VPNs may claim in their ads and on their websites that they can protect your PC from hackers, or keep your passwords safe, or make sure that websites can’t track you. But is it worth paying between $50 and $150 a year for these VPN services? In 2021, Grauer and Troutman from the University of Michigan did extensive analysis of 16 major VPN brands, including CyberGhost, ExpressVPN, Hotspot Shield, IPVanish, NordVPN, Private Internet Access, ProtonVPN and Surfshark. They found that of the 16 well-known VPN services she analyzed, 12 made exaggerated claims about how much protection they really could provide.
VPNs protect against:
– “man-in-the-middle” attacks that you might encounter using open Wi-Fi networks in a coffeeshop or hotel, even though the risks of that are small now that most websites use encrypted connections.
– internet service providers (ISPs) logging which websites you’re visiting, although Troutman pointed out that your VPN will be seeing that information instead.
– repressive countries with mass censorship, such as Russia’s recent blocking of Facebook and Instagram. And, of course, VPNs often (but not always) can let you access overseas Netflix and other services that are geographically restricted.
Where VPN use fails is with IPv6 addresses which are tied to the devices’ unique network-hardware information.