How to Set up a VPN on Mac to Increase Security and Privacy
Always hated trawling through the fruit and vegetable aisle?
With as little as a few taps on your iPad, you can now save that hour spent at the grocery store every week.
Remember the dark days when you thought of a random question that no one you knew seemed to have an answer to?
Now, instead of going to the library and consulting actual books, you can simply ask Google and get instantaneous answers to pretty much anything you can think of.
This all feels like a distant memory, right?
It’s no secret that devices like our computers, smartphones and tablets all make our lives a whole lot easier. We’re now living in an era of convenience that would have been unfathomable to us, even as little as a decade ago.
But it's easy to forget that there are also dangers waiting for us on the internet when we trade convenience for safety.
Here’s why you need a VPN for your Mac
Every time we click buy on a website, log onto our favorite social media app or google something, we’re doing something potentially dangerous – we’re spreading our personal information across the internet.
It just makes sense to be smart about how you’re browsing online and do what you can to protect your personal information from those out to cause you potential harm. And if you’re looking to browse online more securely and privately on your Mac, a good way to start is by using a VPN.
We’ll delve into exactly how to set up a VPN on your Mac a little further down. But first, here’s a quick look at exactly what a VPN is and how it can help keep your online information and activity safe and private...
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. This technology works by letting you securely join a private network and by routing and rerouting the information transmitted through a secure tunnel between the VPN provider and you, the end user.
The end result? All the data that passes between your Mac, iPhone and iPad and the internet is encrypted, protecting you against hackers who want to steal your personal information.
In addition to helping you beef up your digital security, a VPN also acts as your own personal, private connection to the internet, meaning you don’t need to worry that your online activity is being monitored or otherwise traced back to you.
Best of all, VPNs are very easy to set up – no additional equipment or special technical know-how required.
What can I use a VPN on my Mac for?
There are other measures you can take to better secure your online activity, including using antivirus, multi-factor authentication and a password manager. That said, if you’re looking to add an additional layer of security and privacy to your online presence, a VPN remains one of the best ways to protect your data from being viewed or stolen by hackers.
Let’s quickly consider a few more reasons you might want to set up a VPN on your Mac.
- To connect to a work network remotely
VPNs were originally used to provide a secure network for businesses and their workers outside the office. Your company can use a VPN to extend their private network and help you access resources through your home or a public network in exactly the same way as when you’re directly connected to the company’s network at work.
- To browse online anonymously
Having access to your online activities, whether the emails you send or the things you buy, can make it easier for someone nefarious to impersonate you or intercept sensitive, private information like your passwords, online banking and credit card details.
Setting up a VPN on your Mac is an especially great way to secure web browsing on public Wi-Fi connections. Free coffee shop and hotel Wi-Fis are particular hotbeds for would-be cyber criminals looking to snoop on your online activity, infiltrate your devices and steal your data.
Of course, people don’t always want to collect your data for malicious reasons. For example, advertisers might want to collect your data for marketing purposes. If that’s not something you’re keen on sharing, VPNs work with most browsers to block ads and web trackers.
- To access sites available in other countries
Using a VPN to hide your IP doesn’t just help safeguard your privacy. Because your Mac appears to have the IP address of whatever VPN server you use, a VPN also comes in handy if you’re looking to bypass geo restrictions and unlock content not available in your home country. They’re also a nifty way to watch your favourite TV shows from home when you travel.
Of course, VPNs are useful for a whole host of other reasons than the ones we’ve covered above, including:
- Helping cut down on buffering time while streaming audio or video.
- Saving you money, especially when comparison shopping for airline tickets, hotels and car rentals.
- Accessing your home network while you’re away.
- Downloading files faster.
Are VPNs legal?
Today, VPNs are perfectly legal to use in most countries, including the US, Canada, the UK and all countries that belong to the European Union. However, the legislation in this field is in the process of ongoing discussion.
So be sure to check your country’s laws before using a VPN, and bear in mind that anything that’s illegal when not using a VPN still remains illegal when using one (such as illegally downloading copyrighted materials).
