essential tips on what to look for in an Android VPN include:
Check if the VPN Keeps User Activity Logs
Some VPN providers monitor your network activity to prevent abuse, check your network operations, and for billing purposes. You need to find out whether your VPN provider collects logs if you have privacy concerns.
You can access a VPN provider policy page to find out what it does with the logs. Also, find out how long it retains the logs. Be careful of some companies that sell these logs to cover the cost of operating a VPN.
Determine the Location of the VPN Service
You need to check where your provider is based if you’re particular about your privacy. Stay away from providers from countries with a spotty record on keeping your data private. Your VPN activity may be gathered among countries if the service is part of the five eyes alliance of nations.
Moreover, find out how many servers a VPN provider has before signing up. Look for a provider with a diverse range of servers in various countries.
Check If It Has an Exit Node
You can use a VPN service to access specific restricted services. Finding a VPN with an exit node in a target country will help you access content in another country. Don’t forget to test the service to ensure that it works with your desired service.
Test for Speed and Leaks
Although most VPN providers prove to be leak proof, you’ll be surprised that some of them can leak your IP address. You can test the VPN by running it on IPLeak. Check if you’re leaking IPv6 traffic and head over to the DNS leak test to ensure that your traffic is anonymous.
Determine the Protocols the VPN Uses
Most VPN providers have open-source software, which creates a private P2P connection. They also use encryption tools like Blowfish and AES to encrypt data. Only a few providers have their VPN tools, something that makes it difficult to detect.
The only downside is that it becomes a challenge to measure how the service protects your privacy with closed code. Stay away from VPN that use old PPTP protocol.
Understand the Number of Concurrent Connection the Provider Allows
While at first, you may only need a single connection, sometimes you may need to set up VPN access on more devices. In some cases, you may need to configure different machines to use multiple exit nodes to avoid having your traffic all in one place.
Find out if, the provider allows for concurrent connection and if you can link the router to a VPN network.
Ascertain the Payment Methods They Provide
You may need to find a service that provides payment through anonymous sources like e gift cards or cryptocurrency if you wish to remain anonymous. With the gift card option, you’ll need to purchase a gift card to any big stores using cash and redeem it for VPN credit.
The payment method ensures that you don’t need to use your checking information or credit card.
How to Setup a VPN on Android
You can setup a VPN on android either, by using the inbuilt network settings on Android or using the company’s Android application.
Using an Android App
Many VPN companies have android applications that allow you to install a VPN on your phone and easily hide your IP address.
To get started, you’ll need to install the app from the play store. Open the app and use the instruction to setup a VPN. You may need to provide permission for the application to view your internet connection.
The app’s setting allows you to switch it on and turn it off. Also, you can change servers through the settings. You can use the VPN app like any other app as it does all the work for you.
When Your Company Doesn’t Have an Android APP
While this process may be a bit complex, it’s easy to follow through. The VPN Company will give you some settings like those you’d get on a PC.
You’ll need to access the settings tab on your phone. Click on more under the wireless and networks section. Tap on VPN on the next screen. You should see a + sign in the upper right corner.
On this screen, you need to input some settings. You can access these settings on the VPN Company’s site. Some of the details you need include:
- The server address
- The connection type which could be an L2TP or a PPTP
- Name of the VPN connection
- DNS settings
- Password and username
- Forwarding routes
Enter the above settings and click on save. Sometimes you may need to connect to a VPN entry; this is where you’ll fill in your username and password. Click on connect to save the login information and begin the connection.
You will see the new entry when you scroll back to the connections page. Tap on it to start or stop the connection.
It’s essential to note that not all Android phones are similar; the settings menu may differ from one device to another.
Android doesn’t have integrated support for OpenVPN servers, which means that you’ll need to install a third-party app to access the service. You can install the OpenVPN connect that works on Android 4.0 without requiring root.
You may need to root your phone if you’re trying to connect to an OpenVPN network on an older version of Android.
OpenVPN for Android now has Internet Protocol version 6, full internet protocol version 4 IPv4, and web real-time communication leak protection. To get started you’ll need to:
Download the configuration files from the provider’s site. Transfer the files to a folder on the Android device. You can also download them straight to your phone and unzip them.
You then need to download, install, and run OpenVPN. Tap on the + sign on the screen’s top right to add a profile. Assign the profile a name and click on import.
Find the folder that you saved the configured files and select a server. Import the files and tap on the tick icon to proceed. You should see the server name below the profiles tab. Tap on the VPN to start it.
It’s critical to note that most providers add in the necessary account information and keys in the customized files, which means you won’t need further configuration.
While VPNs are excellent, you should stay away from providers who claim to provide unlimited VPN as they could be selling sensitive data to a third-party. You’ll realize that most free VPNs have some security, subscription-based or paid services provide a lot more security.
What’s more, a VPN can slow your connection, especially when using a mobile network. However, you may barely notice the difference when using a broadband connection. You’ll find using a VPN app the easiest way to learn how to setup a VPN on Android. However, you can use other methods, though the process may be tedious.