You close your blinds; you lock your doors. But what do you do when it comes to protecting your internet security?

You may have heard of VPNs or virtual private networks. They’re becoming more popular for a variety of reasons: kids use them to unblock games and certain websites in school; expats use them to access their favorite sites from back home; and tech-savvy people, or people who are concerned about their privacy, simply use them to encrypt their internet connection.

So why aren’t you using one? Let’s take a look at what VPNs do and why you need one.

How a VPN keeps you safe online

It’s actually quite simple. When you connect to a VPN location, you’re able to hide your own IP address while you take on another IP in a different part of the world. As soon as you’re connected, everything you do online goes through an encrypted VPN tunnel.

If anyone was to spy on your network, all they’d see is a random string of numbers and letters.

It’s a great way to encrypt and anonymize your network, and it lets you access websites and content that may not have been available before due to geographic restrictions.

Add an extra layer of privacy when you browse

There isn’t much privacy on the web. In fact, you can think of the internet today as one big warehouse filled with every tasty tidbit of everything you’ve ever done online. You may believe the pages you look at on Facebook are private, or that those highly personal searches you type into Google are secret, but you’d be wrong.

Your internet service provider (ISP) is keeping tabs on the sites you visit, and every phrase you’ve ever typed into Google is saved. Opening a private search browser isn’t keeping you safe, either. Your significant other may not be able to see what sites you looked at but your ISP can.

A VPN is a way to fight back. When you use a VPN, you’re actually protecting your online anonymity. Your ISP isn’t able to track your whereabouts, making it possible to browse without having to worry about being tracked or spied on. It’s a simple, efficient way to change the status quo, and it’s incredibly easy to use.

Instant protection at home or on the go

If you’re like the rest of the 2.5 billion people who use the internet today, chances are you’re connecting on the go. Public Wi-Fi hotspots might be convenient, but they’re usually not very safe.

When you have to hand over your personal information in order to get online, you can be sure that the particular network you’re using is going to be keeping track of what you’re doing. Even worse, these types of ‘free’ Wi-Fi networks actually make a lot of money by selling your information to unknown third party advertisers, not to mention the fact that most public hotspots are unsecured.

If you think of the internet as a safe, then think of a VPN as the key that locks it. Whether you’re on your own secured network or browsing on the go, using a VPN is a smart and easy way to encrypt your connection and protect your privacy.

Choosing the right service

There are tons of VPN providers on the market today, and it’s worth doing some research on which ones actually are actually worth their salt. Look for VPN providers that don’t keep logs, and, if possible, try to find ones that actively support privacy-focused organizations like the EFF.

Free VPN providers are usually anything but, so be prepared to pay anywhere between $5-12 a month for service. It may seem like a lot, but it’s a small price to pay for your privacy.