Connecting your Mac to a VPN
In general, you can get a VPN connection either through a third-party VPN software, or by using Apple’s built-in VPN client.
Never used one before? Not to worry – we’ve got you covered below with everything you need to know about how to set up and use a VPN on your Mac. After that, we’ll go over how you can configure VPN access on your iPhone or iPad as well.
How to download a VPN for your Mac
Before you start, though, you’ll have to sign up for a VPN service. Happily, there are plenty of user-friendly VPN apps that won’t break the bank out there. Most VPN providers have monthly or annual subscription plans available. Once you’re done and dusted on that front, you can go ahead with one of the two options below:
Option 1: Connect with your VPN’s software
So, you've purchased your new VPN subscription. Now, you're sitting in front of your screen, wondering what to do next.
Luckily, opening your VPN on your Mac is a fairly seamless process – most VPN providers offer custom VPN software that’s a breeze to install, launch and use on your MacBook, iPhone or iPad.
All you have to do is download and install the app (there should be easy-to-follow instructions on screen on how to do that.).
Then, enter your account login details, sign in, allow the VPN to add configurations as necessary and you’re good to go!
The process works similarly for other iOS devices, so long as you’ve installed the relevant app:
- Open the app and sign in.
- Give permission to add the VPN to your device by tapping Allow.
- Enter your passcode or use TouchID/Face ID to give permission to change your VPN settings.
While it's generally easier to use a dedicated VPN software, if you want to configure a VPN manually on your MacBook, you’ll have to dive deep into your Mac’s settings.
Option 2: Use Apple’s built-in VPN tools
In the event that your VPN does not offer dedicated VPN software, don’t fret. It’s not as daunting as it sounds. All you need to do is follow the manual setup outlined below:
- On your Mac, go to the Apple menu in the upper left-hand corner of your screen and click System Preferences
- Click Network.
- Select the + symbol.
- Find your VPN on the dropdown menu that appears on the left-hand side. Select the VPN type offered by your provider. Here’s a quick rundown of the most popular options available to you:
- Enter an easy-to-recognise name for your VPN service. Click Create.
- Enter the server address and account name for your VPN connection.
- Click on Authentication Settings, and enter the VPN encryption details provided by your VPN client.
- This will largely depend on your network administrator, but at this juncture you might be prompted to type in additional details under User Authentication and Machine Authentication. After you’re done, click Apply.
- Now click Advanced. Be sure to check the Send all traffic over VPN connection option. Click OK and then Apply. There’s also the option of selecting Show VPN status in the menu bar if you want to quickly turn on and off your VPN connection right from your desktop.
- Simply click Connect and voilà, you’ve manually configured a VPN connection on Mac. Great job!
It’s worth noting there is one drawback to manually configuring your Mac VPN – chances are, you’ll need to input your settings every time you change your server. It is, however, a great way to give you freedom over the server and protocol you want to opt for while online.
How to share your VPN over Wi-Fi on Mac
After you’ve connected to your VPN server, you’ll first want to ensure Wi-Fi internet sharing has been enabled on your Mac.
You just need to go through the following steps:
- Go to System Preferences and click on the Sharing option under Internet & Wireless.
- Choose the Internet Sharing option on the left-hand side.
- Choose your VPN connection on the Share your connection from the dropdown menu.
- Next, check the box for Wi-Fi under To computers using. At this point, you can go to Wi-Fi Options to set up the password for the Wi-Fi network. Choose a network name, leave the channel select as default and create and re-enter your password.
- To connect your other Apple devices to your VPN, all you have to do is enter the password you created.
- Enable Internet Sharing by pressing Start. You should see a green light pop up, which is your cue that Internet Sharing has been properly activated.
- At this point, you can look for Wi-Fi networks on your iPhone or iPad and connect to the VPN hotspot you’ve set up.
So there you have it! Now you know how to set up your own VPN on your Mac and Apple devices. Get ready to start enjoying a more secure internet experience.
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