If you are familiar with a VPN, you probably wouldn’t dream of downloading films or streaming TV shows on your PC without one active. So, why would you do these things on your TV box without VPN protection? I am often asked whether you really need a VPN for your Android TV Box, and the answer is 100 percent YES!!
VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, ensure your security and anonymity online, which is just as important when you are online on your TV box as when you are online on your other devices. In fact, the types of things you do with your Android TV Box are likely to make a VPN even more important.
In today’s article, I am going to tell you what exactly a VPN is, why it is essential to protect your Android TV Box with a VPN, and which VPNs are best for Android TV Boxes.
If you haven’t already read my other articles in the series on protecting your TV box, then you can also find out if you need virus protection for your TV box and see how bad add-ons can open up Kodi security issues.
What Is A VPN?
So, what is a VPN? That’s a question people are asking more and more lately. And with good reason.
I’m not going to get into the technical details. If you’re interested in that, I’m sure there are lots of sites where you can get your nerd on. 🙂
Think of a VPN like a direct link to get from your device:
- TV box,
to another server anywhere in the world. This allows you to appear like you are accessing the internet from a different location than where you are.
Many people use VPNs professionally for logging in to their work network when working from home. They are popular with professional road-warriors, remote workers, and also anyone who is traveling. How do you access the new episode of your favorite show on Netflix when you are traveling, and that show isn’t available in the region where you are traveling? The answer is with a VPN.
VPNs are, by definition, private. The data passed through a VPN is encrypted, so it cannot be seen by anyone else. This includes the government, hackers, and your ISP provider. Also, the endpoint sites you access don’t know who you are if you don’t want them to, giving you anonymity.
This is the other reason why VPNs are popular: they provide a greater level of privacy and anonymity than local connections.
Think of a “local connection” as plugging your computer directly into your router or cable modem. Basically, there’s nothing between you and your Internet provider.
The trouble with most local connections is that they essentially provide a big, flashing red beacon to your location to anyone who wants to know.
Don’t believe me? Check out IP-Tracker.org, which is one of many free sites that provide geo-tracking services based solely on your IP address.
What Is A VPN? An Illustration
The best way I can think of to conceptually explain a VPN is to think of a huge underground tunnel, like this one in New York City. It’s so big, you can stand up in it and still feel small. That’s the Internet. That tunnel carries lots of “water,” but it’s not secure at all. The water, i.e., your data, can seep through the cracks or get contaminated from other things.
See those pipes on the left-hand side? Those pipes go directly to one destination, and it’s very difficult for anything to get in or out of those pipes that doesn’t belong there. They’re used for things more important than the dirty water that’s running down the center of the tunnel. The stuff in those pipes (whatever it is) can’t risk being polluted by outside contaminants. In our example, those pipes are a VPN.
Both a VPN and your local Internet connection will get you to where you want to go. But a VPN makes sure your data doesn’t get intercepted or polluted along the way.
Why Use A VPN For Android TV Boxes?
There are a couple of important reasons to use a VPN. At a high-level, you’re either looking to protect yourself or get around restrictions that someone else has put on your Internet activity. Even though we only use our TV boxes for streaming and maybe downloading torrents, you should still consider getting a VPN for your Android TV Box.
It’s hard to think back to a time when we didn’t have to worry about privacy. Long before “Big Data” was a household phrase, our right to privacy was being assaulted on a daily basis. From traffic cameras to browser cookies, it seems we are giving up more and more of our personal information every day.
Many people started thinking about using a VPN in the hopes of keeping some of that private information to themselves.
Think that you don’t have private data on your TV box? Think again. Your streaming service doesn’t only hold your personal details, but it also knows a lot about what you like to view, when, and for how long.
And it is not only marketers that are interested in this information. It can help political campaigners target you and can alert your ISP provider to the fact that you are a streamer, which may encourage them to increase your bandwidth fees.
Anonymity goes hand-in-hand with privacy, but there are some important distinctions. You can think of privacy as keeping control over your personal information. Anonymity is deliberately hiding or obscuring who you are.
We can all take simple steps to anonymity, and most of us do. For example, I have a separate junk email address with a fake name and information. Parents with small children will sometimes create fake personas for their online or gaming activity. Why do we do this? Because marketers are getting savvier and savvier and learning more about us as consumers every day.
Nothing can make us truly anonymous on the Internet. But a good, secure VPN can go a long way to help.
VPNs were originally designed to provide a secure connection to another network. As I said before, I use one when I’m working from home. My hardware VPN connects to my wireless router. When my work PC is within range, it automatically connects to the hardware VPN device and accesses my network at the office. To me, it’s just like I’m sitting at my desk.
You’re probably thinking: “Great…but this doesn’t affect me at all.”
Well, when’s the last time you connected to a public Wi-Fi?
