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Are VPN Apps Worth the Money?

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VPNs are a big part of the internet these days. Virtually every IT expert in the world recommends that you always use one, and that’s because they’re essential to having a safe and secure experience when getting online. When you buy reliable VPN access, it can provide that security on any device that connects, and you have plenty of options when it comes to VPN providers. That leads to a pretty obvious question. Is the VPN worth the money? To answer that, we can compare the cost of the VPN to the cost of not using it. We’ll also look at a few VPN features that can impact their overall value.

The Cost of VPN

If we’re going to seriously answer the question, it starts by looking at some basic costs. There are a lot of VPN apps out there, and each one has its own pricing and offers. While we can’t fit everything into a neat little box, most VPN services will fall into a competitive range of features and pricing. We’ll look at pricing in two categories: free services and subscription services. We can make some pretty easy comparisons to help you see how much a VPN app will cost you.

Free

There are VPNs that are completely free to use. The Opera browser has it built right into the software, and plenty of others work as VPN apps that are quite effective in creating a secure tunnel for your internet traffic. Even though these VPNs have no financial cost to use, we can attribute some amount of cost to their use. Most of those come in terms of performance.

Free VPNs tend to be slower than paid subscription services. If your internet speeds have a lot of value to you (especially if your work is online), then VPN speeds could have a real fiscal cost associated with their use.

Aside from speeds, a few other performance issues can impact free VPNs. For the most part, they offer less in terms of automated connectivity. If you get disconnected from your free VPN, it might not halt your internet traffic until the tunnel can be reconnected. That means you might be using the internet without protection, and in those cases, the cost of a free VPN is quite similar to the cost of not using a VPN, which we will discuss in a bit.

Subscription

When you use a paid VPN service, the cost is easy. You’re paying out of pocket for security. Most consumer-grade VPNs are going to charge a monthly fee, and that monthly fee is not very high. It’s usually in the ballpark of dollars per month (not even tens of dollars). Many subscription services will cut you a deal and lower the monthly cost if you commit to a longer time frame. It’s a common tactic, and it can save you a lot of money.

To make this simple, the cost of subscribing to a VPN (that hopefully won’t let you accidentally connect unsecured) is the price they charge, and it will usually be between $1 and $10 a month.

Cost of Ignoring VPNs

We talked about the cost of using VPNs. Now we have to consider the financial fallout that can come from unsecured internet activity. If you use the internet enough (without protection), you will eventually run into at least one of the problems. Every time you do, it costs money. When you consider just how big the long-term costs can be, it helps put VPN pricing into perspective.

Stolen Data

This is a big concern for everyone, but it’s especially scary for businesses. If you operate a business without a secure tunnel, the risk that data you use can be stolen goes up considerably. Data breaches are one of the biggest killers of businesses. The cost of having data stolen because there is no VPN can easily get into the millions of dollars. For large businesses that handle data for millions of customers, the cost can even get into the billions.

Even if you aren’t running a business, having personal data stolen is not good. That can include financial information, passwords and other secure info. Anyone who has had their identity stolen can inform you that it is neither cheap nor painless to resolve. While a VPN can’t offer you perfect protection from all threats, it dramatically reduces your risk of having vital data stolen. That means using a VPN can easily save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Activity Tracking

Even when people aren’t stealing your credit card information or Social Security number, VPNs are protecting you. Having your online activity tracked can still be a costly concession. This is especially true if you have ever done something that breaks the rules on the internet.

No one here is condoning or promoting illegal activity, but it’s surprisingly easy to unwittingly violate copyrights or terms of service. Do all of the videos you view properly attribute all of their credits? Have you streamed music? Were the artists properly compensated? It’s impossible to know, but most internet users violate terms of service at some p[oint without even realizing it. Doing so makes you fiscally liable, and companies do go after violators on a regular basis.

Your VPN masks all of this, so when you accidentally break a rule, no one can track it back to you. It protects you from liability lawsuits that could be enough to ruin you.

Performance

We talked about how a free VPN can impact internet performance and cost you money. No VPN can have an even bigger impact. When you consider bombardments of ads, adware, tracking software, crypto mining and a myriad of other ways online connections can mess with your devices, VPNs are giving you a massive upgrade in overall internet performance. By preventing the vast majority of these abuses, your time online is more efficient.

Even if you don’t make your living online, you’re paying for access to the internet. If that payment includes a bunch of obtrusive ads or other disruptions, then you’re losing money. The protection provided by your VPN makes your internet service spending more cost-effective.

