What are some lesser-known uses for a VPN?

When it comes to using a virtual private network (VPN), there are some generally obvious advantages: privacy, security, and freedom. If we take a closer look at a VPN, there are also some uses that aren't immediately obvious. Thinking about subscribing to a VPN but not sure whether it's really for you? Have a look at these lesser-known uses before making a final decision.

Prevent DDoS attacks while gaming online

Prevent DDoS attacks while gaming

The rise of eSports (in other words, competitive gaming) has been almost unbelievable, but we're glad it happened and we're glad they're here to stay. Just like in real sports, there are many people who simply can't handle a loss. Instead of throwing a racket, cursing at an official, or taking a pipe to the leg of a figure skater, there is something called a distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attack that essentially cripples a gamer's ability to use the internet.

How? Thousands of packets are sent to a computer at once, effectively jamming everything up. Nothing else can get in, and nothing else can get out. A VPN keeps your connection encrypted and hidden, so you shouldn't have to worry about being the target of an attack. If you're playing in a high-stakes tournament, this can be the difference between a trophy and a forfeiture.

Note: Steam's subscriber agreement specifically states that using a VPN to disguise the place of your residence could result in your account being terminated.

You agree that you will not use IP proxying or other methods to disguise the place of your residence, whether to circumvent geographical restrictions on game content, to purchase at pricing not applicable to your geography, or for any other purpose. If you do this, Valve may terminate your access to your Account.

This is to prevent people from grabbing games at slashed prices in other regions. The wording here seems to imply that sticking with a server in your own country should be alright, but use a VPN with Steam at your own risk.

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Don't get mixed up with illegal torrents

Torrents have a really bad rap, and for good reason — you can get pretty much anything you want for free, at any time. However, there are many legitimate, legal reasons to torrent files, but unfortunately, the powers that be often can't differentiate between legal and illegal.

If you like to share legal files quickly with a P2P network but don't want to end up on a watchlist, a VPN can hide your identity. Even though you aren't doing anything illegal now doesn't mean you won't be doing something illegal in the future, and it would be a shame to have your name on a list somewhere.

Stay safe while online shopping

Use a VPN while shopping.

More and more people are turning to the internet to shop, and, while many mom-and-pop shops are suffering, there's really no denying the ease with which we can shop online. When you purchase something, you generally have to enter a lot of personal information, including, a lot of the time, your credit card number.

If you're concerned about the safety of your personal information, keeping it contained within an encrypted tunnel during checkout should at least let you sleep at night while your package is en route. There are plenty of people out there who would like nothing more than to make you never want to shop online again, so be proactive and keep your info protected.

Keep targeted ads out of your sidebar

When browsing the internet, there are multiple entities keeping tabs on you, usually for marketing purposes. If you've been looking at sushi places nearby because you have a hankering for a Bakudan roll, it's sort of annoying to see sushi restaurant ads for the rest of the week.

Because a bunch of people are generally using the same IP address at the end of a VPN, you can expect to see a bunch of random ads rather than ones targeted directly at you. No more ads for a new pair of the exact same shoes you just bought two days ago!

See prices in different regions

If you're in a position where you're often comparing or writing about prices in a bunch of different regions, you might have noticed how difficult some apps and websites make it switch back and forth. Instead of figuring out exchange rates or searching around for, say, a Canadian price while you're located in the U.S., just connect a VPN to a Canadian server.

The app or website will think that's where you're located, and the prices will, after a refresh, change over. This works with pretty much any country that the VPN has servers in, and is specifically invaluable in our line of work.

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More VPN resources

Getting serious about a VPN? Be sure to check out these other articles we've written on the subject.