You might not realize it but there's a lot more to Argentina than gaucho cowboys, corned beef and Tango dancing. Not only does Argentina have the majestic Andes and its famous Asados (meaning cookouts or BBQs, depending on where you come from) – but in late 2020, game manufacturer Konami announced its partnership with the Argentine Football Association (AFA) as 'Official Video Game Partner'.
This means that all those aspiring to play like Lionel Messi or the late Diego Maradona can choose from a selection of teams in co-op games to pick a virtual squad and run rings around their opponents with their teammates as they go. The bonus is that games containing footballers don’t rely so heavily on actors to produce new content, and just recently those thespians from the Screen Actors Guild have been on strike!
But don’t forget that the more often you go online, and the more regularly you interact with gaming co-ops or simply with one to one competitors, there’s always the chance of internet baddies hijacking your connection or even hacking your gaming account. Sometimes they do this for plain mischief, other times to see what information they can steal such as credit card details and passwords.
The easiest way to prevent this happening, wherever you might find yourself in the world, is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). For those who might be unfamiliar with the technology, an Argentinian VPN would be a server you would choose (irrespective of your actual location) located in Argentina, to either circumvent geographically restricted content – such as gaming or streaming platforms – or just to throw potential hackers off the scent as to where in the world you’re actually located. But how does a VPN work, and what’s the point in using one?
A VPN creates an ‘encrypted tunnel’ to a ‘middleman’ server that connects on your behalf to your regular Internet Service Provider (ISP). So rather than connecting your laptop or Xbox to your home router, that router connects to your ISP, and from there, your desired online destination, the VPN server sits between your ISP and your home device. This means that the ISP doesn’t know who the connected party is, and if the VPN server you choose is in a different area or even country to your actual location, the ISP also can’t tell where you are.
The advantages of this are numerous:
Everyone knows that gaming uses a lot of data, especially those with tons of slick graphics like space, physics and sci-fi scenarios. This is particularly problematic if you’re connected to the internet via a 4G or 5G connection, as opposed to landline copper or fiber broadband. Most (if not all) mobile data providers will have ‘fair usage policies’ somewhere in the small print of any contract you might sign; even if the contract states that your data usage is ‘unlimited’. If you use more than the data provider decides is fair, they will throttle your connection – meaning that they slow it down to such a crawl that it becomes unusable. In a gaming or streaming context, this effectively stops you from using the service, as the lag or buffering becomes horrendous.
Furthermore, data providers and ISPs are crafty. Sometimes they throttle the available data connection to known platforms’ IP addresses but leave non data-hungry applications alone. So if you’re watching Netflix and your connection slows to a crawl, the first thing you’ll do is head to one of the internet speed test sites and run a diagnostic. You’ll probably find that your indicated download rate is what your ISP promises to provide, say 75Mbps. So you blame the streaming platform server or the gaming site – but it’s actually your ISP throttling that specific connection.
However, if you’re using a VPN, the ISP doesn’t know who you are so it can’t throttle your connection.
If your ISP wishes, it will also sell anonymized logs of its users’ online activities to advertisers for lucrative profits. For example, a retailer of Xbox consoles might want to know how many households in a given ZIP code are accessing mutant mayhem gaming sites between the hours of, say, 9pm and midnight. Your ISP knows what device you are accessing their servers from, how long you stayed online and what sites you visited. They sell this data for profit. If you choose a VPN, however, they can’t find out this info so you’re no longer acting as a free cash cow.
VPN servers have built in technology to detect hackers’ activities. This is particularly useful if you’re working in a small business away from home and logging onto free hotel or coffee shop Wi-Fi. You might think you’re logging onto a mall’s guest Wi-Fi network, but hackers set up phantom hot spots, from where they monitor your keystrokes by installing spyware to steal your passwords and the like. A good quality VPN provider will detect such activity, and disconnect you from the internet immediately, before any harm can be done.
In summary, using a VPN and choosing to access the internet from an encrypted server in another location to where you live beefs up your security, avoids data throttling and allows you to circumvent geographic content restrictions. For example, if you want to access your US Netflix account if you’re on vacation, say, in Europe, the VPN does the trick – just choose a stateside server and you’re good to go.
There are many reasons to use a VPN, and almost no disadvantages to the set-up, so, of course, the choice is yours – but really, it’s a no-brainer.