Understandably, the world is approaching a state of panic over the coronavirus (COVID-19). According to the March 18, 2020 media briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, more than 200,000 cases have been reported, with more than 8,000 fatalities.
While there’s no mandatory quarantine in the US (as of yet), many employers are encouraging travelers and others at risk to take a 2-week self-quarantine period.
Millions of people around the world are doing exactly that. And in this time of voluntary isolation, online privacy and the use of a VPN are as important as ever.
We’re not a fan of Google. The company and its assets (including Google Chrome and the Google Search Engine) aren’t exactly good for one’s online privacy.
The metrics used are a little confusing. While the Google Trends charts do give numerical values, these are “relative to the highest point on the chart for the given region and time.” This basically means where a numerical value of 100 is given, there were more searches on that day than on any other.
With that out of the way, here’s the chart for searches related to “coronavirus” from December 18 to March 16 in the US:
And again with the worldwide statistics:
As you can see, Google searches on the coronavirus experienced a relatively huge leap in a short space of time. Starting roughly on January 21 with a relative value of 3, it jumped up to 100 between March 13 and March 15.
VPN search terms enjoyed similar statistics:
The numbers are slightly different, with the average fluctuating between 50 and 62 up to February 26. February 28 saw a leap up to 94, followed by a short lull and increasing above average again starting on March 12. Overall this represents a massive 117% increase in VPN searches.
Netflix Has Become More Popular Too
Understandably, spending two weeks in self-quarantine seems a little daunting. So it comes with no surprise that Netflix also experienced an increase of 95%.
While the Google Trends chart for the US shows a relatively stable fluctuation in popularity over the past 3 months:
The worldwide version – though not much different at first glance – shows a larger-than-usual spike between March 11 and March 15:
Why We Think These Trends Are Worth Pointing Out
As already mentioned, two weeks can seem like a really long time. Even if you’re still working from home during your coronavirus self-quarantine, you’ll likely find yourself ploughing through all the Netflix content available in your region.
Or, at the very least, the content that interests you!
And let’s face it – having to shell out extra bucks just to watch content exclusive to other streaming platforms, such as Hulu, is annoying. It can even become prohibitively expensive.
This is why having a reliable VPN will come in handy during this time. Of course, having a reliable VPN is always a good idea. But if you don’t already have a VPN subscription, then now’s a good time to get one!
A trustworthy VPN service will help enhance your online privacy by keeping global surveillance groups and your ISP out of your business, as well as encrypting your online traffic. But, more in line with the topic at hand, it can also open up a whole world of Netflix content that isn’t available in your region.
By connecting to a VPN before logging into your Netflix account, your IP address will trick the streaming service into thinking you’re in a different country. Assuming you connect to an international server, that is.
This allows you to get around the Netflix block and access another country’s content library. Often, you’ll find many movies and series you won’t usually be able to watch on Netflix in your own region.
It might not be the most productive way to spend your two weeks quarantine, but it certainly beats counting your kitchen tiles out of boredom.
Reliable Netflix VPNs
One problem is not all VPN providers are created equal. Some, like PureVPN, are known to sell user information while promising not to. Others, like Betternet VPN, are riddled with malware or aren’t a VPN at all (such as the Opera VPN).
Another issue is online streaming services such as Netflix developed proxy detection software allowing them to identify VPN usage.
While not a fool proof technology, it’s robust enough that many VPN providers found their server IP addresses permanently blocked. And most have given up replacing those IP addresses with new, unblocked ones.
Luckily, there are still several reliable Netflix VPNs available. Our top 5 recommendations are:
Following the above links will take you to our 100% independent, no-BS reviews for each provider mentioned.
Chances are, if you’ve been traveling – especially to China and the Hubei province in particular – or are otherwise considered at medium- or high-risk of coronavirus exposure, your employer and/or local officials strongly recommended you take voluntary self-quarantine measures.
In such cases, it’s also highly likely you’ve been given temporary clearance to work from home. Or maybe you already do work from home – in which case this isn’t all that new for you!
While working from home is a fantastic opportunity for many, it does come with a host of challenges. We’re not about to start giving you remote worker advice in general: that’s not quite within our areas of expertise.
But one thing we do know is (no matter your normal working conditions) you’re almost certainly going to be working with sensitive customer or company data.
