WHAT IS VPN

A virtual private network, or VPN, is a technology that allows you to establish a secure and private connection to the Internet. Download free privacy VPN here to protect your data from hackers and cyber threats. 

Learn more about VPN below. 

What is VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. It allows users to establish a secure and private connection to the internet. A VPN can be used to secure connection between devices to encrypt the transmitted data and send it through a secure tunnel. This ensures a higher level of privacy as well as decreases exposure to cyber threats. VPN essentially 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 digital activity - which is very important especially if you are using a public Wi-Fi or a shared Wi-Fi connection. 

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

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How does a VPN 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.

The process of establishing a VPN connection is relatively straightforward. When a user connects to a VPN server, the VPN client software on their device initiates a handshake with the server. During this process, the client and server exchange keys to establish an encrypted connection.

Once the connection is established, all data transmitted between the client and server is encrypted and cannot be intercepted by third parties. This includes data sent over public networks, such as Wi-Fi hotspots or cellular networks.

how does a vpn work diagram

Benefits of Using a VPN

There are several benefits to using a VPN, including:

  • Security: As mentioned, one of the primary benefits of a VPN is the added security it provides. By encrypting all data transmitted between the client and server, a VPN helps to protect sensitive information from being intercepted by hackers or cybercriminals.

  • Privacy: In addition to security, a VPN also helps to protect users' privacy by masking their IP addresses. This makes it difficult for third parties, such as ISPs or government agencies, to track a user's online activities.

  • Access to Restricted Content: In some cases, a VPN can also help users access content that may be restricted in their geographic location. By connecting to a VPN server in a different location, users can bypass content filters and gain access to websites or services that may otherwise be blocked.

  • Improved Online Performance: A VPN can also improve a user's online performance by reducing the risk of connection throttling and buffering. This is especially useful for users who rely on streaming services, such as Netflix or Hulu, or for those who engage in online gaming.

Choosing the Right VPN

When it comes to selecting a VPN, it's important to consider a few key factors. These include:

  • Security Protocols: Look for a VPN that uses strong security protocols, such as OpenVPN or IKEv2, to ensure that your data is properly encrypted and protected.

  • Server Locations: Consider the number and locations of servers available through the VPN. This can be especially important if you need to access content that is restricted in your location or if you want to optimize your connection for streaming or gaming.

  • Logging Policies: Make sure to review the logging policies of any VPN you are considering. A no-logs policy is generally the most secure option, as it means that the VPN does not keep any record of your online activities.

Why use a VPN connection?

A VPN service can provide many uses, such as covering your IP address from the prying address of trolls, hackers, businesses, and governments, whether you’re using a personal or public WiFi connection. Likewise, connecting to the Internet via a VPN’s encrypted server improves your security from such entities. An interesting benefit of changing your IP address is that you can change your location.

So, what is the purpose of a VPN? Well, not every person uses a VPN for the same thing. Here are a few common reasons people use Virtual Private Networks:

Remote working security 

It’s not a coincidence that cyberattacks have increased as more companies have embraced remote working. To shield remote workers from online attacks, many businesses are signing up for corporate VPN accounts. The good news for workers in this situation is that they don’t have to worry about paying for a VPN service, with their employers signing them up for one.

Public WiFi security 

While it’s convenient to use the Internet connection at the shopping mall, airport, restaurant or park, such connections can be less secure and vulnerable to a Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) or a fake WiFi hotspot attack. Using a VPN secures users from such attacks.

Video streaming 

Streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and others can limit access by your IP address. This isn’t ideal if you’re traveling or live in a country with limited entertainment options. By leveraging a VPN to spoof your location, you can circumvent geo-blocks and access different TV shows, movies, and even video games. 

Some gamers and streamers utilize VPNs to cover their IP addresses in the wake of escalating doxxing and swatting attacks. However, some gamers worry about the impact of a VPN on their gaming performance. So, does a VPN slow down internet speeds? The answer may surprise you.

Online shopping and banking

Payment platforms like PayPal may use geo-blocks to restrict access to users in certain countries, blocking legitimate users from their accounts, such as travelers. A VPN can help you bypass these blocks and access your account. A VPN may also help you get better deals from websites that offer different prices based on IP addresses.

Evading censorship 

Internet users in countries with restrictions on freedom of speech sometimes have success accessing censored content, such as news stories, with the help of VPNs. Citizens, activists, and journalists in nations with draconian laws also use VPNs to cover their tracks on the Internet and stay safe.

Concealing your actual IP address 

With the right tools, a curious entity such as a stalker, hacker, or online troll can find your general geographical location through your IP address. Covering your actual IP address with a virtual one protects your location.

Spoofing your location 

Spoofing your location by using VPN servers around the world is an excellent way to confuse anyone spying on you. Whether it's your government frowning at you for speaking your mind on the Internet or an advertising algorithm interested in where you’re connected from, location spoofing can throw snoopers off your back.

Secure transfer of data

Businesses are insisting that remote workers connect to corporate resources with VPNs for data security. A VPN’s end-to-end security protects sensitive data, such as intellectual property, from hackers.

Besides these benefits of using a VPN connection, 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 identities.

“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 or a VPN app, 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 to set and use 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

Types of VPN 

Remote access VPN 

A remote access VPN allows remote workers to securely use data and software located on their company’s premises. With a remote access VPN, employees can securely access an enterprise network like an intranet without the risks associated with public Internet exposure.  

Personal VPN 

A personal VPN connection is designed to serve an individual instead of a business. Personal VPNs protect users from eavesdropping and support leisure-related activities. Compare this to a business VPN that helps users securely use a company’s resources from a remote location.  

Site-to-see VPN 

A Virtual Private Network connection between two or more networks, such as a hub and a data center, is a site-to-site VPN. For example, an office may secure its traffic by using a site-to-site VPN between its various branches across the city.

