When you're on the go and your network isn't available, Wi-Fi access can keep you connected - but joining just any random public network can be a safety risk. Luckily, a VPN, or virtual private network, can offer a secure, convenient solution. Maybe you're wondering, "What is a VPN?" or "How do I set one up?" We've got tips that can help.

What is a VPN and why should you use one?

To put it simply, a VPN creates a secure wireless internet connection to help prevent data access. A lot of companies rely on them, especially for business travelers and remote work.

If you do most of your browsing on a secure home network, you might not have felt a VPN is necessary. But think about all the times you've logged onto a public Wi-Fi network for everyday tasks, from checking your bank account to paying a bill or responding to an email. When you do that, you put both your sensitive information and browsing history at risk. Hackers are always waiting for a chance to grab whatever they can, and a public Wi-Fi is a prime target.

Setting up and using a VPN has gotten easier for people, too. All you're doing is creating a secure wireless internet connection for your device wherever you are. Hackers won't be able to decipher your data even if they somehow intercept it.

How does a VPN work?

When you use a VPN, your device's data is routed through a private server before ever being sent to the internet. This means that your data is encrypted before it ever reaches a public Wi-Fi network. Even if a publicly available wireless network has been compromised, a VPN helps keep your data safe.

When should I use a VPN?

Many cybersecurity experts agree that as long as your router is password-protected you don't need a VPN for your home wireless connection. But if you regularly rely on public Wi-Fi at restaurants, coffee shops, airports or other locales, you have no way to evaluate the security of public connections. Hackers sometimes create "spoof" airport networks, for example, and steal data from travelers who think they're accessing the internet through a secure public connection.

How to get started with a VPN.

Be wary of any internet searches that turn up a "free VPN" offer. These may be scams posing as legitimate offerings and instead give away your data or inject malware into devices.

Instead, consider an option like the Verizon Safe Wi-Fi VPN app. It’s affordable — just a few dollars a month — and works globally to protect privacy and block ad tracking. There are 2 ways to subscribe:

  1. Go to MyVerizon.com and sign in; then go to the Products & Apps page.

  2. Download the Safe Wi-Fi VPN app directly to your device from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store.

Once you have Verizon Safe Wi-Fi on your device, open the app and check your connection status. If the VPN is off, tap the red Wi-Fi icon under "VPN Status" to turn on VPN protection.

More security with a VPN.

You have a lot of features and private data on your phone. Help keep them protected 24/7 by adding a VPN, no matter where you are. In just a few convenient steps, you can add one more way to make sure your devices work hard for you all the time.