Going incognito isn’t good enough. Your internet service provider (ISP), system administrators, and Google, or whoever makes your browser, can still view your browsing activity, even while in incognito mode, whether you’re at home or using public Wi-Fi at your favorite coffee shop. One way you can protect your data and network activity is through a virtual private network, or VPN.
Basically, a virtual private network routes your internet traffic though an encrypted, private server owned by the VPN provider, which hides your online activity from everyone else. While it isn’t completely anonymous, it is an excellent baseline computer security solution to use in conjunction with ad blockers, a password manager, and multi-factor authentication.
We’ve talked about VPNs before on Lawyerist, but here are the 3 best VPNs for lawyers to use in 2019.
3 Best VPNs for Lawyers
Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access, or PIA, is a VPN with lots of features and a strong stance on privacy. It uses VPN tunneling with multi-layered security to provide ad- and malware-free private browsing sessions. You can connect up to 5 devices simultaneously with one account and PIA does not keep session logs of your activity. PIA is available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. Monthly pricing is $6.95/mo and goes down to $2.91/month for its 2-year plan. You can even pay that in crypto if you want.
NordVPN has over 5,000 servers spread throughout the world and has a strict no-logs policy, which means none of your private data is tracked or collected. You can connect up to 6 devices with a single account. If you’re having difficulty with setting anything up, NordVPN has an award-winning support team to help you through any issues. It’s available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, and Linux. Monthly pricing is $11.95/month and goes down to $2.99/month for its 3-year plan.
Encrypt.me is an easy-to-use and minimalist VPN available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, and Android. It offers basic VPN functionality only. Encrypt.me does log your sessions, but it encrypts your network connection and cloaks your IP address. One account allows you to use Encrypt.me with as many devices as you like for individuals. Pricing is $9.99/month or $99.99/year. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, Encrypt.me offers a 14-day free trial.
A Few Pointers on VPNs
Opera and Tor Browsers
If you’re not into purchasing or dealing with a VPN, there are two browser options that provide online anonymity.
Opera web browser is free and comes with a VPN and ad-blocker installed with the browser. It’s based on the open source code from Chrome, so it’ll have some of the same functionality as Chrome. To use it, simply download Opera and turn the VPN or ad-blocker on under “Preferences.”
Tor, aka The Onion Router, is another free browser. While it doesn’t have a VPN included, it’s built to provide complete anonymity. It works by bouncing your connection around a distributed network to prevent your network activity and physical location from being monitored. It’s a bit slow because of the bouncing around, but it is more private than other browsers.
If you’re keen on privacy, be sure to review the terms of service for any VPN you’re interested in purchasing. This will go over what data the company collects, if any, and what it will do with that data. You should also be aware of where the company is based, what with data retention laws and all.
Changing Your IP Location
While most VPNs do offer the ability to change your IP location so you can appear like you’re browsing from Singapore while you’re really in El Paso, if you’re doing this to get around region-locked content—like to watch Dutch Netflix—it may not always work. Many companies, like Netflix, are trying to ban VPN servers from accessing their sites, though this is an uphill battle.
Another thing to keep in mind is that if you appear to be browsing from Singapore with your VPN, it’s because the server your encrypted connection is routing through actually is in Singapore. The further away you’re routing your connection, the slower it may be.
Is Your VPN Working?
You can see if your VPN is leaking your IP address and other data by visiting ipleak.net. If the IP and geolocation shows your actual location, either your VPN isn’t turned on, it isn’t working, or it isn’t secure.