The Essential Guide to VPNs

What is a VPN?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that allows you to establish a secure connection over a less secure network, such as the Internet. It works by routing your device's Internet connection through the VPN's private server rather than through your Internet service provider. (ISP). This process helps improve your online privacy and security by encrypting your data and masking your IP address, making it harder for third parties to track your online activities or steal your information .

Benefits of using a VPN on smartphones

Using a VPN on your smartphone offers several important benefits:

  • Improved privacy: By hiding your IP address and encrypting your data, a VPN ensures that your online activities remain private, even when you use public Wi-Fi networks.
  • Improved security: VPNs protect your personal information from hackers by encrypting your internet traffic, which is especially important if you conduct sensitive transactions online.
  • Access to restricted content: A VPN can bypass geo-restrictions and censorship by allowing you to connect to servers in different countries, giving you access to a wider range of content.
  • Safe and secure browsing: With a VPN, you can browse the internet safely, knowing that your personal information is protected from potential cyber threats.

General threats to privacy

Tracking and data collection

One of the biggest threats comes from tracking and data collection practices employed by websites and apps. These companies collect massive amounts of personal data, from browsing habits to location data, often without explicit consent. This information can be used to build detailed profiles for targeted advertising or, more worryingly, sold to third parties.

Unsecured Wi-Fi networks

While public Wi-Fi networks are convenient, they're also a breeding ground for potential security breaches. Unsecured networks, like those found in coffee shops, airports, and hotels, can easily be exploited by cybercriminals to intercept personal data transmitted over these connections. From email content to credit card details, the information you send and receive over these networks can be exposed in dangerous ways.

Phishing scams and malware

Phishing scams, designed to trick people into revealing sensitive information, and malware, malicious software designed to damage or disable computers and systems, are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These threats exploit human error and software vulnerabilities to gain unauthorized access to personal data and secure systems.

Location Tracking

Another big problem is location tracking. Many apps ask for access to your device's GPS, supposedly to provide location-based services. However, this data can also be used to track movements over time, raising serious privacy concerns about who has access to this information and how it is used.

Choosing the right VPN (Virtual Private Network) for your smartphone is crucial to protecting your digital privacy. Here is a guide to help you make an informed decision:

1. Determine your needs

First, be clear about why you need a VPN. Is it to browse public Wi-Fi securely, bypass geo-restrictions, or ensure your online activity remains private? Your primary need will influence which VPN is right for you.

2. Look for strong security features

A good VPN should offer strong encryption methods like AES-256 to protect your data. Look for features like a kill switch, which will disconnect your device from the internet if the VPN connection drops, so your data stays safe.

3. Check the privacy policy

Read the VPN provider's privacy policy to make sure they have a strict no-logs policy. This means that no information about your online activities is stored to ensure your privacy is maintained.

4. Consider the number of servers

A VPN with a large number of servers in different countries will allow you to access geo-restricted content and ensure that you can always find a fast and reliable connection.

5. Evaluate the usability

The VPN app should be user-friendly, with a simple interface that makes it easy to connect to a server, change your settings, and manage your subscription.

6. Evaluate speed and reliability

VPN can slow down your internet connection, so it's important to choose a service that's known for its speed and reliability. Look for reviews or try the service yourself with a free trial or money-back guarantee.

7. Compatibility with your devices

Make sure the VPN you choose is compatible with your smartphone's operating system, whether it's iOS, Android, or another platform. Some VPNs also offer simultaneous connections, so you can protect multiple devices with a single account.

8. Customer service

Good customer support is essential, especially if you're new to VPNs. Look for a provider that offers 24/7 support via live chat or email so you can get help whenever you need it.

9. Price and payment options

Compare prices and subscriptions to find one that fits your budget. Consider whether you're willing to commit to a longer subscription for a lower monthly rate. Also, check the payment options to make sure they meet your needs, including anonymity.

Here is an overview of 3 VPNs we have tested:

1. Surfshark

Features and strengths:

  • Unlimited devices: Unlike many other VPN services, Surfshark allows you to use a single subscription on an unlimited number of devices. This feature is especially beneficial for households with multiple smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • CleanWeb: Surfshark's CleanWeb technology blocks ads, trackers, malware, and phishing attempts, ensuring a clean and secure browsing experience on your smartphone.
  • NoBorders Mode: This feature allows you to use Surfshark even in regions with restricted access, making it a good option for travelers or people in countries with heavy internet censorship.

Smartphone Ease of Use: Surfshark offers intuitive and easy-to-use apps for both iOS and Android platforms. You can connect to a server with just a few taps, making it an excellent choice for those who value simplicity and efficiency.

2. ProtonVPN

Features and strengths:

  • Strong focus on security: Developed by the team behind the secure email service ProtonMail, ProtonVPN places a strong emphasis on security and privacy. It uses AES-256 encryption, secure core servers, and a strict no-logs policy.
  • Free version available: ProtonVPN offers a FREE version with unlimited data, which is a rarity among VPN services. This makes it an affordable option for those who want to try out a VPN without a financial commitment.
  • Tor over VPN: For greater privacy, ProtonVPN allows you to route your traffic through the Tor network, adding an additional layer of anonymity.

Smartphone usability: ProtonVPN's app is simple and focuses on security settings and server selection. It may be more suitable for users who value privacy over speed and are familiar with VPN technology.

3. NordVPN

Features and strengths:

  • Double VPN: NordVPN offers double encryption by routing your traffic through two VPN servers, providing an additional layer of security.
  • CyberSec: The CyberSec feature blocks dangerous websites and advertisements and provides protection against threats such as malware and phishing.
  • Large server network: With over 5,400 servers in 59 countries, NordVPN ensures that you will always find a fast and reliable connection, which is crucial for streaming and downloading on smartphones.

Smartphone usability: NordVPN's app is sleek and easy to navigate, making it suitable for both beginners and advanced users. The quick connect feature automatically selects the best server, simplifying the process for everyday smartphone use.

Limitations of VPNs

While VPNs are an important tool in the quest for digital privacy, they are not a panacea. To develop a comprehensive approach to online security, it is important to understand the limitations of VPNs.

What VPNs cannot protect against:

  • Malware and viruses: VPNs do not offer protection against malware or viruses that could infect your device. It is important that you have robust antivirus software and practice safe browsing habits.
  • Phishing scams: VPNs cannot protect you from phishing attempts. These scams trick people into revealing personal information through fraudulent emails or websites. Awareness and caution are your best protection against these threats.

Importance of a comprehensive approach to data protection:

Relying on a VPN alone to protect your online privacy is like locking your front door but leaving the windows open. A holistic approach to digital security involves using VPNs along with other privacy-protecting tools and practices, such as strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and regular software updates.


VPNs play a crucial role in improving the privacy of smartphone users by encrypting internet traffic and masking IP addresses, but they are only one piece of the privacy puzzle. In the digital age where threats can come from many directions, combining VPNs with other privacy measures is the best strategy for protecting your online activities.

Encouragement to Use VPNs as Part of a Broader Privacy Protection Strategy:

We encourage all smartphone users to consider VPNs as a fundamental component of their digital privacy toolkit. By integrating VPNs with other security practices, you can enjoy a more secure and private online experience, minimizing your digital footprint and protecting your personal information from prying eyes.

Got questions? Reach out to the author, Andre Hostalacio: