Santa Claus figurine in between Christmas trees

You think you have a busy job? Imagine what it’s like for Santa Claus, who must deliver all the world’s presents within a 24-hour window from his base up in Lapland!

How do you suppose he manages that herculean task? Obviously, Santa keeps his methods a safely guarded secret. Otherwise, every courier company in the world would be copying his system, but data analysts from the world’s top logistics organizations would surely agree that with all the substantial modern technology available nowadays, Santa must have a link to all the major retailers’ fulfillment systems. How he manages without a fleet of trucks, several server farms, a security team, and hundreds of low-paid staff, no one knows. But those famous reindeer are very fast off the mark!

So, with Christmas coming, people are turning to digital methods of entertainment over the holidays, such as online games that you can play with your family, even your Gran. Maybe you shouldn’t drop her in at the deep end with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre gameplay, perhaps something more subtle like Super Smash Bros Ultimate for Nintendo Switch – but if you’re going online, either shopping or gaming this Christmas, remember it’s also a time when cyber crooks make a killing by luring people into downloading malware and spyware viruses. There are ways, of course, to stay safe from these hazards– one of the easiest and most effective is to perform a free VPN download.

A virtual private network (VPN) is a simple concept to understand if you know even the smallest amount about internet connectivity. Without a VPN, your home modem/router connects to your internet service provider (ISP). In turn, your ISP server looks up the address of the target website or online service and connects you. But not many people realize that your ISP, and in some cases the target service you’re using, for example, Instagram, can track your activity – from how long you were connected, which pages you visited, what you searched for, the location you connected from, and other metrics.

By using a VPN, the VPN provider places their encrypted server between your devices and your ISP’s server. This effectively blocks the ISP’s analytics software from recording your activity. In short, the VPN prevents your ISP from knowing where you’re located and even who you are. The advantages of this anonymity and location cloaking offer several advantages:

Avoid fair usage policies.

Many ISPs even now ‘throttle’ (i.e., slow down to a crawl) the connection speeds of individuals and even whole geographical areas that use excessive data. On an individual basis, that might be a family gaming, streaming, and working from home using several gigabytes of data per hour. In the case of an entire town being throttled, this often occurs if sporting events or local activity means that everyone in a given area logs on to their internet at the same time. The ISP will then slow down the connection of all the IP addresses in that location.

By using a VPN, the ISP can’t throttle the VPN customer because their IP address doesn’t show up as being in the ISP’s target zone, nor does it reveal the customer’s identity. The encryption of the VPN server also means that websites can’t analyze valuable demographics of the VPN user. This leads to another significant advantage: avoiding dynamic pricing algorithms.

The hotly debated practice of dynamic pricing.

Dynamic pricing is the term for charging customers based on what they can afford, rather than just offering the same prices for every visitor to an eCommerce website. The perpetrators of these activities tend to hotly deny them, but the system allegedly works by AI analyzing certain demographics of customers before a price is offered. This is most often carried out by large accommodation or travel ticket resellers, and the practice has become much more prevalent when people stopped using high street travel agents and turned away from paying with cash.

To explain further, it’s perfectly normal to offer variable prices on, say, hotel rooms or flight seats based on supply and demand. If a flight has all its seats available, resellers will offer low prices until, perhaps, half of the seats are pre-sold, then increase the price significantly. When there are maybe only half a dozen seats left vacant, depending on demand rates, the retailer may drop the price to very cheap close to the flight’s departure in order to fill the airplane. That’s a natural way to do business.

But imagine turning up at the airport dressed as a slick businessman carrying designer luggage. The yuppie enquires about the price of a ticket and is offered a price of, say, $100. Then, a scruffy student turns up in ripped jeans some 30 seconds later, goes to the same desk, and asks for a ticket on the same seat row on the same flight – to be offered a price of $50. The suit guy would be furious, as he’d been charged double for simply having more expendable income than the student.

But this is what happens online every day. A person not using a VPN reveals their internet protocol.

(IP) address and the type of device they’re using to access the web. If they’re logging on from Hollywood on a latest-model iMac, the AI can increase the ticket price. But a visitor logging onto the retail site from, say, Mexico on an old HP laptop will very probably be offered a cheaper ticket for the same journey. By using a VPN, the visitor can ‘pretend’ to be logging on from a poorer country or region, and their device won’t be identifiable. Money saved yet again.

There are many more advantages to using VPNs, including safer surfing from public Wi-Fi, avoidance of online activity monitoring, and protection from malware via a VPN provider’s anti-virus software, which will disconnect the VPN user if any malicious activity is detected – within milliseconds.

All in all, whatever you’re going to be doing online this coming Christmas, it makes perfect sense to stay safe using a VPN from a reputable provider.