In this article I'll explain what a VPN is, why you should have a VPN for travelling around Australia and why I recommend NordVPN.
Even if you're a tech novice, hopefully I'll be able to explain it in a way that makes it clear but if not, feel free to ask any questions in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer.
So let's get started . . .
What is a VPN?
VPN is short for 'Virtual Private Network" and it is a service that protects your internet connection and privacy when you're on the internet so you don't get hacked.
It creates an encrypted 'tunnel' for your data travelling between your computer, phone or tablet and the websites you visit on the Internet, shielding it from hackers and other undesirable parties.
It also protects your online identity by hiding your IP address, and allows you to use public WI-FI hotspots safely along with some other handy features which I will explain further on.
Many business's use Virtual Private Networks to enable their team members to work from home and login to the company network securely.
The team member can be in the comfort of their home office but access the company network as if they were in the office.
This has been very useful over the past 2 years or so with lockdowns and people working from home so much more.
Everyday internet users like us can use a VPN service that we purchase from a specialised provider like NordVPN to enable us to access the internet securely in the same way that big businesses do.
Why do Big Lappers need a VPN for travel around Australia?
If you're planning to travel around Australia then chances are that you'll be using free public WI-FI hotspots on a regular basis.
Just about every coffee shop, fast food restaurant, shopping centre, library, caravan park and even entire streets in some towns have free public WI-FI available.
When you're travelling long term then you'll quickly burn up the monthly data allowance on your mobile phone so it's inevitable that you'll want to use free public WI-FI services.
The problem with public WI-FI is that its is not secure and the happy hunting ground for hackers trying to steal your private information and worse case, even steal your identity.
Even entry level amateur hackers can access your computer when you're on a public WI-FI service using a number of simple techniques and software programs they download off the internet.
As I'll explain further on, a VPN can protect your private information while you're using public WI-FI services.
How hackers use public WI-FI to steal your private information and steal your identity
So much of our private information is online these days - passwords, bank details, credit card information, photos and videos, addresses, etc.
One of the most vulnerable pieces of information is your email login password. If a hacker can login to your email account they can send and receive emails pretending to be you and also monitor the emails you're sending and receiving without you even realising it.
Often when you want to reset a password to login to a website, you need to confirm it via email.
A hacker that has access to your email account can simply trigger a password reset on a website like your bank or PayPal account and receive the password reset link to your email address.
They can then change your password on the website and delete the email before you even know it's happened.
Now they have access to the website and you don't.
By getting their grubby little hands on just a few key pieces of your private information, hackers can access your bank accounts, create fake social media accounts in your name and even go so far as to apply for loans and credit cards.
Public WI-FI hotspots are usually not encrypted which means that your data is being transmitted through the air in the 'open' and can be visible to hackers.
Here are some of the ways that hackers can access your private data on open public WI-FI networks.
The Evil Twin attack
Hackers can easily create fake Wi-Fi networks to fool you into connecting. Imagine you're sitting in a Starbucks having a coffee and you want to connect to their free WI-FI. You open your computer and see a network called “Starbucks_Wifi_Free.
You click on it and a few seconds later you're connected to the internet and start browsing.
But how do you know it's the actual Starbucks WI-FI and not one that a hacker sitting at another table or in a car outside has created.
You login to the hackers fake WI-FI and start surfing the internet without realising they are watching and recording everything you do including your logins, passwords, credit card details, bank accounts etc.
But wait, it gets worse.
Even if the hacker doesn't see any critical information while you're at the Starbucks, they can inject malware into your computer that can provide hackers a 'back door' into your computer that they can access in the future.
With a Man-in-the-middle attack, a hacker can put their computer in between your device and the WI-FI hotspot you're accessing.
They can monitor your activity, see your credit card details when you're online shopping and even redirect you to fake websites that look like the one you think you're accessing.
For example, they set up a fake internet banking login page that looks exactly the same as the real bank login page.
You think you're logging into the real bank website, you type in your login and password and now they have your login details and can login and start moving money out of your account.
These are just a few of the most common types of public WI-FI hacking but there are others and hackers are always working on new methods.
Can a public WI-FI provider see your browsing history?
Sometimes it's not the rogue hacker that is the problem but it could be the WI-FI hotspot provider themselves.
Do you really know who is managing the WI-FI router at that little cafe you're having lunch at?
Modern WI-FI routers keep logs – basically records of the domains you visited and for how long.
If you browsed a webpage without proper TLS/SSL encryption, they would also log the exact pages you read and the information you entered.
On mobile devices, it gets even more complicated. The WI-FI owner can see who you called or texted online, which apps you used, and for how long.
People get hacked all the time and the best way to protect yourself is to use a VPN service every time you use a public WI-FI service, no matter how much you trust the place you're visiting.
Will a VPN protect me on public Wi-Fi?
When you use a VPN service, your internet traffic gets encrypted, so no one can intercept it.
The VPN sends your internet traffic through an encrypted 'tunnel' making it extremely difficult to decipher or intercept.
Having an app like NordVPN on the devices you use to connect to a public network will provide you with this encryption on-the-go.