Malicious Software

This is one of the biggest reasons to have a VPN. While it isn’t an antivirus package (although plenty of providers bundle services), your VPN makes it much harder for people to reach you with malicious software. It protects you from keyloggers, ransomware and other cases that render your device unusable or otherwise unsafe.

If you have ever had to deal with these problems, you know that resolving them isn’t always cheap. Keyloggers can be used to steal things from you. Ransomware can take away all of your data, and replacing it is never free. Even removing viruses typically costs money, and all of this is money that could be saved by using a VPN.

The Value of a VPN

While we’ve covered the cost of ignoring a VPN, there’s another side to this coin. VPNs come with a bunch of services, and those can add direct value to what you’re getting. Let’s review some of the most valuable services to complete this picture.

Geoblocking

Many content providers block their content by region. Netflix is the most notorious example. The content you can access in the United States is very different from what you’ll see in Europe or Asia. Geoblocking is very common, but a good VPN can get you through geoblocking and unlock the entire internet to you. This adds a lot of value to any content subscriptions you might have. How much more is your Netflix worth when you can see all of their stuff instead of just some of it? Multiply that concept by the entire internet, and you can see how your VPN is adding value in big ways.

Device Limits

Each service will set its own device limits, but as long as that limit is more than one, you’re essentially getting a bundled deal. You’re getting the benefits of your VPN on every device that uses it, so high device limits are adding multiplicative value to your VPN subscription. That’s something to consider when you shop around. The more devices you can use with one subscription, the more value you can get out of it.

Multiple Connections

One of the most interesting VPN features is multiple connections. Each provider has a clever name for the service, but the idea is interesting. You can connect to multiple countries at the same time. This gives you access to more internet content while simultaneously improving your anonymity. It takes the value of using a VPN to a whole new level.

Let’s revisit the original question. Is a VPN app worth the money? Only you can answer that, but when you consider everything you just learned, the answer isn’t too tough. When you consider that there are a ton of features and benefits that are just too numerous to include here, the answer becomes even easier. You can get a VPN for a very low cost, and it’s easy to make it worth the investment. It’s really up to you.

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WEF Launches Coalition to Tackle Harmful Online Content

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The World Economic Forum announced today that it is launching a Global Coalition for Digital Safety which will accelerate public-private cooperation to tackle harmful content online. It will serve to exchange best practices for new online safety regulation, take coordinated action to reduce the risk of online harms, and drive collaboration on programmes to enhance digital media literacy. The full list of members can be found here.

With the growing challenge of health misinformation, violent extremist and terrorist content, and the exploitation and abuse of children online, there is an urgent need for more deliberate global coordination to improve digital safety.

“The Forum recognizes this problem is only growing in size and complexity. This Coalition serves to bring together leaders in the public and private sector to cooperate globally on solutions that will ultimately reduce the consumption and distribution of material that is causing harm – especially to vulnerable members of our population,” said Cathy Li, Head of Media, Entertainment, and Sport Industries at the Forum.

Coalition members highlighted the need to act more proactively when it comes to digital safety and the importance of further cooperation:

“All the processes of the modern world are connected to the internet and information technologies. But at the same time, when we speak about high-tech processes, ‘digitalization’, we always know about the main goal – to create a safe online environment for our citizens. Therefore, the global initiative to create purposeful cooperation between states, organizations and businesses is extremely relevant.”

H.E. Mykhailo Fedorov, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Ukraine

“In order to improve digital safety, it is imperative that we accelerate public-private cooperation. This is an area that the World Economic Forum’s Global Coalition for Digital Safety, as an impartial platform, can look into.”

H.E. Johnny G. Plate,Minister of Communications and Informatics, Indonesia

“The significance of national and international collaboration, multistakeholder engagement and investment in holistic solutions to address the proliferation of global online harms has never been more important. I am so pleased to be part of the World Economic Forum’s Digital Content Safety initiative and to have an opportunity to raise awareness about eSafety’s multifaceted approach to helping our citizens have safer, more positive experiences online. Securing harmonization across jurisdictions to avoid a patchwork and fragmentation of online safety legislation, governance arrangements and national online safety measures should be a priority for us all.”

Julie Inman Grant, eSafety Commissioner, Australia

“Global online safety is a collective goal that must be addressed by working across borders as well as by individual nations. We look forward to collaborating with international Coalition members to reduce the risk of online harms and build a safer life online for everyone.”

Dame Melanie Dawes, Chief Executive, Ofcom, UK

“We believe that everyone should be free to share without harassment or abuse.”