VPN configuration 

A configuration allows you to customize your Virtual Private Network service to suit your needs. VPN configuration settings may allow you to:

  • Select a device.
  • Pick a server location.
  • Choose a VPN protocol.
  • Configure the login credentials.
  • And more.

VPNs for different devices 

Mobile VPN

Initially, VPN services were offered on computers such as desktops and laptops. However, VPNs are now popular on mobile devices as more users use smartphones to consume entertainment, browse the Internet, and conduct sensitive transactions. VPN apps in mobile protect smartphones, tablets, and even wearable devices.

Computer VPN

Technically, any electronic machine that can store and process data is a computer. But we commonly refer to computers as machines like desktops and laptops that run operating systems such as Windows or macOS. A VPN on a computer protects your security and privacy by utilizing a tunneling protocol like WireGuard to create a fast and secure connection between your system and a VPN server.

VPN for iPhone 

There’s a widespread misconception that Apple products such as the iPhone are hacker-proof. Although Apple products are more secure than Android because of Apple’s more guarded nature, they’re still vulnerable to hackers on unsecured networks and malware. For instance, the world’s most coveted spyware Pegasus can expose an iPhone user’s messages, location, pictures, videos, and much more to a threat actor. Although a VPN won’t stop spyware from entering your iPhone, it can hide your location and prevent threat actors from monitoring you to some extent. A VPN for iPhone bolsters your security by encrypting the traffic between your device and the Internet while also hiding your IP address.

VPN for iPad

 Although the iPhone and iPad are devices with different form factors, they face many of the same threats because they use the same operating system. A VPN on iPad devices is designed to shield user privacy from websites and marketers and security from hackers, data snoopers, and other threat actors.

VPN for Android

A VPN helps Android devices securely access the Internet. Android already includes a baked-in VPN client, but devices with Android 4.0 or higher can use VPN Android apps to access VPN services with a more user-friendly configuration and utilize VPN protocols that the baked-in client doesn’t support.

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 vs. proxy server 

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, and 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.

The future of VPNs 

Personal VPNs will continue to climb in popularity as users gain awareness of increasing threats to their privacy and security. Additionally, as streaming sites and ecommerce pages continue to discriminate users by their IP addresses, VPNs will remain a popular way to equalize the playing field.

VPNs will also be needed by businesses that won’t or can’t shift to modern cloud-based computing environments. However, VPNs may lose popularity with organizations that adopt enterprise-level security, cutting-edge web-based applications, and zero-trust security architecture.

VPN news 

Android and iOS VPN leak

5 common VPN myths busted

VPNs are mainstream, which is good news

VPN usage is increasing, says December 2020 survey

300 shades of gray: a look into free mobile VPN apps

Malvertising on iOS pushes eyebrow-raising VPN app

Podcast: Mythbusting and understanding VPNs with JP Taggart

Podcast: Why you need to trust your VPN

FAQs

The encrypted link between your system and the outside network is called a Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel. The level of protection your VPN tunnel offers depends on the tunnelling protocol. Older protocols, such as Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), aren’t as secure as modern ones, such as OpenVPN or WireGuard.

OpenVPN is a popular VPN system that uses open-source encryption technology. It’s known for its high level of security, configurability, and support. However, OpenVPN is losing market share to newer technologies like WireGuard. Not only is WireGuard just as secure, but it is faster and manages network changes better.

Your ISP assigns a unique string of characters to your computers and devices called an IP address. Websites may link your IP address to your activities on the Internet. Law enforcement, hackers, and other entities can use your IP address to trace you. When you connect to the Internet via a VPN, you appear to use the VPN server’s IP address instead of your actual one. Some people refer to your virtual IP address as a VPN number. However, this term is a bit of a misnomer because modern IP addresses are typically strings of different characters rather than numbers.

VPN protection is the set of security and privacy advantages users gain by using a VPN. A user gains security with a VPN through its encryption features. Users also gain privacy because a VPN server covers their virtual location with its own IP address.

A VPN router is a kind of routing device that enables network communications in a Virtual Private Network setting. It’s like a regular router, except its firmware allows it to manage VPN connections and allow devices to use the VPN service. VPN routers are popular in small businesses because they’re low-maintenance. They are also portable and can be installed in any environment with an Internet connection.

A VPN concentrator allows an organization to connect several remote networks and clients like workstations, mobile devices, and IoT services to a corporate network. VPN concentrators are best for large companies because upkeep can be high. A VPN router is more cost-effective for fewer users.

SSL VPN stands for Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Network. An SSL VPN allows Internet-connected devices to create a secure remote access VPN with a web browser. It uses end-to-end encryption to shield data between endpoint client software and the SSL VPN server.

Although some people say “VPN network”, the term is redundant because the “N” in “VPN” already stands for Network. So, what is a VPN? A Virtual Private Network is a service that shields your online security and privacy by creating an encrypted connection and masking your virtual location.

When you use a VPN service, you use the VPN’s software to connect to the Internet through a VPN server instead of directly through your ISP. So what is a VPN server, and what does a VPN server do? Well, a VPN server is a kind of server that hosts and delivers Virtual Private Network Services to remote or local clients. It allows users to pretend that they’re connecting from a VPN server instead of their ISP’s server. Websites see a VPN server’s IP address instead of a VPN user’s actual address.

A VPN service provider is an entity that controls your VPN service. They offer the software on your computer or the app on your phone that encrypts the connection between your system and the Internet. They also own the servers that cover your IP address with a virtual one. 

Selecting a top VPN provider is essential. Some VPN providers use outdated technology, while others are known to spy on users or sell their bandwidth. For the best results, pick a reputable VPN provider that uses the latest VPN protocol and doesn’t document user activity.

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.

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