3 affordable VPN services that will help protect your online identity

Anna Hecht, CNN Underscored
Updated Wed July 18, 2018

As part of an ongoing series, the CNN Underscored team showcases outstanding deals you can shop right now on the CNN Store. Each week, our staff chooses a product to feature that we think you'll love. This week, we're highlighting the VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription, $55.99, the VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription, $19.99 and the NordVPN: Two-year Subscription, $69.

What is a VPN? We're glad you asked, because protecting your online identity is super important.

The acronym VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. The basic reason for owning a VPN is to help defend against anyone online who's trying to steal or monetize your data.

Essentially, a VPN works by installing an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server that's operated by the VPN. Then, when you use the Internet, any external traffic is run through the tunnel so that your credit card data and other personal information are safer — even when you use local hotspots and other Internet sources where it could potentially be compromised. Also, VPNs have the ability to disguise your IP address so that your identity is further masked from any prying eyes.

Since buying a VPN can be a confusing process — especially when you're trying to decide on the make and model — we rounded up three top-notch options that are both affordable and reliable.

1. The VPN Unlimited: Lifetime Subscription ($55.99, originally $525; store.cnn.com)

The VPN Unlimited lifetime subscription offers basic VPN protection for the whole family. Compatible with up to 10 devices at one time, this product allows you (and others) to work simultaneously and securely on public Wi-Fi, without having to worry.

Highly effective, the VPN Unlimited allows each member to connect online, surf the Web and even make online payments in a secure fashion.

This product was named PC Mag's Top VPN for 2017, won an Editor's Pick award from Software Informer for 2017, and earned Laptop Review Pro's Best VPN for Laptop for 2017.

This protection service costs less than $56 -- a small price to pay for shielding your precious financial data and identity.

2. The VPNSecure: Lifetime Subscription ($19.99, originally $450; store.cnn.com)

Another great option, the VPNSecure lifetime subscription is marketed as a way to "unlock true online privacy." How so? Essentially, the VPNSecure keeps you safe when surfing the Internet using a public connection. While other VPN products have the potential to still maintain logs on your browser activity, the VPNSecure promises that you'll surf the Web completely undetected. This is because the VPNSecure "assures that zero logs are recorded," meaning your browsing movements will remain concealed.

The big difference here comes with price. For just $20, this is a lot cheaper than many other VPNs on the market.

3. NordVPN: Two-year Subscription ($69, originally $345; store.cnn.com)

The NordVPN is the big kahuna of VPN services due to its ratings and its rare "Outstanding" rating from PC Mag.

What makes it stand out is that when Internet browsing goes through NordVPN's private tunnels, all data is double encrypted (double data SSL-based 2048-bit encryption). And it doesn't record any log while you're working online, removing another reason to stress.

Some features include secure Internet on public Wi-Fi hotspots and cellular networks, the ability to remain anonymous and bypass restrictions, and online access anywhere — with 3,521 worldwide server locations in 61 different countries.

The price of this two-year plan is a bit steeper, but the peace of mind it provides is worth it in our book.