Chris Priebe, Executive Chairman, Two Hat Security

“Technology offers tools to learn, play, connect, and contribute to solving some of the world’s greatest challenges. But digital safety harms remain a threat to these possibilities. As the World Economic Forum is uniquely positioned to accelerate the public-private collaboration needed to advance digital safety globally, Microsoft is eager to participate and help build whole-of-society solutions to this whole-of-society problem.”

Courtney Gregoire, Chief Digital Safety Officer, Microsoft

A framework proposed in the new report, Advancing Digital Safety, will serve to better protect users online. It is centred on industry standards, which establish a safety baseline, together with regulation to govern enforcement. Coalition members are committed to charting a course that will resolve key tensions in privacy, safety, expression, business incentives and corporate versus public responsibility to effectively minimize the risk of harms encountered online.

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How digitalization helps Moscow and its citizens

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The unified digital register, an electronic system of interdepartmental interaction, provides departments with access to more than 390 types of documents – certificates, statements and other information needed to provide city services to residents.

The system allows citizens to avoid wasting time collecting a number of documents themselves. Government employees responsible for providing services can receive and process information more quickly.

“Creation and development of the base register allowed Moscow to transfer many state services into electronic form, including services related to construction and realty spheres, where several authorities and organizations are involved. In addition, the electronic interdepartmental interaction helps the staff of “My Documents” centers to provide services to citizens and solve their problems more quickly. Almost all the necessary information is acquired electronically from each other, so that residents do not have to collect certificates and statements themselves. According to the statistics of the Moscow City Information Technologies Department, over the past 10 years, this system has saved Moscow citizens from having to submit more than 400 million documents,” said Eduard Lysenko, Minister of the Moscow City Government, Head of the Information Technologies Department.

Today, the mos.ru website gives users access to a full range of services needed by citizens in certain life situations, such as the birth of a child or purchase of a car. The first service on the mos.ru portal was the “Relocation help under the Renovation Programme” service. At the moment, it offers interactive instructions, notification service for all stages of moving and a service to call movers who will help move things to a new flat.

In the future, the city will continue to develop the mos.ru portal services so that residents will be obligated to visit authorities in person and present original documents as rarely as possible.

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ACCCIM and ANBOUND Co-Hosted Forum on Digital City Development in the Post-COVID Era

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After more than a year since the emergence of the Covid-19, our modern world faces unprecedented threats to our public health, economy, and society. The lockdown measure across the world to curb the spread of the virus effectively means the suspension of civic and commercial activities, yet it also poses major disruption to nearly all aspects of life. With countries rolling out mass vaccination, the pandemic will eventually end, though the impact it brought about will continue to stay with us for a long period of time. Facing such trying time, on 23 June 2021, the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) and ANBOUND Think Tank co-hosted an online forum on “Digital City Development in the Post Covid Era” with the aim of gathering a number of internationally renowned experts to share their views and insights on the opportunities and challenges in our current and future world. The forum was moderated by Dato’ Ong Chong Yi, ANBOUND Regional Chief Representative in ASEAN.

In the opening speech of His Excellency Dato’ Sri Dr. Mustapa Mohamed, Malaysia’s Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Economy) in this forum, said that the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China have strengthened, with China being Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009. He has witnessed massive transformation of China, which is at the forefront of digitalization and modern technology. Growing at a steady pace, Malaysia too is enhancing its digitalization and the development of smart cities, to offer its citizens quality job and fulfilling life. Covid-19 has accelerated Malaysians’ reliance on technology, which is particularly true in the cities, and it has redefined the way urban people work and live. This should be used as an opportunity for Malaysia to embrace change and transformation of its urban center. He noted that Chinese megacities like Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing are rapidly scaling up their smart city projects by heavily invested in ICT infrastructure, and they are now reaping the benefits. Malaysia, which has already outlined its plan in the digital economy blueprint can take a page from China in digitalization, which is to accelerate the roll out of smart cities. With this, Malaysian government hopes that by the year 2025, there will be at least five smart cities established in the country.

Keynote speaker Tan Sri Ter Leong Yap, President of ACCCIM believes that the current time presents us unique opportunity to rethink the role of digital technology in our lives. In this Covid-19 era, digitalization has shown great potential in terms of transferring urban activities and interactions from the physical space to digital environments. These changes are here to stay, and it is clear that facing challenges related to health, society and the environment will be crucial in the coming years to help shape the future ‘digital city’. He pointed out that businesses need to examine the balance between what appears to be a lasting shift towards remote working, and the advantages of a physical workplace. Citing real estate as an example, he noted that there is the need to determine the role of digital technology in helping bring back tenants, where new operating and business models are required. Tan Sri Ter believes it is highly likely that a hybrid model featuring being in the office for important physical meetings and remote working, will become the new ‘normal’.