This means there’s extra pressure on you to protect that data while you work from home. You won’t be able to rely on whatever cybersecurity measures your office has set up on-site, as you won’t have access to them.
Of course, you shouldn’t be solely relying on those measures anyway. It always pays to stay updated on good cybersecurity practices, not only for work but for your personal devices as well.
Microsoft News (MSN) has a short post on practicing cybersecurity when working from home. It’s not very complete, unfortunately, but it will give you a good starting point.
However, one of the many things MSN left out is you should be using a VPN while working from home.
Working From Home and VPN Usage
If you’re already familiar with VPNs, then it might be obvious why you would want to use one while working from home.
But if you’re one of many people who are only just starting to learn about virtual private networks due to the coronavirus and quarantine, then you should understand this isn’t a nice-to-have.
As briefly touched upon with regards to VPN usage and Netflix, a reliable VPN will use military-grade 256-bit AES encryption. This is virtually impossible to crack, which means anyone trying to snoop on your online activities is going to see a bunch of gibberish instead.
And if you’re working from home, this is very important. We already stressed the fact you’ll be personally responsible for the sensitive data you’re handling. A VPN helps you gain the upper hand here.
It might not surprise you to find some of our best overall VPN recommendations are the same as our Netflix recommendations (and let’s face it – getting to watch Netflix on your lunch break is one of the great things about working from home):
Okay, so we said we won’t be giving you work from home advice in general. But laptops do fall under our field of expertise – not least because the device you use can affect your VPN speed.
Still, we won’t go into too much lengthy detail here. Instead, we’ll give you some solid recommendations for different budgets and operating system preferences.
Best Windows Laptop for Working from Home
Our more budget-friendly recommendation for Windows users is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7.
This is an all-round excellent laptop choice, not just for those with a tighter budget. Its sturdy, lightweight body is deceptively thin. Lenovo promises up to 18.3 hours of battery life and included ThinkShield security features as a standard.
Price: Starting at $1,445.95
If you have a slightly higher budget for your work-from-home laptop, then you won’t go wrong with the Dell Latitude 7400 2-in-1 Business Laptop.
It’s worth the tiny bit of extra cost, as it promises up to 26.75 hours of battery life. We’re not so sure how privacy-friendly the Dell ExpressSign-In feature is, as it uses the Intel Context Sensing Technology, infrared camera, and Windows Hello to automatically log you in. But if you’re looking for convenience, this remains a robust laptop.
Price: Starting at $1,579.00
Best Linux Laptop for Working from Home
To tell the truth, almost any Windows laptop will make a great choice for using with Linux. If you take a look at any “best laptops for Linux” guide for 2020, you’ll find at least one (if not both) of the Windows recommendations we made above.
Best MacOS Laptop for Working from Home
For Apple users on a budget, the MacBook Pro 13-Inch is a decent option.
Of course, it’s not the latest offering – which with Apple means there are some trust issues. The company was previously caught forcing users to upgrade through “planned obsolescence.” Granted, that was with the iPhone range, but trust lost is hard to regain.
Even so, the MacBook Pro 13-Inch is a fantastic budget Apple laptop for those working from home. It’s unlikely you’ll find a need to upgrade in a hurry, as the quad-core Intel processors make for a solid performance.
Price: Starting at $1,299.00
If you do prefer having the latest Apple product, you’ll want to splurge on the MacBook Pro 16-Inch. Not much is different when compared to the 13-inch model (the screen size being an obvious exception), though there are some noteworthy upgrades.
These include up to 8-core Intel processors, up to 64GB memory (vs. 16GB), and a maximum of 8TB storage (compared to 2TB). The new 16-inch model also gives you an extra hour of battery life, which now goes up to 11 hours rather than 10.
If you’re opting for an Apple product, be sure to check our recommendations for the Best VPNs for Mac.
Price: Starting at 2,399.00
Just because you might be facing a two-week quarantine due to the coronavirus, doesn’t mean you can take a holiday from staying safe online.
There’s a fair bit of preparation that goes into making sure your quarantine is as safe and comfortable as possible. And while purchasing (or renewing) a subscription with a reliable VPN isn’t the only step you should take to protect yourself online, it’s an important one that gets overlooked all too often.