Set up a VPN

MAR­TYN CASSERLY re­veals how to set up and use a VPN on your An­droid smart­phone or tablet

Android Advisor - - Contents -

Vir­tual Pri­vate Net­works (VPNs) are a use­ful way to pro­tect your­self from dig­i­tal snoop­ers, as well as ac­cess­ing forms of en­ter­tain­ment pre­vi­ously un­avail­able in your coun­try.

With most of us now con­duct­ing the ma­jor­ity of our on­line lives via smart­phones and tablets, it’s good to know that there are a num­ber of VPN apps and

ser­vices such as NordVPN and Ex­pressVPN avail­able for An­droid. We show you how to get one up and run­ning on your de­vice.

What is a VPN?

As the name sug­gests, a Vir­tual Pri­vate Net­work is a soft­ware-based con­nec­tion be­tween two points which en­crypts all data sent and re­ceived. Peo­ple of­ten use VPNs to cre­ate ‘pri­vate tun­nels’ that al­low them to use pub­lic Wi-Fi spots, ho­tel con­nec­tions, or other po­ten­tially un­se­cure net­works with­out the threat of hack­ers steal­ing their in­for­ma­tion.

An­other ben­e­fit of VPNs is that they dis­guise the lo­ca­tion of your com­puter and can make it look like you’re log­ging in from Bu­dapest when you’re in fact sit­ting in a cof­fee shop in Brix­ton.

This can be use­ful in a cou­ple of ways, firstly in that it pro­vides you a level of pri­vacy be­cause it’s much harder to track your on­line ac­tiv­i­ties, and sec­on­dar­ily be­cause it means you can cir­cum­vent re­gional re­stric­tions on ser­vices like Net­flix.

Choos­ing a VPN

Get­ting a VPN up and run­ning on your An­droid de­vice is very easy. First of all, you’ll need to choose one to down­load. There two main types of ser­vice avail­able – free or subscription based.

While free might sound more tempt­ing, there are some risks in­volved where re­search has found some to be less se­cure than you might hope. That be­ing said, if you find the right one then it’s a good way to get started with Vir­tual Pri­vate Net­works.

Our pre­ferred route is that of a paid ser­vice. While it might cost you money, we think the se­cu­rity and per­for­mance is of­ten bet­ter than the free al­ter­na­tives, plus most of them usu­ally of­fer trial ver­sions. For this ar­ti­cle we’ll use Ex­pressVPN ( fave.

co/2vPq5a9), but the setup and user ex­pe­ri­ence will be very sim­i­lar on other VPN apps.

Set­ting up the VPN

Go to the Google Play Store and search for Ex­press VPN. Down­load the app and then tap the Open but­ton when the in­stal­la­tion process has been com­pleted. You’ll need to set up an ac­count, so choose the Free Trial op­tion and en­ter your de­tails. This will last for 30 days, dur­ing which time you have ac­cess to all the ser­vices on of­fer. Af­ter that you’ll need to pay ei­ther £9 per month or £70 per year to con­tinue us­ing the app.

Most paid VPNs cover mul­ti­ple de­vices, and in the case of Ex­press VPN you can use the ser­vice si­mul­ta­ne­ously on a com­bi­na­tion of three smart­phones, tablets, or PCs. You may be asked to con­fig­ure your VPN, but this only re­quires tap­ping the OK but­ton and then agree­ing to the Con­nec­tion re­quest as the process is mostly au­to­mated.

A fi­nal op­tion is to let the VPN share crash re­ports and other tech­ni­cal data to the de­vel­op­ers. You can tap Al­low if you’re happy to send this in­for­ma­tion, but there’s also a Don’t Al­low op­tion just be­low.

With the ac­count cre­ated you can now start your ad­ven­tures in Vir­tual Pri­vate Net­works.

Us­ing the VPN

There’s not a hell of a lot to do when it comes to ac­tu­ally us­ing a VPN on your de­vice, as you tend to set

it and forget it. Open the app and you’ll be pre­sented with a min­i­mal­ist lay­out dom­i­nated with a big but­ton in the cen­tre. As you might guess, this turns the VPN on and off. Be­neath it you’ll find a sec­tion stat­ing where your cur­rent server is lo­cated. This can be changed by tap­ping on the Choose Lo­ca­tion but­ton.

The lat­ter is im­por­tant if you want to watch things like Net­flix from other coun­tries, as you sim­ply se­lect a server based in that lo­ca­tion. It’s also handy if you find that your con­nec­tion is slow, as some­times a par­tic­u­lar server can ex­pe­ri­ence prob­lems due to heavy traf­fic or tech­ni­cal issues.

When you’re in the list of servers you can also test how fast the con­nec­tion is by tap­ping the speed dial shaped icon in the up­per right cor­ner. This opens up the op­tion to test the Ping rate. Essen­tially this mea­sures how long a sig­nal takes to leave the

de­vice, reach the server, and then re­turn. It’s only re­ally im­por­tant in things like on­line gam­ing where you need in­stant re­sponses to com­mands, but for watch­ing videos or gen­eral brows­ing it’s not some­thing you’ll need to worry about.

Most VPNs will of­fer a de­fault server, and this will usu­ally be the best avail­able at the time. When you’re happy with the choice, tap the On/Off but­ton and the VPN will kick into ac­tion.

Now you’re free to use your nor­mal browser, in the knowl­edge that any ac­tiv­i­ties are hid­den from pry­ing eyes. In the no­ti­fi­ca­tion bar you’ll see the icon of a key, which rep­re­sents that the VPN is run­ning and en­crypt­ing your con­nec­tion.

Of course, if you log onto Face­book or YouTube then the sites them­selves will know it’s you and record your ac­tions, but for surf­ing and gen­eral

on­line en­ter­tain­ment you’re prac­ti­cally anony­mous. You might no­tice a slow-down in the speed of your con­nec­tion, which is in­evitable due to the en­cryp­tion and rerout­ing of your data, but hope­fully it should be only min­i­mal.

If you do find it too slow, then try switch­ing servers. Oth­er­wise you can re­strict the use of the VPN to only cer­tain ac­tiv­i­ties that you want to re­main pri­vate, or for catch­ing up on Sea­son 3 of TheEx­panse.

When you’re fin­ished, go back to the app and tap the On/Off but­ton once more and your hand­set will re­vert back to its nor­mal con­nec­tion.

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