Public Wi-Fi connections are hotspots (pun intended) for hackers and digital thieves. Using an Android VPN whenever you connect to public Wi-Fi is a great way to protect yourself.
This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but big media companies have put limits on what we can watch based on where we live.
Some of the more common reasons they do this is to control access to certain shows so that some countries get it sooner than others. The BBC was one of the bigger culprits of this in recent years. Some series would air in the UK a full season before they aired in the US.
If you’re more of a sports fan, then geo-filtering has probably already affected you.
Think of the last time you wanted to watch your favorite team but couldn’t because the game was blacked out. Personally, this is my biggest reason for getting a VPN. If the game I want is blacked out in my local area (or country), I can hop on a different server and bypass those restrictions. Game on!
Let me be blunt: if you’re using one of the unofficial (and probably illegal) Kodi add-ons to stream your movies, and you’re not already using a VPN for Kodi, then you’re a fool.
I’m not here to judge your streaming habits – I don’t care. Right now, it seems that streaming is OK, but downloading is not. But that can change at any time. Personally, I wouldn’t put much faith in the loophole that streaming movies through Kodi is legal, as long as the files aren’t downloaded to your system.
Besides, there have been judgments that could change the streaming landscape significantly. Cox Cable, an ISP (Internet Service Providers) in the US, was recently held liable for the copyright infringements of its subscribers. In the UK, they recently instituted a 10-year prison sentence for online pirates.
Box sellers have already been shut down and arrested. The odds may be in your favor right now, but is that a chance you really want to take?
Important Things To Consider
Now that you’ve got a little bit of background on virtual private networks, I want to get some caveats out of the way. I think it’s important to understand my perspective so you can decide for yourself whether you want to take my advice. If you agree with how I’m looking at things, then keep reading. If not, you’re free to say “this guy is nuts” and stop reading. My feelings won’t be hurt. 🙂
I’m Not A “Privacy Guy”
As strange as it might be for some people to believe, I’m not using a VPN because I’m concerned about privacy.
I’ve never cared to read George Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty-Four and Animal Farm.
I don’t look at all of the dystopian movies like Hunger Games or Minority Report and immediately get up in arms about a “Big Brother” style of government that is watching my every move.
Personally, I’ve got more important things to worry about.
In the most recent study I could find, Americans use 18 MB of data every single minute of the day. In my day job, I’m an analyst for a Fortune-100 company, so I see the benefits of using data to make people’s lives easier, more relevant, and more connected – not just to their devices but also to each other.
You may take your privacy very, very seriously. That’s OK, and I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t. But, please understand going forward, that’s not how I’m going to look at things.
Geo-Filtering And Freedom Of Information
I may not care too much about privacy, but I believe very strongly in freedom of information.
The Internet was founded to share ideas across the world. But today, information is kept locked away behind man-made walls – only accessible to certain people.
To be clear, I’m not saying that everything should be “free” on the Internet. This is not an excuse for piracy. But, I believe that information that is available in one place in the world should be available in every place in the world.
It doesn’t matter if it is a political paper speaking out about an oppressive government or a television show that can only be accessed in one particular country. Information should be accessible to everyone.
I want to say a couple of quick words about affiliates, because you’ll see it a lot with VPNs.
Most sites will use affiliate links, including mine. This can be OK or it can be a huge conflict of interest. It all depends on how the site handles it.
Affiliate links are a way for website owners to actually cover the costs of operating a site.
Affiliate sales don’t cost you anything extra as the consumer, but the owner of the site gets a small commission based on any sales they refer.
In theory, you only put affiliate links for things you’ve actually used and are honestly recommending. Sites that want to be honest with their readers will disclose that upfront.
That’s why on this site, there is a full disclosure page, as well as a brief affiliate disclosure at the bottom of every single page on the site. Go ahead. Scroll all the way down. I’ll wait. 🙂
Where this can go bad is if sites recommend things based on how much it will pay out and then call it a “review.” If you Google “VPN,” you’ll see that the search results are littered with fake review sites that are nothing more than sales pages.
Use caution when you’re looking at these so-called VPN reviews. Look at the article and make sure that it reads like a review, not like a sleazy sales page.
So What Android VPN Do I Recommend?
Over recent months, I have been busy testing a variety of VPN services on my own Android TV box in order to find the best ones for you. I am currently using CyberGhost VPN, and I highly recommend it.
- First off, CyberGhost is affordable, and I can cover pretty much all of my devices (up to seven) with a single subscription. It also has an application specifically for Android TV, so it is easy to download and install without any side loading.
- The coverage is great with more than 6,500 servers in 90 countries. So, I can always find the location that I want, and the servers aren’t crowded, so I get great speeds. While you can stream and torrent on all of their servers, they also have a few servers optimized for this activity. It is always fast and secure, and CyberGhost maintains accessibility to streaming services other VPNs don’t maintain.