Mr. Chan Kung, Founder of ANBOUND, has also presented his keynote speech, focusing on China’s urbanization experience and what the world can learn from it. He noted that much of the researches on urbanization based on the world’s experience of small-scale urbanization. In contrast, the value and position of the Chinese experience of urbanization has not been universally and sufficiently recognized and accepted by the academic community at large. On the other hand, many Chinese scholars have also not positioned the study of Chinese urbanization in a global framework. This leads to the fact that the Chinese experience of urbanization has not been widely accepted and studied to form a systematic academic theory for the world to refer to and learn from. The Chinese experience of urbanization is not only an achievement and a feat for China, but also a valuable asset for all mankind. With its many success stories and failures, China’s experience deserves to be studied in depth as an important direction and an area of public policy research.

Dr. Richard Voith, Founding Principal of Econsult Solutions, stated that Covid-19 has created fear of density, in addition to reinforcing isolation and segmentation, yet it has also created opportunities that are often productive. The future of post-pandemic urbanization, according to Dr. Richard Voith, has three possible scenarios. The first scenario sees declining density, consequently there would be diminished value of existing public infrastructure, as well as land and built asset value, yet there would be increases in value of new locations. In the second scenario, there would be the return to normal with economic recovery after mass vaccination rollout. Yet, cities are constantly changing and there is no “normal” per se, and it would be more of adjustments in multiple dimensions. The third scenario sees then expansion of policy and tech savvy cities, where remote work technology allows greater freedom of locations for both people and firms. In terms of future investment, the highest return public investment would be more concentrating on investment in high tech and high-quality transit, smart city technologies that ensure safe and high-quality urban environments as well as in education, human capital development, and affordable housing. The highest private investment return on the other hand, would be on investments to adapt existing infrastructure, highly flexible urban workspaces, logistics facilities, as well as non-innovation oriented business facilities and residential units.

The Chinese government is a strong advocator of the digital city initiative to resolve those critical issues due to rapid urbanization. Ms. Yi Wang of ANBOUND noted that China’s urban planning legislation is based on its five-year plans, where the government supports are needed for cities. Chinese smart city projects are characterized by the overall objectives, supporting city management, providing public services to citizens, promoting well-being and economic growth. So far, most successful practices concentrate on transportation, public safety, education, healthcare, and environmental protection. At the same time, the large population base is a good reason for technologies widely applied in China. Ms. Yi Wang cited three examples of smart cities in China. The first being Shenzhen, generally considered to be the leader in China’s smart city movement. Shenzhen’s transformation is equipped with a digital brain; Shanghai creates 15 minute “life circle” in building livable community; Suzhou focuses on digital manufacturing and industry community. The development of smart cities requires right vision, strategy, plans, and resources that are in place, as urban planning is a comprehensive policy issue which integrates economics, industry, space, sociology and other disciplines. Importantly, people-oriented development should be part of smart city design, as serving people’s needs allows us to better address many problems in real world.

In answering the question on Malaysia’s smart city development in the post-Covid era during question and answer session, Dr. Richard Voith stressed that smart city designers need to understand the need of the people, and it is crucial to have the technology, funding, and diverse talents.

On the question of digitalization of government services, Mr. Chan Kung shared China’s experience, in which digitalization of technology in smart city is mostly by the government, where larger proportion belonged to government services and investment scale, and show obvious results. Other parts of digitalization are focusing on services provided to the citizens, which are harder to evaluate. Concerning the question of human interaction and technology. Mr. Chan Kung stated that there are certain interactions and relations that can only be done face-to-face, particularly family and community interactions that require human touch and cannot be replaced by technology, though digitalization can provide convenience in this aspect. There should be a fundamental line that digitalization cannot cross in the human-to-human interactions, and this is also China’s urbanization experience. On the opportunities brought about by digitalization, Mr. Chan Kung noted that fuel cell is a promising sector developing countries and regions like China and ASEAN. He also noted that parts production and development, and those of automobile is a classical example, and these sectors provide opportunities that developing countries should grasp.

Concerning the acceleration of post-pandemic smart city development, Ms. Yi Wang stated that China has 20 years of smart city development experience that other countries can learn from, though she cautioned that every city has its own characteristics and resource allocations, and the lesson provided by China should be adjusted and modified based on the need of the city.

With the imminent and permanent changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic to the global economic landscape will be long lasting, yet they also present us with new opportunities and new lessons, making it crucial for institutions and individuals to grasp these changes, so as to navigate through the waves of uncertainties and to build a better post-pandemic world.

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