What is a Virtual Private Network: A Guide on Everything to Know

by Klaus on September 26, 2019

in Articles

If you are wondering what a virtual private network is and how it works, you should check out this guide on everything to know.

You’re not giving in to email phishing scams, you have a strong password, and you’re not using sketchy websites. Still, those aren’t enough when it comes to protecting your identity and data.

In 2018 alone, hackers stole 447 million consumer data, and there’s a high chance your data is one of them. That’s a new record; the report even says that data breach is now an average daily occurrence.

The point is that your data is not safe, but companies handling your data are doing what they can to protect it. Still, you must do your part, too, and you can do it by using a virtual private network.

What is it and how does it keep you safe? Learn all about it below.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, which stands for Virtual Private Network, protects your connections from privy eyes. It adds privacy and security to the network by encrypting all of your internet traffic.

In basic terms, it’s a set of servers you connect to before you connect to the internet. We call this process tunneling, which then allows you to use the servers as your virtual home. 

This virtual home offers a secure space in which all the data sent and received have a high degree of privacy.

How a Virtual Private Network Works

The basis of VPN’s security is encryption, like the other security measures deployed throughout the internet. But, before we discuss how VPN works, let us first give you an idea of how the internet works.

When you visit websites and use apps, your device communicates with different servers. Your data and information then become exposed because these servers store everything you’re trying to access, like websites and digital content. If someone were to intercept the traffic or hack these servers, they get access to your data.

A VPN prevents that by encrypting all the data that comes and goes through your connection. It makes the data unreadable except for the authorized device that has the key to unlock it. In this case, that’s your device.

Even if hackers hijack the connection, all they’ll get is a string of numbers they can’t decode.

How Does a VPN Protect You

A VPN looks good, but how does it help you in real life? In what situations can it become useful? Well, it’s useful in about anything you do on the internet, but let’s break it down below.

1. It Helps You Connect to Public Without Worry

You can use this connection method to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots, which are a high risk to your data security. Hackers often target the flimsy connection of a device to a public Wi-Fi network.

Remember that you send and receive data as you’re using the internet. This is what hackers can have access to when they intercept the traffic. You won’t even notice it’s happening.

So let’s say you were buying something online and typing in your credit card details, the hackers “listening” in on your device can get that information. They can also get your login credentials to any website you log onto.

They can also set up a rogue network posing as free Wi-Fi. If you connect to it, they can attack your device and obtain your information.

That’s not the only risk public Wi-Fi networks sport, though. They can also inject viruses, worms, and malware into your device.

2. It Allows You to Access Blocked Websites

If there are websites you’d like to access that a higher power – like the government or your school administrators – isn’t allowing you to use a VPN.

As we’ve explained above, VPN’s servers become your virtual home through tunneling. This means that you can use it to access a blocked website from a location where it isn’t blocked.

For example, you want to access Facebook from school. All you have to do is use a VPN to move your virtual location somewhere that isn’t school. This then allows you to access Facebook.

This also works with region-specific content on websites like YouTube and Netflix. If you want to access the Netflix’s U.S. movie and TV catalogue, use a VPN to “pretend” to be in the U.S. Likewise, if you connect to a server in the U.K., you can enjoy what its citizens are enjoying.

3. It Hides What You’re Doing from Your ISP

Did you know that your internet service provider tracks your activity on the internet? They can see all the data and information you’re exchanging with websites. It can see what shows you’re watching, for instance.

A VPN hides all these things from your ISP. At most, they can also see the internet address you’re connected to. Beyond that, however, is all gibberish to them.

This also allows you to bypass the restrictions imposed by your ISP, including websites they’ve blocked. Furthermore, they can’t throttle your connection speeds if you happen to be accessing too much online content.

Some users have reported their ISPs doing it, but we’re not saying all of them do this practice. If your ISP is one that does this, though, it’s not a concern anymore with a VPN. Since they can’t see what you’re doing, they can’t assess if you’re accessing too much content.

4. It Hides Your Real Address

That said, your ISP and everyone else can’t see your address. Your weird watching habits are safe; no one will be able to trace the traffic back to your device.

That’s to say that this is normal without a VPN. The website you’re connecting to, your ISP, and the government can see your IP address. That’s why the FBI can visit anyone violating the federal laws.

VPN providers give the same IP address to several people connecting to it. If someone were to snoop, they still won’t be able to pinpoint one user from all the others. 

A VPN isn’t an accessory to crimes, though. Whatever you do that’s illegal without a VPN is still illegal with a VPN.

Learn More About Internet Safety

Many people are unaware of the dangers of the internet, and that’s what hackers are taking advantage of. Even if you think you’re well-versed in the internet, wrongdoers will always find a new weakness to exploit.

Arm yourself with a virtual private network. However, make sure you choose the right one that offers a high level of encryption protection. Learn more about it by reading our other blogs.

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