What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a secure connection between people and devices over the Internet.

VPN definition

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN acts like a digital middleman between you and the Internet. Your Internet traffic travels through an encrypted tunnel and will look like it’s coming from the VPN server rather than your own IP address. This gives you online privacy and secures your activity on shared WiFi connections.

“A VPN acts like a digital middleman between you and the Internet.”

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What does a VPN do?

A VPN encrypts your online activity and makes it look like your Internet traffic is coming from a VPN server rather than your own IP address. By using a VPN, people can’t figure out who you are, where you are, or what you’re looking at. 

vpn

Benefits of using a VPN include:

  • Keeping your online activity private
  • Concealing your actual IP address
  • Protecting your browsing activity while on public WiFi, like in coffee shops or airports
  • Masking your online activity, making it difficult for online advertisers to track you
  • Spoofing your location by accessing the Internet using VPN servers around the world
  • Enabling you to watch streaming video content from other countries

Besides these benefits of using a VPN, employers often use VPNs to enable their employees to remotely access files and programs on a business network as if they were in the office. Additionally, some people use VPNs to bypass Internet censorship in certain countries, such as journalists or political dissidents who want to speak out safely while hiding their identity.

“By using a VPN, people can’t figure out who you are, where you are, or what you’re looking at.”

What is a VPN service?

Most VPNs for consumers are actually VPN services. With a VPN service, you don’t have to own, setup, or maintain anything. Rather, the VPN provider is responsible for the servers, the encryption, and the user authentication. The customer simply pays a subscription fee to use the VPN service.

Using a VPN service makes it easy to get started. You sign up for a subscription, download the VPN client or app, and connect to a server. There are many VPN providers, so the hardest part of the process might be selecting which one to use. It’s important to select one who is known to be trustworthy and reliable.

Malwarebytes Privacy VPN includes secure 256-bit encryption, and it uses a newer and faster VPN protocol that minimizes lag. If you’re looking for a VPN service, you can try it free and see how easily you can help protect your online privacy and secure your WiFi connection.

“With a VPN service, you don’t have to own, setup, or maintain anything.”

How do VPNs work?

When you’re connected to the Internet, all of your activity is logged and associated with your Internet Protocol or IP address. If you’re using a shared WiFi network, others on the network could see what you’re doing. Even on your home network, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can still see your activity.

Using a VPN is like creating a digital middleman between your device and the Internet that blocks others from seeing what you’re doing. When you connect to a VPN, instead of your activity being associated with your IP address, now it’s the VPN server’s IP address that is associated with your data. You might think of it like a return address: Instead of the mail coming from your home address, it’s now coming from the VPN server’s “home” address.

The data that is sent and received when you’re online is also encrypted, so besides it not coming from your own IP address, it’s also unreadable. You could think of it like sending scrambled information through a secret tunnel, and it’s not readable until it reaches its intended destination on the other side. Even if someone were to intercept the message in the tunnel, without the key, they wouldn’t be able to decipher it. Without getting too technical, the important thing to remember is that with a VPN, data is encrypted as it enters the tunnel and it’s decrypted as it leaves the tunnel using encryption keys.

How to use a VPN

Using a VPN service is an easy way to get started. If you plan to sign up with a VPN provider, the steps typically include:

  • Research VPN providers to find a reliable one you can trust.
  • Sign up for a free trial if you want to take the VPN for a test drive first, or sign up for the subscription if you’re ready to buy right away.
  • Download the VPN client for Windows or Mac, or the VPN app for Android or iOS. Many VPN providers offer subscriptions for multiple devices.
  • Select a server location, then connect!

If you want to try a VPN service now, check out Malwarebytes Privacy VPN.

Does a VPN protect you from viruses and malware?

A VPN and security software protect against different things. They are two key parts of an overall cyberprotection strategy. You might think of them working together as protection + privacy.

A VPN gives you privacy for your online activity. Security software like Malwarebytes Premium guards your devices against malware threats like viruses and ransomware.

If you’re worried you might have a virus or malware on your device, we’re here to help! Try our free virus scan and removal tools now.

Gaming VPNs

If you’re a PC gamer, you might wonder, what’s the best VPN for gaming? While using a VPN for gaming in the past may have seemed like a good way to slow you down, VPN technology has advanced. These days, you can use a VPN while gaming with minimal lag.

Malwarebytes Privacy VPN is a next-generation VPN that uses the newer and faster WireGuard protocol, and delivers speeds way faster than older VPNs. Don’t think you can use a VPN while gaming? Try Malwarebytes Privacy VPN free, and put it to the test.

VPN kill switch

A VPN kill switch is a special feature that continuously monitors your VPN connection. It automatically blocks your device or devices from the Internet when the VPN connection fails. You cannot connect to the Internet until you re-establish a link to a VPN server or deactivate the kill switch.

The kill switch feature helps protect your online privacy by blocking your IP address from being accidentally exposed. You can test a kill switch by connecting to your VPN, then opening your browser and navigating to a website. Then, disconnect from the VPN but leave the VPN app and client running. Finally, refresh the website. Your kill switch is working if the website doesn’t reload.

VPN vs. proxy

Proxy servers and VPNs are two methods that can unlock access to content in various locations around the world. A proxy is an intermediary computer between your computer and a website. When using a proxy, you connect to a website with the IP address of the proxy server. So, for example, you could use an American proxy server to try to access content available in the US from Canada. Similarly, you could use a British proxy server to browse a message board only open to IP addresses from England.

VPNs work differently. VPN technology creates a private network over a public network with encryption technology. You connect to a VPN from your device through an encrypted VPN tunnel to a VPN server. When you visit a website through a VPN, it sees the virtual IP address assigned by the VPN server instead of your real one.

You can use either a VPN service or a proxy server if you just want to mask your IP address. But if you also want to encrypt your data, use public WiFi connections more safely, enjoy better browsing speeds, then consider signing up with a reputable VPN service. Proxies have been shown to have some security concerns, and some free VPNs have as well, so a reliable, reputable VPN service may be your best bet.

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