- CyberGhost uses high-end encryption standards, so I know all my data is protected. There is also a kill switch as standard to prevent any unintentional leaking. There is also a zero-logs policy, so the company is not collecting any data about me or what I am doing.
This is a great service, and you can try it out while still getting their cheaper one ($72 per year) or three-year ($36 per year) subscription rates, as they offer a 45-day money-back guarantee.
- $72 for a one-year plan for up to seven devices
- 6,500 servers in 90 countries
- Top-end 256-bit AES encryption
- No-logs policy
- Fast and secure connection
- Kill switch as a standard
While I am currently using CyberGhost VPN, there are a number of other great VPN services that can cover all of your devices, including your TV box, which I would also recommend.
- $84 for a one-year plan for up to six devices
- 1,400 servers in 75 countries
- Top-end 256-bit AES encryption
- No-logs policy
- Fast and secure connection
- Kill switch as a standard
- $77.99 for a one-year plan for up to five devices
- 5,500 servers in 60 countries
- Top-end 256-bit AES encryption including double VPN feature
- No-logs policy
- Fastest speeds for streaming
- Kill switch as a standard
Find out more about the VPNs in the next articles:
- Why I won’t use a US VPN service
- CyberGhost VPN Review
- NordVPN Review
- Kodi VPN Crash Course
- IPVanish Fire TV app: The best VPN for Fire Stick?
- Turbocharge your VPN speed with this one simple trick
- Quick start guide for the IPVanish Android app
FAQs About VPN For Android TV Boxes
Why Is It Important To Use A VPN?
Different people have different reasons for using a VPN service, but the main benefits tend to be the same. A VPN protects your anonymity online so no one can monitor your online activity. A VPN allows you to control your online geo-location, which can help you unlock restricted materials. A VPN encrypts your data, which adds an extra layer of security to all your online activities.
Is A VPN Safe For Android?
Yes, a VPN is not only safe for Android, but recommended. A VPN only becomes unsafe when you go with a dodgy provider, whose security and encryption measures may not be what they claim or who actually sells your data in order to make a profit. Always thoroughly research your VPN service, and be wary of free VPNs. If they aren’t covering costs and making money from subscriptions, they are making it somewhere else.
Can You Be Tracked If You Use A VPN?
VPN services encrypt your data, making it incredibly difficult for third parties to track your data. Nothing, including a VPN, is 100 percent hacker-proof, but you are certainly much safer with a VPN. Hackers either tend to go after high-value targets, such as government organizations and banks, or low hanging fruit, people who aren’t protecting themselves. Assuming you aren’t a high-value target, hackers are less likely to spend time trying to unencrypt your data, and would rather just scoop up the data of a neighbor who is not using VPN protection.
What Are The Dangers Of Using A VPN?
The main danger with a VPN is if you choose a dodgy VPN service that is either selling your data or whose security features are not what they claim, and therefore, you assume your data is protected, but it is actually leaking. This is why it is essential to research your VPN service before committing. Fortunately, there are a lot of techno buffs out there who take their online security very seriously, so it is not difficult to find the information you need. An additional danger with a VPN is that, just like any Internet connection, it can drop out. This means you can be downloading or streaming, assuming you have the protection of s VPN, but you are, in fact, on your home network. Your VPN reactivates before you notice, but perhaps not before someone else does. In order to protect yourself against this, good VPN services have a kill switch, which automatically cuts your Internet connection when your VPN service drops out.
Why Are Free VPNs Bad?
Not all free VPN services are bad, but bear in mind, if you aren’t paying with dollars, you are still paying for that VPN in some way. There are generally three types of free VPNs. The first is a limited data VPN. They offer you a very low free data threshold, after which point you need to pay. The idea is to show you how good the service is and encourage you to upgrade. This is not likely to be a great choice for your Android TV Box, as streaming uses a lot of data. The second is ad-supported VPN services. So, you save dollars, but you pay in time and frustration. These services also usually have an ad-free upgraded version, and what they really want is for you to like the service, and decide to upgrade. The third type is the free service who recoups their costs by selling your data. Since the whole point of a VPN service is to protect your data and keep it private, these free VPN services should be avoided.
Does Android Have Built-In VPN?
Android devices, including smartphones, tablets, and TV Boxes that are running Android 4.0 or later are VPN compatible, which means you can use a VPN with them, but you need to acquire the service separately. Most good VPN providers will have an Android App version of their VPN, which you can download and install directly from the Google Play Store. If you are specifically looking for a VPN service for Android, this should be one of your requirements when choosing a provider.
How Can I Install A VPN?
To install a VPN on Android, you should choose a VPN provider that has an Android app for its service. It is then a simple matter of downloading the app from the Google Play Store and installing it on your Android smartphone or TV box. You may be able to register within the app itself, or you may need to register online and enter an authorization code into the app.
