There are many reasons why you may want to use a VPN. Some users want to spoof their location and access geo-blocked content whilst others are more privacy-focused and are interested in remaining anonymous when browsing the web. Using a VPN correctly can also secure you against common cyber threats such as malware and DDoS attacks. Regardless of how often you spend online, whether you connect to public hotspots or your own home network, using a VPN is the best way to remain safe and keep your sensitive information protected. 

Although VPNs are relatively easy to use, many users make common mistakes which can reduce their overall effectiveness. It’s important to understand the true function of VPNs, their strengths, and even their limitations, so you can make the most of this technology. As we’ve already mentioned, VPNs can do a fantastic job at protecting you online. However, they’re not an all-in-one solution that can shield you from all cyber threats, so you must still remain cautious when browsing the web. Other mistakes made by users can also cost them more money than necessary and even compromise their privacy. Therefore, we’ve laid out the common mistakes to avoid when using a VPN in 2022, so you can get the best out of your VPN!

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Common mistakes to avoid when using a VPN 

If you want to take full advantage of your VPN and prevent risking your online security and privacy, then take a look at our list of five common mistakes to avoid when using a VPN – 

  • Misunderstanding VPN capabilities 

One of the most common mistakes that many users make when using their VPN is misunderstanding the technology’s capabilities. Although VPNs are very useful when it comes to securing your internet traffic and preventing it from being intercepted, they cannot protect you from all cyber threats. For example, a VPN cannot prevent malware from spreading on your device and your data from being stolen through attacks such as phishing attempts. A phishing attempt is a form of social engineering attack that relies on human error to steal sensitive data such as financial information. An attacker will often hide malware in email attachments, links, ads, or compromised websites and wait for a victim to fall into the trap and unknowingly infect their devices with malware. A VPN cannot stop this attack from being successful along with various other social engineering attacks, therefore users still need to be cautious when online.

Many users make the mistake of over-relying on their VPNs and being careless when navigating the web which can put them at risk. It’s important to remember that a VPN can conceal your identity online, hide your activity from your ISP, and safeguard sensitive information. VPNs can also protect you from certain cyber threats such as DDoS attacks, man-in-the-middle attacks, and malicious public WiFi hotspots However, the technology cannot prevent malware (in most cases) from spreading to your device, phishing attempts, and cyber threats that rely on human error. 

  • Not fine-tuning settings

VPNs are fairly straightforward to use and once you install a provider’s app/client on your device, you can simply click on a ‘connect’ button to instantly connect to a remote server and encrypt your internet traffic. Many users do, however, make the mistake of avoiding checking their VPN’s settings to fine-tune and enable (or disable) important features. For instance, a kill switch is a security feature that, when enabled, will automatically cut you off from the internet completely if it detects a disruption with your VPN connection. This is a highly valuable feature as it prevents your traffic from being leaked and your IP address from being exposed even for a split second. As important as a kill switch is, this feature, among others, is often disabled by default in most VPN apps. 

So, it’s important that once you install a VPN you check out all of its settings and ensure that all the features you need to increase your online protection are enabled. Additionally, many VPNs also allow you to switch between various VPN protocols (such as WireGuard, OpenVPN, and IKEv2) which each serve a different purpose and have their own unique attributes. You can find out more about different VPN protocols and their uses here

  • Regularly turning your VPN off

Another common mistake that can cost you your security is by picking and choosing when you turn on your VPN. Some users decide to only switch on their VPN when doing certain activities such as online banking or streaming geo-blocked content. The reality is that online threats are lurking everywhere online and you never know when you’re putting yourself at risk. Even participating in seemingly safe activities such as using social media apps can jeopardise your safety as cybercriminals can launch man-in-the-middle attacks at any time. Therefore, you should have your VPN enabled on your device(s) at all times, no matter how safe you believe you’re being.

Of course, it’s understandable that using a VPN is not always the most convenient option. However, if you’re tempted to turn off your VPN for any particular reason then we suggest you instead make use of your VPN’s split tunnelling feature. This feature allows you to exclude certain apps or websites whilst still protecting the rest of your internet traffic with the VPN. 

  • Paying for monthly subscriptions 

Most VPN providers offer monthly subscription plans along with yearly, bi-yearly, and even tri-yearly plans. Although monthly plans can seem like the best option as they require much less commitment, it can end up costing you more in the long run. Opting for at least a yearly plan when purchasing a VPN is typically the best value option even though it may be discouraging to spend a larger amount of money at once. 

Additionally, we recommend that you make the most of any money-back guarantees that are offered by VPN providers. A money-back guarantee is similar to a free trial as you can get all your money back if you request a refund within the agreed time period. Providers typically offer a 30-day money-back guarantee* which means you have 30 days to test out all of the VPN’s features and decide if the service is best suited to your needs. 

  • Using a VPN that does not respect your privacy

Whether or not you’re using a VPN to increase your online privacy, you still need to use a respectable provider that does not log your data. Many users make the mistake of opting for a VPN that does not respect their privacy and collects their data to sell to third parties. This is typically more common when it comes to free VPN providers as they will create revenue from selling data rather than paid subscriptions. Don’t forget the common saying – “If something is free, you are the product”. That is why we generally recommended that you avoid free VPN providers altogether as saving money on a subscription is simply not worth compromising your privacy. 

Not only this, but when considering a VPN provider, you should always avoid those that do not have a no-logs policy. This policy indicates that a provider will not, under any circumstances, monitor, log, or sell their user’s data. This sensitive data can include your browsing history, IP address, connection timestamps, and bandwidth usage. Even a VPN provider does not intend to sell your data, even collecting it can be a significant risk as the provider can experience a security breach at any time, leading to your sensitive information being exposed to cybercriminals. Therefore, a no-logs policy is absolutely vital and should not be overlooked when choosing a VPN. You should also keep an eye out for providers that have had their no-log policy independently audited as this will confirm that their claims are true. If you want to learn more, then take a look at our in-depth guide of useful VPN features in 2022!