The Truth About VPNs: Here's How They Can Protect Your Data Online in 2020

One of the most effective ways to protect yourself online is through the use of a virtual private network, or VPN. The ultimate goal for many people using a VPN is to rest easy knowing the virtual transmission of sensitive company or personal data is done so safely and securely.

In a new study conducted by TheBestVPN, the company tested participants on their knowledge about VPNs and discovered the top privacy concerns behind virtual private network usage.

What exactly is a VPN? A virtual private network provides users with a higher degree of protection and privacy when online. By routing your online activity through specialized servers and encrypting your data, VPNs hide online activity and protect consumers from the many dangers of the internet, including hackers, identity theft, and much more.

Debunking Myths

According to the study, more than 1 in 4 people believed virtual private networks are difficult to use; however, many thought this because they’ve been exposed to various myths about VPNs. While extremely tech-savvy people were more likely to identify a higher percentage of VPN myths than those considering themselves technology newbies, 90% of people were able to identify the myth that VPNs are all the same. VPNs are, in fact, not the same and differ based on your connectivity needs and demands.

Whether you use VPNs for personal protection, entertainment, or business, it’s vital to understand the technology’s capabilities and recognize fallacies.

The Truth About VPNs: Here's How They Can Protect Your Data Online in 2020
Debunking Myths about VPNs

Unfortunately, about 1 in 4 people did not know why VPNs are used and were unable to confidently confirm their role in encrypting data and hiding IP addresses. More than a third of consumers thought VPNs make them completely invisible and anonymous online, despite this not being true.

Along similar lines, 65% of consumers falsely believed you have to pay for a VPN to reap the benefits of a private network. While there are free VPNs available, it’s important to note that they are more prone to malware and could present a greater risk.

Top Privacy Concerns

Cybersecurity threats and concerns have become increasingly common in today’s digital world. In fact, data breaches happen so often that it’s difficult to keep count.

One of the largest data breaches involved Yahoo. In 2016, Yahoo announced it had fallen victim to a data breach in 2014. The cyberattack compromised the real names, email addresses, dates of birth, and telephone numbers of 500 million users. A few months later, Yahoo revealed that a different group of hackers had compromised 1 billion accounts in 2013. However, in 2017, Yahoo amended its previous estimates and said all 3 billion of its user accounts had been compromised.

Another notable data breach happened just a few years later involving Marriott International. In the final months of 2018, Marriott announced that hackers had seized the personal data of approximately 500 million customers.

The cyberattackers infiltrated Marriott’s system in 2016, remained there for two years, and were not discovered until September of 2018. The hackers were able to steal passport numbers, Starwood Preferred Guest numbers, travel information, along with other personal information, such as credit card numbers.

Experts predict that cyberattacks will only continue to increase in frequency and scope in the near future.

So, what are the greatest online threats for the coming year? Common predictions include more targeted ransomware, more ways to attack the cloud, and an explosion of problems with fake technology. However, there are several disagreements on the most important cyberthreats that could 2020, but most experts agree that cybersecurity is more important than ever before.

There are many reasons why consumers elect to use a VPN, but based on the frequency of data breaches, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the top reason is to boost security. In fact, TheBestVPN discovered 47% of consumers decided to start using a VPN to increase their overall online privacy, 43% of consumers wanted more privacy while browsing, and 2 in 5 people didn’t fully trust public Wi-Fi.

Why we use VPNs

Nearly 1 in 3 people also used a VPN to send secure online communications and to overcome geo-blocking restrictions.

Only 14% of VPN users decided to use a VPN to increase their protection after a data breach and/or to stop Google tracking. The least common concerns that sparked VPN use were for internet gaming (8%) and to secure VOIP phone calls (3%).

Generational VPN Habits

Sixty-three percent of men used a VPN, compared to only 41% of women. This could be linked to the gender gap in technology use and involvement that encompasses VPNs, as well.

Meanwhile, millennials were the most likely to use VPNs. More than half of millennials used a VPN, compared to 48% of Gen Xers and 43% of baby boomers.

Concerns may take priority based on generation, but the top concern across all generations was overall online privacy. However, there were very notable differences.


For instance, baby boomers were more likely than any other generation to start using a VPN to protect themselves after a data breach. Nearly 1 in 4 baby boomers used a VPN for this reason, compared to only 14% of millennials and 12% of Gen X users.

Although baby boomers placed a larger emphasis on protecting their data via a VPN after a breach, they were far less concerned about geo-blocking restrictions and hiding their internet browser history than younger generations. More than 1 in 4 millennials hid internet activity from their internet service provider with a VPN, while only 16% of Gen Xers and 14% of baby boomers did the same.

Generational VPN Habits

Younger generations were much more likely to use a VPN when downloading files through peer-to-peer sharing platforms. Torrenting, while not illegal itself, is still a gray area regarding what can and cannot be shared online.

Millennials were also two times more likely than baby boomers to use a VPN for entertainment purposes, such as online gaming. Nearly 1 in 10 millennials used a VPN for this reason, but only 3% of Gen Xers used a VPN for internet gaming.

Verdict on VPNs

Setting up a VPN alongside your current internet safety arsenal allows consumers to remain encrypted and safe online in an increasingly visible and connected world.

In the U.S., VPNs are legal as long as the user’s internet activity doesn’t break the law or violate the terms of service of the websites they’re using. Make sure that you stay informed about the myths surrounding VPNs to maintain online data security.

Read next: The Latest In Physical Data Theft Threats (infographic)

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