Across the world, there is increasing concern about the degree to which governments track their citizens’ online activity. This has led to a recent surge in public interest around privacy technology such as VPNs. The people who should be most concerned about the security of their Internet browsing are those living in countries that participate in international surveillance pacts. The most infamous such pact is the Five Eyes agreement between the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Since Scotland is part of the UK and will remain so unless there is an independence referendum, Scottish readers should be aware that their country is spying on their browsing activities.
This article will help you stay safe and anonymous online. Read on to find out how to choose a VPN from a crowded marketplace, which VPN to download, and additional information on surveillance agencies in Scotland.
What’s in a good VPN?
When determining which VPN to use, consider the following criteria:
- Strong encryption – Encryption is a process which makes the data leaving your device untraceable to spying third parties. This is achievable because encrypted data travels through servers that decode your data, give it a new, false IP address, and only then send it to its destination. Encryption prevents any third party from stealing your passwords, bank details, credit card information, and other personal data. It also keeps you safe from hackers lurking on public Wi-Fi networks.
- Large server network – A VPN’s server network allows you to change your IP address to a false one based in a country which is appropriate for your needs. The larger the network, the higher the probability that the country where you want your false IP address to be based is on the VPN’s list of available countries. A VPN will allow you to browse without regional restrictions.
- Fast connections – Private networks create an extra step in your Internet surfing, which can lead to longer waiting times when downloading or buffering movies. If your VPN is slow, then it could take minutes for one page to load — not what you want when you’re streaming a movie.
- Software for all of your devices – So you can use your VPN subscription to simultaneously protect all of your hardware. As a minimum, you’ll want to protect your phone, your computer, and your tablet.
- No logging – When a VPN keeps records of your connection’s metadata, it can be potentially requisitioned by authorities in order to trace back to you. Avoid this possibility altogether by going with a provider who never keeps logs.
What about free VPNs?
When you first look for a VPN provider, it might seem like a good idea to use a free VPN provider to save money. However, we highly recommend avoiding this. Free VPNs have weaker encryption than paid VPNs. Worse, they have a reputation of selling off user data. Think about it: they have to make their money from somewhere, right? The VPNs we recommend below feature military-grade encryption and will never sell off your data.
Top VPNs for Scotland
We now present the top four VPNs guaranteed to enhances your internet privacy in Scotland and beyond:
ExpressVPN offers the perfect mix of speed, security and usability for virtually any user. Posting some of the VPN industry’s fastest benchmarks, you’ll enjoy seamless streaming, downloading, gaming and VoIP calls whenever you connect. ExpressVPN’s outstanding performance is due in equal parts to its sophisticated encryption methods (which wrap your data stream inside of impenetrable 256-bit AES encryption) and powerful proxy server network (featuring more than 2,000 nodes in 90+ countries worldwide, each fine-tuned for reliability and speed). DNS leak protection, an automatic kill switch, and VPN split tunneling round out ExpressVPN’s considerable utility as a privacy-enabling tool.
Underpinning these core offerings is an impressive no-logging policy, which promises never to record users’ traffic, DNS requests, and IP addresses. This is especially important in Scotland, where the Five Eyes agreement can force companies to hand over any logs they may keep.
ExpressVPN’s slick user interface makes it easy to access these privacy provisions with just a click or two. Dedicated, lightweight software is available for all major operating systems, and even some niche platforms.
Learn more in our full ExpressVPN review.
NordVPN is renowned throughout the VPN industry for providing one of the most comprehensive server networks anywhere. To date, there are well over 5,000 servers available in 62 countries worldwide, providing you with unprecedented levels of choice in selecting your IP address. What’s more, NordVPN offers specialty servers optimized for a variety of use-cases, including anti-DDoS, onion over VPN, double VPN, P2P, obfuscation, and more. Whatever you want to do online, you can do it more safely with NordVPN guarding your connection.
Based in Panama, NordVPN is not affiliated with the Five and Fourteen Eyes Intelligence Alliances in any way. In fact, behind a wall of unbreakable 256-bit AES encryption and one of the industry’s most complete no-logging policies, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better shield against government surveillance than NordVPN.
Of course, all this protection doesn’t come at the cost of usability. NordVPN posted some impressive benchmarks in our speed tests, with connections more than good enough for streaming, downloading, and browsing without a hitch. New users can rest easy, too–all this utility comes neatly wrapped up in extremely intuitive software that doesn’t require an advanced degree in computer science to use and understand.
