VPN can help keep your digital life private

Typical consumer service runs $5 to $10 per month

SAN ANTONIO – With stories of widespread hacking and websites selling your data, it's good to know how to keep our digital lives private and secure. 

One easy way to do that is to use a VPN, or virtual private network, on your computer and smartphone. 

When Sara and Corey Meyer launched their chocolate company, Little Bird Kitchen, they knew they would have to travel across the country to get it going.

"In order to stay connected to our inventory, we needed a way to do it securely, and we needed a VPN," Meyer said. 

Think of a VPN as a server acting as a buffer for your device.

In order for data to travel between your computer and another server, like a website, app or cloud, it has to pass through the VPN first, which makes it harder to follow your digital footprint.     

Most good VPNs will have encryption, which will secure your data going back and forth. 

And it's not just for businesses. 

Consumer Reports says anyone who uses public Wi-Fi, like at a coffee shop or airport, would be wise to use a VPN. 

"If you have to add in codes or put in a password, it may not get used, and a VPN that isn't used is not going to protect you," said Bree Fowler, of Consumer Reports.

Another thing to look for is whether the VPN company keeps a log of your activity. 

Some VPNs make no bones about the fact that they are collecting and selling your data, which is kind of antithetical to the idea of a VPN in the first place. This is more common among free VPNs, but if you're willing to pay for privacy, a typical service for consumers will run about $5 to $10 a month. Businesses will likely pay more.  

A VPN isn't just for people who use public Wi-Fi, however. 

Consumer Reports says you can also use it in your home so that your internet service provider can't keep track of what you are looking at or shopping for, because they can also collect your data.

About the Author: