VPN: The Ultimate Beginners Guide
VPNs are quite popular with everyone in today’s world. VPNs are not a new concept by any means, although some people think they are because they have gained widespread popularity among the common internet user community recently, but they have been in use by the corporate sector for around two decades. Although corporate users have known about their importance for a long time, everyday users have only just realized the benefits and need for using a VPN. However, many people still don’t use a VPN, most often because they still don’t know what a VPN is. Today, we will vanquish that doubt.
What is a VPN?
Now, we answer this common question that plagues the not-so tech savvy people on the internet. VPN stands for Virtual Private Networks. Whenever you access a website, your request is directed to your internet service provider’s (ISP) server, which looks for the website and then connects you to it. All your traffic passes through this server of your ISP.
When you use a VPN, you are connected to the internet through one of your VPN’s, and not your ISP’s server. The basic difference is that the traffic that passes between your system and the internet goes through this VPN server and not your ISP’s server. However, in addition to this, there are quite a few more differences in your web browsing while using a VPN.
Benefits of VPN
1. Location Privacy
For starters, your IP address changes. IP address is your identity on the internet. Every device connected to the internet is allocated an internet protocol address. This is a combination of digits, with different digits denoting different things about your connection, like your location. When you use a VPN, you are connected to its server and not your ISP’s. Your IP address now becomes the IP address of the VPN server. This means that you can mask personal information like your location by using a VPN. If you are connected to a server location in UK, then anyone looking at your IP address will think that you are using the internet from the UK. This effectively helps you keep your identity a secret.
2. Confidential Activity
Your VPN encrypts all packets that are shared between the internet and your system. This means that nobody can see what you are doing on the internet. It is common practise today for governments to keep a close eye on its citizens’ internet activity in the name of national security, but it is a violation of your privacy first. VPNs will encrypt your connection so that anything that you do on the internet remains confidential. This is especially important when you wish to share sensitive information like your bank account details. You might be making an online purchase which would require you to give your card details. Since VPNs encrypt your connection, the information is coded so that nobody can see what it is even if the packets are intercepted by anyone in transit.
3. Online Protection
There are many attack vectors at the disposal of malicious users today. They keep coming up with more methods to infect your systems and cause problems for you. While earlier hackers focused primarily on stealing your money, hackers today are after your personal information. Using a VPN keeps your personal information secret. You remain anonymous on the internet and your activity is confidential when you use a VPN. Moreover, VPNs provide you with a secure communication channel to share sensitive information. Apart from this, many VPNs also offer protection from attacks like DDoS and offer an NAT firewall to block malicious traffic from making its way to your system.
VPN Uses for Everyday Users
1. Private Browsing
We mentioned earlier that VPNs encrypt your connection so that nobody can see what you are doing. Your ISP or anyone else can only see that you are connected to a VPN. Nothing else is visible to them. This helps in protecting your activity from being spied on and your identity being stolen. Malicious users on public Wi-Fi networks often steal users’ personal information for identity theft purposes.
2. Help Bypass Blocks
This is also an important use for common users of VPN today. Many countries censor the internet in their region heavily. Countries like China do not allow people to access common websites and services like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Skype, YouTube, etc. They prevent their citizens from being exposed to external ideas and also to prevent them from spreading internal news outside their country. VPNs help people enjoy freedom on the internet in such countries as people can connect to foreign servers to bypass these blocks. Internet filtering works by looking at the user’s IP address, so if the user is not found to be from the country, they can access the website they want to, thus effectively defeating the government’s internet blocks.
The problem of geo-restriction can be solved in a similar way. Geo-restriction prevents people from accessing services like Netflix from outside their country despite having a valid subscription. This is quite frustration for frequent travellers and expats. But all they need to do is use a VPN and connect to a server in their home country to bypass geo-restriction.
3. Accessing UK Based Services from Abroad
A few online services require you to have a UK IP address to be able to access them.. With a UK based VPN, you can access these kind of services from whenever you are in the world. You may be living abroad, or simply travelling abroad. Thanks to your VPN, you will always be able to access geo-restricted services.
We hope you have a good understanding of what is a VPN after going through this article. Many people still don’t know what is meant by a VPN, and are obviously missing out on making their internet browsing much better and safer. VPNs are not free, and they will reduce your connection speed to some degree, but these are menial trade-offs in comparison to what they have to offer.
Imagine walking in your city and having someone following you and constantly looking at your goings and doings each day. That is what happens on the internet when you are not using a VPN. Surely, this is something nobody wants.