Jerry asked: “What is a VPN? I do a lot of surfing and lot of file sharing and I want to know what a VPN is. Do I need a VPN to do peer to peer things. I keep seeing these popups for VPNs. Should I be using them or should I subscribe to a VPN?”
Jerry, a VPN is a Virtual Private Network, they’re usual for a lot of things, for example, to remotely access computers or services that reside in a company’s internal network when a user is away or, probably in your case, to attempt to hide the illegal things you do, like sharing files you shouldn’t be sharing. When you connect to a VPN you can choose to route all of your internet traffic through that VPN, that means that whatever you connect to sees the VPN’s IP address, not yours.
Not all VPNs are created equal, most keep logs, some don’t, if you’re trying to find a way to hide your IP address from copyright holders, then you’d probably want the type that doesn’t keep logs.
You don’t need a VPN to use peer to peer services, having said that, you’re probably not sharing things you’re legally allowed to share. If that’s what you’re doing, a VPN may hide your IP address, but you have to trust that they’re not logging what each account is doing and what IP addresses they’re using to connect to the VPN service, and that they won’t surrender any information they have about you should a warrant find its way to them.
Whether or not you’re willing to trust them is up to you, but if you’re doing things you’re not supposed to be doing, a VPN may provide an extra layer of anonymity. Just don’t forget that it may not be enough to keep you protected from lawsuits or criminal charges, if they VPN company decides they’re better off throwing you under the bus to save themselves, though. When you stop to think about whether or not these companies are worthy of your trust, don’t forget that they advertise through pop-ups and make money off of hiding what other people are doing online, sometimes for more honorable reasons like bypassing China’s censorship, sometimes to make criminals harder to track down…