The low-hanging fruit is what keeps you from being a target of opportunity. Because your half-assed hackers, your lazy hackers, your unskilled hackers, they’re looking for low-hanging fruit.Andrew Bustamante, ex covert CIA officer
When it comes to cyber security, getting a VPN is one of the easiest ways to avoid being a target of opportunity. VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. It’s software that adds an extra layer of security and privacy by establishing an encrypted connection between your personal device and the public internet. A private tunnel for your data if you will. In this review, I’ll tell you why NordVPN is the provider of my choice.
But before we get started, full disclosure is in order. If you’ll find that I’m singing quite the praises of NordVPN, you wouldn’t be wrong. This review is the result of having used NordVPN for several years and being very happy with it. And for what it’s worth, I’m picky with the products and services I use and recommend. Though the elephant in the room is of course that I’m a NordVPN affiliate. This means I earn a commission if you choose to get NordVPN through one of my affiliate links.
That being said, here are five reasons why I think you should get a VPN. And one reason why you shouldn’t.
The number one reason to get a VPN is of course the security benefits. Imagine you’re out and about with your laptop and connect to public Wi-Fi. They’re everywhere. They’re free. They’re open. However, the lack of encryption is a trade-off that leaves your traffic vulnerable to being monitored by hackers. This is where a VPN comes in. It encrypts your incoming and outgoing traffic over public Wi-Fi. This makes it much less likely for you to become a target of opportunity when it comes to hackers trying to intercept data.
On top of encryption, NordVPN offers additional security features. Given the security benefits, perhaps you also want to make sure you’re always protected. That you can only access the internet when your VPN is on. Then turn on the Kill Switch, which cuts off your internet should you not be connected to a VPN. You can even customise it for specific apps. It’s a neat little safety net feature that I use when I’m travelling.
Privacy is another major benefit that comes with an encrypted VPN connection. It hides your original IP address, safeguarding your identity. Unlike internet providers in many countries, NordVPN doesn’t log user data and internet traffic. Being based in Panama allows them to have a strict no-log policy; your browsing and IP address will not be recorded. NordVPN’s use of diskless servers means they can’t store it on-site anyway.
For everyday use, this basic way of hiding your online activity is absolutely fine. Nonetheless, if you want to increase your protection, NordVPN has a Double VPN feature, which anonymises your traffic through two servers instead of one. Admittedly, I rarely use it. But if you’re a journalist or do other work where discretion is paramount, it gives you that extra protection and peace of mind.
Added security and privacy are great. But where’s the point if the resulting internet speed feels like it were the 1990s again and we’re dialling in with a modem? As your internet traffic is re-routed, you wouldn’t want this to be at the expense of speed. When I used NordVPN for the first time I was positively surprised, in that I couldn’t notice a difference. Using quick connect, it picks the fastest server for me and I’m all set.
Most of my work, be it writing essays, The Mind Collection Newsletter or when editing images is happening online. Of course, I also stream YouTube videos, podcasts or the odd Netflix show. In my personal experience, the drop in speed absolutely negligible, both when using mobile data and broadband at home. You can set up NordVPN to conveniently load and auto-connect in the background. I never even notice that it’s on.
I mentioned travelling earlier in my NordVPN review. If like me, you’re away from home a lot you’ll appreciate this one. Some companies in some countries restrict access to domestic content. Where the website thinks you are is determined by your IP address. Google, for instance, shows different results based on where it thinks you’re located. And perhaps your kid’s favourite show is only streaming in your home country. The horror.
Thankfully, a VPN puts you back home virtually so you can enjoy the content wherever you are. This is why server locations are important. NordVPN runs more than 5500 servers in 59 countries worldwide. When connecting to any of them, your original IP address is replaced with an IP of the corresponding country. You only want to benefit from it when you’re not at home? That’s fine, mark your home networks as trusted ones to switch it off automatically.
They say a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. These days, we tend to have more than one device. Probably with different operating systems. What’s more, they’re all somehow linked. So if we’re serious about security and privacy, we’d want the features to be available on all devices so we can switch back and forth seamlessly. A great VPN service allows you to do just that.
NordVPN works on pretty much any platform and operating system you can think of. Personally, I have it set up on a Windows laptop, an iPad and an Android phone. But it works just as well in browsers such as Firefox, on Android TVs, and even your Xbox. Overall, NordVPN lets you connect up to six devices simultaneously, so the whole family is protected.
Why You Shouldn’t Get a VPN
There’s one reason why you shouldn’t get a VPN and a well-performing one like NordVPN in particular. It has to do with the Peltzman Effect, which cautions that safety measures can have unintended consequences. Mandating bike helmets, for example, doesn’t necessarily reduce head injuries. It can even increase them. Why? Because people engage in risk compensation, meaning they take more risks than they would without helmets. Put simply, safety measures can give people a false sense of security.
There’s a lesson in there not to overestimate what a VPN can achieve. It won’t make us invincible. It doesn’t replace a firewall or anti-virus software. It doesn’t absolve us from being cyber-savvy. We must still enable two-factor-authentification when available or choose not to scribble our passwords on a post-it and stick it under the keyboard. On that note, if you’re in the market for a secure password manager, you can get NordPass in combination with your VPN.
Remember Andrew Bustamante, our ex-spy from the beginning? He followed up with a scary yet strangely reassuring thought: If you become an intentional target of highly skilled hackers, all your precautions go out of the window anyway. They will find a way to circumvent your security measures. Accepting this harsh truth can give us peace of mind. Along with the fact that we do what we can to avoid being low-hanging fruit.
So is a VPN worth your money? I’m sure you can guess my verdict after reading this NordVPN review. To me it absolutely is. As long as you don’t solely rely on it, NordVPN adds extra layers of cyber security and privacy with few trade-offs. Currently, you can get NordVPN with 68% off plus 3 months for free when choosing the 2-year plan. Try it risk-free with a 30-day money-back guarantee through my affiliate link below. On top, you’ll support my work and contribute to keeping The Mind Collection alive.