Learn more in our full NordVPN review.
CyberGhost offers perhaps the best balance of protection and user-friendliness. Simply open the app, choose from a list what you’d like it to help you do online, and simply let the software take care of configuration automatically. Options in that list include: torrenting anonymously, unblocking sites and protect your Wi-Fi connection. If you don’t have a lot of experience with VPNs, this offers a simple way to a more secure browsing experience. There’s even a friendly live support chat if you get stuck.
With 256-bit AES encryption, MD5 HMAC authentication and IP leak protection, CyberGhost keeps your browsing completely private. These features are backed by an impressive no-logging policy, which disallows the storing of even the email addresses used to sign up. If you’d prefer to choose your own proxy server, it’s surprisingly simple to do, even with more than 3,000 servers in over 60 countries to choose from. Further customization is available in the form of toggles for blocking malicious websites, ads, and online tracking; data compression; and even automated HTTPS redirects.
CyberGhost puts on a friendly face to its users, but goes tough on privacy, making it a perfect VPN for users of all experience levels.
Check out our full CyberGhost review.
If streaming is your top priority, PrivateVPN has perhaps the strongest offering on the market. After all, the company bills its software as being purpose-built to unblock the international content catalogues of sites like Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and so many more. In our testing, we indeed found connections to be reliable, speedy, and dead-simple to establish.
Of course, PrivateVPN is good for much more than just entertainment. Heavy-duty 256-bit encryption locks down each data packet leaving your device in a nearly invulnerable layer of cryptography–perfect for keeping hackers, ISPs and even the UK government out of your business when browsing online. A solid no-logging policy further guarantees that you’ll never leave any tracks behind to trace your identity, essentially rendering your internet usage completely invisible.
PrivateVPN’s server network spans 57 countries, so you’ll never have trouble getting a useful IP address for accessing the free and open internet. Dedicated software is available on all major platforms.
Why you need a VPN in Scotland
There are many valid reasons to use a VPN in Scotland, even though it boasts a high internet freedom score. Here are a few of the most pressing issues:
The Five Eyes
Because Scotland is in the UK, you may be familiar with the Five Eyes surveillance pact. This pact involves the sharing a broad range of intelligence data across five countries: the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Five Eyes has given birth to many of the most notable privacy scandals in recent years, including PRISM, XKeyscore, and Tempora.
Between them, the Five Eyes have huge, wide-ranging power on the Internet. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the five governments can force any “communications service provider” (including ISPs, social media platforms, email providers, cell phone networks, and more) to:
- Insert malware on its users’ devices
- Ignore existing laws in pursuit of Five Eyes directives
- Interfere with user experience
- Provide governments with new product designs in advance
- Provide user information as requested in secret warrants
The Five Eyes have surveillance technology that allows each country to spy on its Internet users. When using a VPN to avoid surveillance, you’ll want to make sure the origin of the VPN provider is not within a Five Eyes country, or at the very least has a strict no-logging policy. If you are in Scotland and want to make sure you are anonymous online and not being spied upon, you should download and install one of the recommended VPNs above.
The NSA and FBI
The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are two agencies that continuously make headlines for the wrong reasons: mass surveillance and online spying. In recent years, leaked documents have proved just how extensively both agencies collect data — causing Internet users to question their online security. Ostensibly, these agencies are supposed to use government intelligence and surveillance efforts to stop organized crime and prevent terrorism. But in practice, the laws around both agencies are written in vague language so as to allow the bending of the rules to the agencies’ advantage. Regardless of their efforts to keep the world safe from crime and terrorism, many have proclaimed the FBI and NSA to be invasive.
A Virtual Private Network will keep your online identity and online activity protected from surveillance agencies. VPNs are fast, easy to use, reliable and effective. If you want to stay safe and anonymous online, install one of the recommended VPNs above.
Fact: given the UK’s participation in the Five Eyes agreement, if you live in Scotland, you need a VPN. But finding the best VPN can be difficult when there is a market flooded with hundreds of different providers.
We suggest considering what criteria are important to you as an individual Internet user in Scotland. Once you’ve established your needs, choose the VPN from the list above that best fits what you’re looking for.
Which VPN will you choose, and why? Let us know in the comments below.