How many times this week were you warned by your antivirus or a popup of the site you visited that hackers have knowledge of your IP address or even bank accounts? Chances are that you were also recommended to use a VPN to prevent these incidents from recurring. 

In 2024, chances are that you not only know what a VPN is but also have one installed on your device. However, having software or even using it doesn’t mean that you fully understand what it does and doesn’t do.

For instance, chances are that you see VPN as software strictly for computer use and don’t even know about the many mobile options that are available out there. Here are seven other myths about VPNs that you might still believe. 

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1. All VPNs are the same

The first major misconception about VPNs is that they’re all the same. In a lot of people’s minds, all the major software have, more or less, the same features with small cosmetic differences among them. This is just not true. 

The first thing they differ in are features. Some VPNs don’t even have features like kill-switch, which are the key selling point in the minds of a lot of users. Other platforms may lack split-tunneling, which allows you to set up which apps should (or shouldn’t) use a VPN connection. 

Encryption is another consideration. When talking about cybersecurity, encryption is perhaps the strongest selling point, other than hiding your IP address. So, check what kind of encryption they’re using before you buy.

The next point you have to check is the server locations. Chances are that you want to set your VPN as a specific country, so see if it’s offered in the free locations list or if you’ll have to upgrade to premium for it. 

Sure, every top VPN usually has all the basic features, but it’s always worth checking a bit more, as the very best will also include a VPN firewall and use strong encryption protocols, such as AES-256, to protect data from unauthorized access, says software reviews expert Aleksander Stevanovic.

2. Watching geo-restricted content is illegal

This is simply not true.

Using a VPN is completely legal, and what you use it for could be legal or illegal. Almost all countries allow the use of VPNs, but a lot of people get confused because of numerous morally gray situations that could transpire from the use of a VPN.

Watching geo-restricted content on streaming services is not illegal, but it could still be a copyright infringement. This means that the streaming service could, in theory, be interpreted as a breach of user agreement. In practice, this is unlikely to happen. 

3. ISP won’t be able to see that you’re using too much data

Some people use VPNs to prevent broadband throttling. They believe that when they use a VPN, their ISP won’t be able to see that you’re using too much data. 

While it’s true that ISPs can see that you’re accessing a VPN, they won’t be able to see where you go afterward. However, they still have insight into how much data you’re using.

VPN is still an amazing and versatile tool but it won’t prevent your ISP from throttling your connection during peak hours. 

On the other hand, it could reduce the amount of throttling you receive during gaming or streaming. This is because a VPN can actually prevent ISPs from seeing your current activity (remember, they can only see data use).

The reason why this matters so much is because some ISPs unfairly target streamers and pro gamers, seeing the activity as data-hungry, in general, instead of actually making their decisions based on the amount of data used. 

So, to further simplify – ISPs can still see how much data you’re using; they just won’t be able to see how you’re using it.

4. VPN keeps you secure from malware

This is, unfortunately, not true.

So many people believe it because VPNs are often mentioned in conversations about cybersecurity. While they do protect you in different ways (hiding your IP and adding extra encryption), they do not protect you from malware.

First of all, a VPN is not a firewall or an antivirus, and it won’t prevent you from accessing malicious sites. At the same time, you have other mechanisms that do this, and in 2024, you will have to deliberately ignore them (even make an extra effort to ignore them) in order to access these sites. 

Second, to get infected with malware, you have to download and run a file of suspicious origin on your computer. Chances are that you’ll be notified and warned at least several times about this. In either of these scenarios, it will never be down to VPN. 

5. VPN will make your internet slow

In some cases, a VPN can, indeed, make your internet slow. However, this doesn’t happen all the time, and it’s due to factors that you can recognize and impact right away.

First of all, you need to consider the server distance. Picking a server halfway across the world means a bit slower connection. Why? Because the signal has to travel all the way there and back again. So, unless it has to be that exact location, you can just pick a closer server. 

Then, there are some servers that will slow down your internet speeds due to their limited capacity. To solve this, all you have to do is pick larger servers.

Finally, some VPN protocols will slow you down more than others. Research this before you make a choice or follow a list that already has this covered. That and encryption overhead are, by far, the largest contributors to this slow-down.  

6. Free VPNs and premium VPNs are the same

Free VPNs and premium VPNs have massive differences in features.

Some VPNs are completely free and limit the number of servers you can use until you upgrade to a premium server. Others restrict features.

There’s a difference in functionality (a massive one) as well. You see, everything bad you hear about VPNs (about how they are slowing down your connection) usually comes from people who use a free VPN. 

There are also scenarios in which the features of a free VPN are not enough. 

Businesses are even more reliant on premium VPNs, seeing as how they want to avoid throttling due to suspicious activity (for instance, being accused of site-scraping while researching for design ideas). Still, this is the most obvious example of where a premium VPN is not just superior but can also boast a direct ROI. 

Understanding the opportunities and limitations of VPN is crucial to using it effectively

Assuming that using a VPN will make you completely safe online is a fallacy that can land you in so much trouble. At the same time, this doesn’t mean that VPN is useless. It’s an incredibly useful tool that helps you view geo-restricted content, hides your IP, and provides you with an extra layer of encryption. When using it in combination with other tools, it provides the most value, but understanding its limitations is the key to using it the right way.