While it hides your IP address, a VPN is not a true anonymization service. For that, you’ll want to access the Tor network, which will almost certainly slow down your connection. While a VPN tunnels your web traffic to a VPN server, Tor bounces around your traffic through several volunteer nodes making it much, much harder to track. Using Tor also grants access to hidden Dark Web sites, which a VPN simply cannot do. That said, some services, such as NordVPN, offer Tor access on specific servers.
Using a VPN will prevent most kinds of DNS attacks that would redirect you to a phishing page, but a regular old page made to look like a legit one in order to trick you into entering your data can still work. Some VPNs, and most browsers, are pretty good about blocking phishing pages, but this attack still claims too many victims to be ignored. Use common sense and be sure to verify that websites are what they say they are by looking carefully at the URL and always visiting HTTPS sites.
In addition to blocking malicious sites and ads, some VPNs also claim to block malware. We don’t test the efficacy of these protections, but most appear to be blacklists of sites known to host malicious software. That’s great, but don’t assume it’s anywhere near as good as standalone antivirus. Perhaps troublingly, 20 percent of those who answered said that they thought VPNs could protect them against viruses. It’s important to note that whatever ability a VPN might have to protect you from malware, you should use this feature to complement, not replace, your antivirus.
Lastly, keep in mind that some security conscious companies like banks may be confused by your VPN. If your bank sees you logging in from what appears to be another US state or even another country, it can raise red flags. Expect to see captchas and more frequent multifactor requests when your VPN is on.