VPN or Virtual Private Network is a cross-platform software that allows you to securely browse the web and bypass geo-restrictions by encrypting your network traffic over public and private internet connections.
When you connect to a VPN server, your internet traffic gets routed through an encrypted tunnel that nobody can poke through, including hackers and even your internet service provider.
Too technical for you?
In other words, a VPN can be compared to an invisibility cloak that can hide your true identity and allow you to get anywhere without getting caught.
Because of growing privacy concerns and increasing online censorship, VPN demand has skyrocketed. More and more people nowadays are using VPNs to gain access to restricted websites and overcome internet censorship.
While I hope you now have some basic idea of “What is a VPN”, I’m still going to go all in to this topic and talk about everything there is to know about VPNs.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN works by creating a virtual private tunnel between you and the internet. Everything you do online goes through the encrypted tunnel preventing outsiders from knowing what’s going on inside.
Picture James Bond escaping from bad guys chasing him with a helicopter. To escape the clutches of the bad guys, Bond drives his car into a tunnel and escapes. A VPN work in a similar manner.
Aside from just tunneling all your network traffic, a VPN masks your original IP address and assigns you a different IP address that can’t be traced back to you.
You can pick and choose any server location of your choice and virtually appear anywhere in the world. Doing so, you can anonymously access all geo-blocked content on the internet.
What is a VPN server?
A VPN server is like a middle man that sits between you and the internet. Instead of you accessing whatever website you want to visit with your original IP address, the VPN server does everything for you, leaving your identity totally anonymous.
Normally, when you’re not connected to a VPN server, all your incoming and outgoing network traffic goes through your ISP. This allows your internet service provider to see everything you’re doing online. And since your data is not encrypted, hackers can get a hold of it and wreak all sorts of havoc.
Even if just your IP address gets stolen by a hacker, he/she can then locate your actual geolocation and threaten you in one way or another. Just head over to www.infosniper.net and you’ll see how easy it is to find someone’s actual home address through their IP address.
But when you connect to an encrypted VPN server, your original IP address gets masked and your VPN service provider assigns you another IP. This prevents everyone other than you from figuring out your online activities.
What is a VPN app?
A VPN app is basically a small software that you install on your phone, laptop, router, or other compatible devices. Once you have it installed, you can use the VPN app to mask your original IP address and spoof your geolocation to access all sorts of blocked websites securely and anonymously.
Most VPN providers nowadays offer cross-platform apps. This means that you’ll be able to install the VPN apps offered by your VPN service provider on platforms like Windows, iOS, Android, macOS, Linux, and more.
Types of VPN
VPN services can be mainly categorized into two types, Remote Access VPN and Site-to-Site VPN. The VPNs that you and I use every day to watch Netflix or browse the web securely fall into the category of Remote Access VPNs. Site-to-site VPNs on the other hand are commonly used by businesses to allow employees to connect to their organization’s network remotely.
Now, I’m going to go into too much detail here because we’ve already covered a complete guide explaining different types of VPNs, feel free to check it out.
What does a VPN hide?
A VPN can hide a lot of personally identifiable information about you and make you pretty much invisible on the internet. To give you a better idea of what I’m talking about, let’s check out three things a VPN can help you hide.
Hides your online activities
When everything you do online gets passed through an encrypted VPN tunnel, no one outside the tunnel can see what you’re up to online. Once you connect to a VPN server and your IP address gets masked, not even your internet service provider will be able to trace your online activities back to you.
Hides your IP address and geolocation
Think of your IP address as your home address. If anyone knows your IP address or intercepts it online, they can explicitly tell what you do online and trace your activities back to your actual home address.
But when you use a VPN, your VPN service provider assigns you a different IP address that doesn’t belong to you. By doing this, no matter what you do online, no one will be able to trace your activities back to you.
Hides your location so you can stream freely
Some streaming services and channels only work in certain countries. Hulu for example only works in the U.S. If you travel outside the country, you won’t be able to watch any content because of annoying licensing issues. But with a VPN, you can connect to any server location of your choice and virtually appear anywhere in the world. This will allow you to unblock any streaming service you can imagine.
Why do I need a VPN?
A VPN has a ton of use cases. People use it for all kinds of reasons. Mostly, people use VPNs to bypass geo-blocks. You may want to use a VPN if you want to unblock U.S Netflix or other such streaming services.
Similarly, if you’re into torrenting, you might want to use a VPN to prevent your ISP from throttling your internet connection or sending your DMCA notices.
If you frequently connect to unsecured public Wi-Fi connections, using a VPN to encrypt your internet traffic can be a no brainer. Doing so, you can prevent would-be hackers from stealing your private information. These are some of the reasons why you should consider using a VPN.
Why is online privacy important?
Online privacy is super important nowadays. According to statistics, hackers attack every 39 seconds at an average of 2,244 times per day. That’s super scary.
Even you like to think that no one will ever target, there always a chance that you can become a victim of a gruesome cyber attack. I say this because on average, 300,000 new malware is created every day. Hackers are constantly thinking of new ways to target their prey.
When hackers get a hold of your IP address, they can locate your geo-location, find out where you live or where you work, and then plan a strategy to steal as much from you as possible. If you still haven’t started using a VPN, maybe it’s about time that you at least consider getting one before its too late.
Are VPNs legal?
Yes, in most parts of the world, VPNs are totally legal to use. But do keep in mind that anything that’s illegal without using a VPN is still going to be illegal even after using a VPN. For instance, downloading pirated content, cyberstalking, or threatening someone online.
While VPNs are legal in a lot of countries, some countries like China, Russia, Iraq, and North Korea don’t allow their citizens to use VPNs. People who are caught using one might have to pay hefty fines. For example, a man in China got fined up to 15,000 yuan (US$2,142) for using a VPN.
How to choose a VPN?
So, now that you know what a VPN is, let’s talk about some of the pointers you should keep in mind when you choose any VPN service to use. Here’s what you should look out for:
Which VPNs do I recommend?
Since there are hundreds of VPN providers in the market, picking just one is not easy. To recommend my top 6 favorite VPN providers in 2020, I used my in-depth testing criteria.
You can check out my testing criteria and detailed descriptions of all six providers in my best VPN blog.
Are there any alternative to VPNs?
The one alternative you can use instead of a VPN is Tor. Tor or “The Onion Router”, is a free network of servers that randomly routes your internet traffic through different nodes to hide the origin of the data source.
Even though Tor offers great anonymity, its biggest drawback is speed. Since Tor routes your traffic through several hops, it is not ideal for streaming, downloading, or torrenting. Considering this, a VPN is still the best option for online privacy.
So there you have it. I hope you now know everything about what is a VPN. Considering how difficult it has gotten to stay safe online in today’s day and age, a VPN is an essential piece of software to have on all your devices.
If you still haven’t purchased a VPN, you’re seriously risking your privacy. So what are waiting for? Go and grab a VPN subscription today and browse the web securely.
If you have any questions, leave them in the comments below and I’ll make sure to get back to you as soon as possible.
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