Can I use a VPN on my mobile device and how do I pick a safe one?

Now that many of us are working from home, it is more important than ever to implement extra security measures when using the internet. What’s more, over the past few months there has been an increase in cybersecurity attacks, so it’s essential to ensure that your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

There’s a way to use a secure private network that keeps your computer’s IP address and your physical location private. You can do that by using a VPN, or virtual private network, that creates a private path for your computer and mobile devices to use when accessing the internet. It’s a great way to keep your browsing private and attack-proof. A good VPN also encrypts your internet traffic, preventing others from intercepting your connection. A VPN can connect to servers anywhere in the world, meaning you can use it to access websites as if you’re in a different country, allowing you to access different content as a result. For example, Netflix has a different library in the US compared to the UK, so if you’d like to access some of the US content you can use a VPN.

When you use a VPN, your data such as emails, instant messages, login information, which sites/ apps you use, downloads, you name it, is safely encrypted when it travels wherever it needs to go. This way, the only visible information to websites, advertisers and potentially hackers is the VPN’s IP address and not yours. Additionally, your internet service provider only sees you visiting the VPN and not the websites.

Here are four scenarios when we recommend using a VPN:

  • When using a public Wi-Fi
  • When you’re using someone else’s network
  • When you’re working from home and need to use apps without end-to-end encryption (such as Facebook Rooms and Houseparty)
  • When you want more privacy when visiting websites.

Can I use a VPN on a mobile device?

We now use our smartphones for pretty much anything, so setting up a VPN on your mobile device is not a bad idea. You can install VPN apps on both Android and iOS devices. Here’s how to do it:

  • Setting up a VPN in iOS: First you need to download a VPN app from the Apple App Store. Once downloaded, it should automatically configure settings for you, but in case it doesn’t here’s how to do it manually:
    • Head into your Settings app and tap General
    • Scroll down to select VPN (your iPhone should tell you whether or not you’re currently connected)
    • Tap on Add VPN Configuration and then on Type to select a security protocol – you’ll know these by following the instructions provided by your app
    • Return to the Add Configuration screen to add the VPN’s description, server, remote ID and local ID
    • Enter your username and password (you can also use a proxy)
    • Then tap Done and you’ll be brought back to the VPN screen. Finally, toggle the status switch to ‘on’.

 

  • Setting up a VPN in Android: Like in iOS, you’ll need to download your chosen VPN app from the Google Play Store. If you prefer not to let an app automatically configure things for you, here’s how to set it up manually:
    • Head into Settings > Network & Internet > Advanced > VPN (you should see a little key icon). If you don’t see Network & Internet in the Settings menu (which may happen depending on your Android overlay), then do a search within Settings for VPN. Press the Add button.
    • If you haven’t set a screen lock or password yet, Google will prompt you to do so before continuing with the VPN app configuration.
    • Then you can create your VPN profile by adding the VPN name, type and Server address and clicking on Save.
    • You’ll be taken back to the VPN screen, where you should now see the name of your VPN. Tap on it to put in your name and password. You can also choose to save your account information and you can make the VPN always on. Click on Connect.
    • Enter the VPN name, type, server address, username and password and press Save. Your VPN is all set.

Once you have got your VPN up and running you might notice that web browsing is not as fast as it used to be particularly if you’ve configured traffic to go to another country. Stronger encryption, or more users connected to one VPN can also slow down your internet speed. Despite that, a VPN is worth considering because it protects you from:

  • Internet service providers tracking you and selling the data they collect on your internet activity
  • Website advertisers spying on you
  • Hackers on public Wi-Fi
  • Apps and companies spying on your connections
  • Anyone who wants to identify your IP address or location
  • Companies and apps that want your connection data or malicious actors trying to intercept your connection

 

How to pick a safe VPN

It’s critical to select a safe, reliable and secure VPN for your mobile phone, tablet or laptop/ PC. However, there are plenty of unreliable VPN apps and providers out there that only want to cash in on people’s privacy fears. So how do you make sure that you’ve chosen a good VPN? Here are a few things to look out for:

  • To help you select a safe and secure VPN, check out a VPN evaluation resource such as Restore Privacy who keep a current list of the best VPNs
  • There are plenty of free VPNs out there, but we recommend that you avoid these – being free is a huge red flag
  • Look for a VPN with a good reputation. Use Google to see if any issues come up in searches. Look for a VPN that doesn’t have known data leaks, has a good performance, features quality apps for all your devices, that supports the OpenVPN protocol and encryption standards, and ideally has a money-back guarantee.

Did you find this post useful? Are you considering getting a VPN for extra security? Let us know in the comments below!

If you’re interested in the topic of data and internet security, check out some of our other blogs: