How to set up VPN on Android?

Data security has been a major topic long before the Wikileaks revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Browsing the internet is dangerous due to its architecture: Users’ PCs each have an IP address, a kind of license plate. This makes them identifiable. In addition, website operators use cookies, small files which log the browser activity. Such tracking activities enable them to create precise user profiles. This is mainly used to place personalized advertising and eventually to make money.

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Another annoyance is the so-called geo-blocking: for licensing reasons, various contents – contrary to the technical possibilities of the Internet – cannot be received worldwide but are blocked for users outside a certain region. Users can avoid this blockage via a VPN (virtual private network). They connect to a server that redirects the request. The provider’s IP address is not the person’s IP address, but that of the VPN service provider. If it is located in the region of the content provider, it is possible to use the content from another country.

Three ways to connect to a VPN

Users have several ways to set up a VPN on their Android device to protect themselves from data theft and tracking.

The easiest way: VPN apps from the Google Play Store

The easiest way to use a virtual private network (VPN) on an Android device is to download one of the many VPN apps from the Google Play Store or from the device manufacturer’s store. Security-conscious users should pay close attention to the conditions of the individual providers. Is there a free version to try out? How much capacity is included? Users should also pay attention to the bit rate and the number of servers and their locations. They should allow smooth streaming of content providers such as YouTube or Netflix. Depending on the server location, users avoid geo-blockades and enjoy media regardless of their location. Since these apps usually do not require much technical know-how, they are also suitable for a less technical clientele.

Manual entry of VPN connection data

Another option is to enter the connection data yourself in the Android menu under „Settings“. This way they connect to any VPN server. They assign a name and, depending on the provider, configurate settings regarding VPN type, server, address, IPSec ID and IPSec key. After saving, the connection is ready to use. Due to the necessity of the configuration in advance, this variant is more suitable for experienced users.

Surfing at home via your own router

A convenient option for secure browsing via an encrypted VPN network is included with many routers for home use: Many models of the brand FRITZ!box with current firmware offer the option to establish a secure connection with your own router to access the internet. This is particularly recommended in public networks, such as airports or hotels. Users configurate the settings in the router menu. Then they adjust the settings on the Android device (tablet or smartphone). Since this variant also requires some configuration tricks, it is more suitable for users with computer skills as well.

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