VPN – Virtual private network
The initials of VPN stand for the term virtual private network and are a technology that creates a secure, encrypted connection over a less secure network like the Internet. The goal and simple concept of a virtual private network are that users can access a private network (and thus individual computers and servers in a private network) from a remote point. unsecured outside this network without compromising the security of the private network itself.
The advantage is that it offers security that the network on which it is based cannot and that it also uses the Internet to transport data. Many such networks can be created with various systems that incorporate encryption and other security mechanisms to ensure that only authorized users can access the network and that information cannot be intercepted by others. It’s like a tunnel created to transfer data between a corporate network and a remote user. It hides your data and your IP address.
Have you ever connected to a public Wi-Fi network and wondered if someone out there can see your activity online? This is perfectly reasonable given the forces that are being used against your privacy. With a virtual private network (VPN) you can protect your information from prying eyes and regain some privacy online.
How Does the VPN Work and what is its importance?
When you enable it, a VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server that is managed by a VPN service. All internet traffic is routed through this tunnel, so your data is protected from prying eyes while on the move. Since your traffic is leaving the VPN server, your computer will appear to have the server’s IP address, which will mask your identity and location.
To understand the value of a VPN, it is helpful to think about certain scenarios in which a VPN could be used. Think of the public Wi-Fi network, perhaps in a coffee shop or at an airport. Usually, you can sign up without thinking. But do you know who might be monitoring traffic on this network? Can you even be sure that the Wi-Fi network is legitimate, or could it have been exploited by a thief looking for your personal information? Think of passwords, bank details, credit card numbers, and just the private information that you give out every time you log in.
When you connect to the same public Wi-Fi network through a VPN, you can be sure that no one on that network can intercept your data and no other user is looking for potential victims or even network operators yourself. This last point is especially important, and everyone should keep in mind that it is very difficult to tell whether a Wi-Fi network is what it seems or not.
When you are at home, you don’t have to worry so much about someone spying on the Wi-Fi network because you own the network. A VPN can also help here. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has a thorough understanding of your online activities. This means that the company you pay to access the internet makes money from your data.
Companies like Google and Facebook make money from your online behavior, but they don’t necessarily have to use these services. If you suddenly decide to stop using Facebook, you might miss photos of cute animals and political abuse from friends and family, but you could still have a decent, perhaps better, life. You don’t always have a choice when it comes to your ISP controlling your home’s gateway to the entire Internet.
There are alternatives to Google and Facebook, and most Americans have limited ISP alternatives. Some areas, such as New York City, only have one ISP that provides wired Internet access. This makes the recent changes that allow ISPs to sell their customers’ data all the more problematic. It is one thing to choose a shady system; it is another to have no choice.
With a VPN you can connect to a server in another country and “spoof” your location. If you are outside of the US, you can return VPN to a familiar location and access the internet as normal (mostly). You can also do it the other way around: you can go to a remote VPN server from the comfort of your home to potentially access streaming videos that are not available in the US.
VPNs can also grant access to blocked websites. Some governments have decided that it is in their best interest to block access to certain websites for all members of the population. With a VPN, it is possible to tunnel to another country with more advanced policies and access to websites that would otherwise be blocked. Because VPNs encrypt web traffic, they also protect the identity of people who connect to the open internet in this way.
Do I need a VPN on all of my devices?
Of course, you need a VPN on all of your devices. VPN clients are largely the same for Windows and macOS. This isn’t always the case, however, and I’ve noticed significant differences in performance depending on the platform. I’ve shared reviews of Mac VPN apps in case you prefer fruit over Windows.
The situation is a little more difficult for mobile devices. Most companies offer VPN apps for Android and iPhones, which is great as we use these devices to connect to Wi-Fi all the time. VPNs don’t always work well on cellular connections, but intercepting data from cell phones takes serious effort. However, law enforcement or intelligence agencies can facilitate access to this data or metadata through connections with cellular operators or with the help of special devices.
What a VPN can’t do
It should be noted that most VPN services are not philanthropic organizations working for the common good. While many are involved in progressive causes, they are still non-profits. This means they have to pay their own bills. They must also obey the laws of the country they officially reside in and respond to subpoenas and law enforcement orders.
This is why it is so important to read the privacy policies of VPN services and know where a VPN company’s headquarters are located. NordVPN, for example, operates out of Panama and is not subject to any law that requires the storage of user data.
A VPN can be defeated by malware on your device or by analyzing traffic patterns to correlate activity on your computer with activity on the VPN server. However, by using security tools like a VPN, you ensure that you are not an easy target or get caught up in mass surveillance.
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