A VPN is essential for secure internet access on public WI-FI hotspots.
What are the other benefits of having a VPN?
Of course security is the most important feature of a VPN, but there are other benefits:
Access Overseas Content On Your Netflix Account
With a VPN you can access the internet through servers in 60 other countries. This makes it look like you are actually in another country.
For example streaming services like Netflix and the others show different content in different countries depending on what licensing deals the streaming service has done with the film studios.
Australia isn't a big market and we often don't get the same content that other bigger (population) countries do like the USA and UK.
With your VPN you can login to your Netflix account through a server in the USA and stream the same content they have access to in the USA.
Access Australian Websites and Content When You're Overseas
If you're travelling overseas you sometimes find that the services you normally access at home in Australia are blocked outside Australia.
For example ABC iView
When you're overseas you can access the internet using your VPN via an Australian server and continue to access the same Australian content you do when you're at home.
So the website you're visiting (Like ABC iView) thinks you're in Australia and doesn't block you.
This is also useful for online banking. Some banks may detect that you're overseas and block access to your account for security reasons. You can avoid this AND ensure you have a secure connection by accessing the internet banking website via an Australian NordVPN server.
Bypass other countries censorship
Some countries have strict censorship of the internet and don't allow their citizens to access certain websites including social media, news and streaming services.
When you are overseas in one of these more restrictive countries you can use NordVPN to access the full uncensored internet.
It's important to make sure you have the VPN service installed before you leave Australia because you may not be able to access it in the country you're visiting.
Block sites that track you
If going off grid physically AND virtually is your goal then a VPN changes your IP address which stops sites from tracking you and knowing who you are and importantly, where you are.
Why I recommend NordVPN for travel around Australia
When looking for a VPN provider to use myself and recommend to my fellow Big Lappers, here's what I looked for and why I chose NordVPN:
- Bullet proof security
- Fast and easy to use
- Australian servers
- One account on all my devices
- 24/7 support
I quickly eliminated the idea of using one of the free VPN services because I just don't trust them. If they are giving it away for free then they must be making money somewhere. Are they selling your data in the background? Who knows! Why risk it?!
There are a few big players in the VPN market but NordVPN is the biggest.
NordVPN have over 5400 servers around the world in 60 countries including 190 servers in Australia.
This means that wherever you are in the world you won't be too far away from a NordVPN server.
They also have over 14 million customers which means they must be doing something right.
With one NordVPN account I can use 6 devices and it's less than $5.00 per month on a 2 year plan.
Cheap insurance if you ask me!
Free Anti-Malware Protection
NordVPN includes free anti-malware protection that protects you from malware in case you or a family member accidentally visit a malicious website. This could be as simple as you or one of your kids clicking a link in an email hat looks legit but is not!
30 Day Money Back Guarantee
NordVPN offer a 30 day money back guarantee so your can try it for a month and if you change your mind you can get a 100% refund.
NordVPN Security & Features:
Works on Multiple Devices
- Install NordVPN on up to 6 devices with the same account so everyone in the family is covered
- Easy to use app
- Works on all devices - Phone, tablet, laptop etc.
- Compatible with Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, IOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Android TV
Perfect for streaming
- Super fast connection speed 6730+ Mbps
- No data limits
- No throttling by your ISP (Internet Service Provider)
- Connect to thousands of servers in 60 countries bypassing local restrictions
- Secure Connection - Protect your private data from hackers with top-tier AES 256-bit encryption.
- Automatic kill switch - If a VPN connection accidentally drops, Kill Switch blocks your device from accessing the web
- Threat Protection - Scans downloads for malware, stops you from visiting dangerous websites, blocks ads and web trackers, and more.
- Blazing speeds - Connect to 5400+ ultra-fast VPN servers to enjoy fast and stable connection anywhere.
- Quick Connect - Hit the button and instantly connect to the fastest server available at the moment.
- Fast and safe P2P - Hundreds of servers around the world optimised for secure and smooth file sharing.
- Strict no-logs policy - Audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. NordNBN does not track, collect, or share your private data.
- IP protection - Pick a NordVPN server and browse under cover of its IP address. Your IP and location will remain a secret.
- Private access - No one can see what you do online and get their hands on your internet data.
Risk Free Guarantee
- 30 day risk free money back guarantee - Try it and see if you like it, if not get your money back
- Over 14 million users - Biggest in the business
- NordPass Premium - Store, organise and access your passwords from anywhere
- NordLocker Premium 10GB - Secure cloud storage of your files
These can be added on the Checkout page.
Will NordVPN slow down my internet connection?
Do I have to use NordVPN all the time?
You should leave your VPN on at all times to protect yourself against data leaks and cyberattacks, while you’re using public WI-FI, and against intrusive snoopers such as ISPs or advertisers. There are no data limits so there is no additional costs.
Do you have more questions?
Check out the NordVPN Blog which has many in depth articles about how their VPN service works.
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This post is not sponsored by NordVPN however it contains affiliate links and Expedition Australia may earn a commission if you click through to the NordVPN website and complete a purchase. Thanks for your support.