If you are still asking yourself whether you need a VPN for your Android TV Box, I hope this article has convinced you that the answer is a resounding YES!
A VPN protects your privacy and security while you are online, and it also allows you to complete certain activities anonymously and unlock content that may be inaccessible in your location. You may think you don’t need this kind of protection for your Android TV Box, but you do.
Do you only use your TV box for legal streaming? Don’t forget that your streaming services require your personal data and payment information, and they also have a lot of information about what interests you. This is valuable to marketers, political campaigners, and even your ISP provider.
Do you stream copyrighted content without paying? If you aren’t already using a VPN service, then you are taking a risk. While the laws around streaming copyrighted content are uncertain, the consequences can be very real.
Do you often find yourself blocked from accessing desirable content? A VPN can help you get around that. You can unlock that blocked sporting event or that TV show that is currently only available in one country.
Don’t be a fool, install a VPN on your Android TV Box.
Do you have a favorite VPN service for Android TV? Let me know in the comments below!
So far, I am finding ExpressVPN to be the tool that meets my requirements. It is among the most expensive of the VPN products/plans I reviewed. However, it does allow for three simultaneous connections (any device type), ability to choose servers, and has a 30-day money back guarantee if not satisfied.
The only problem I have with it right now is the Netflix proxy blocking, which I spent considerable time with support trying to resolve to no avail. Incidentally, this issue is supposed on ExpressVPN, which was among the reasons I chose this vendor.
Other than that, so far, I am satisfied with the product.
Hi Carlton. Thanks for the comment. ExpressVPN is another VPN on my short-list. Good to hear you like it!
I also use ExpressVPN. I use it mainly on my IPOD and Cell when out and about and using open WIFI
Have no idea how to set it up for Kodi. Also to access programs on Acorn TV(paid subscription) that are nor available in my region.
I am wondering about a free one on google called betternet. Anyone else using it?
When something online is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.
I use paid vpn from zenmate & have it installed on 2x android box, 2x pc, 1x laptop, 3x smartphones & 3x tablets all on 1 subscription and to sate have no issues. I use for both security & privacy living in Turkey but wanting to watch uk tv etc. & buy online.
Our host Tim asked for some feedback. Here is mine.
NordVPN is the service I am using. Can’t remember exactly what I paid but it was certainly less than $40 for the full year. Sale prices seem to appear periodically, ha ha. NordVPN also allows me to have multiple connections at the same time. My PC, my Android TV box and our cells phones can be connected and operational and each can have a different server if desired.
When it comes to the number of countries and the number of servers they have in each location all I can say is it seems to be a BUNCH. I have tried many different countries and many different servers and all seem to work well. However 99% of the time I only use U.S. servers.
When I first started using NordVPN one thing bugged me. The visual interfaces for PC’s is different the the visual interface for Android devices. They both serve the same purpose but the two different interfaces took a few days to get used to. I guess if you like playing online games there is probably a reason for the difference.
I would rate Customer Service as excellent. I have communicated via email and by online chat several times. They respond quickly to emails and their chat client seems to work fine. They do provide a separate “anywhere” function for android devices which I guess serve the gaming community; however, since I don’t play games I can’t provide any feedback in that area.
So am I satisfied? I would say yes, I feel like I am getting value for my money. The servers I have attached to all seem to work well and are not overloaded. In other words; their servers don’t seem to slow down or hinder my ability to stream stuff.
But remember, there are probably hundreds of reasons for using a VPN service besides streaming a movie. I would definitely consider things like online banking and bill paying as a mandatory VPN services even though a secure socket layer supposedly exists. Oh and before I forget, for individuals using a Windows PC for streaming, VPN comes built in to many versions of Windows including Windows 10. Its free and it works but i personally found it a little clumsy to set up – but it does work.
Thanks Thomas. NordVPN is already on the top of my short-list!
Thomas I have had Nord for about a month now and generally agree with your assessment. The only thing that I have found is that it does slow my internet down a bit, ( about 10mbps). I did pay $48 us for 12 months so found that quite reasonable. I know I also saw it for 40% off to Kodi users after I had already joined.
You can try what I did. I opened an online chat with NordVPN and asked the tech if he could recommend a specific server number NEAR my area for the purpose of streaming. The tech did give me a specific server number to use and it did seem to make some difference the one time I did try it. But normally I don’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff since between my 50 Mbps service and the NordVPN servers I use; it all just seems to work. After all, for 1080P resolution I believe you can get along just fine with good solid 10 Megabit connection. I normally sit about 10′ from my flat panel so I can’t really tell the difference between that resolution and 720P. I use 720P so I don’t have to worry about staying within my Suddenllink data cap.
Maybe our host Tim can offer some recommendations and/or insights for 4K streaming.
Tim, always enjoy your articles and am looking forward to your VPN reviews.