VPN stands for Virtual Private Network - it is a technology which establishes a secure connection. VPN encrypts your online traffic in real time, allowing you to establish a private connection to the Internet. You can choose your desired location and browse as if you were in another city, country or even another part of the world. This ensures a higher level of privacy as well as decreases exposure to cyber threats. 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 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.”
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.
“By using a VPN, people can’t figure out who you are, where you are, or what you’re looking at.”
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.
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.
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. If you're not sure what your IP address is and how to look it up - What is IP address.
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.
The History of VPNs
Predecessors of VPNs
The concept of connecting remote devices over a network is not new. In the 1970s, the first wide-area networks (WANs) were developed, allowing organizations to connect computers across large distances. One of the earliest methods for remote connectivity was dial-up connections, where users would establish a connection with a remote server using a modem and a telephone line. This allowed users to access resources on a remote network, but it was slow, expensive, and not very secure.
In the 1990s, as the internet became more widespread, companies began to use leased lines to connect their branch offices to a central network. This provided faster speeds than dial-up connections, but it was still expensive and required a lot of maintenance.
Early VPN technology
In the late 1990s, a new technology called Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) emerged. VPNs allowed users to connect to a private network over the public internet, using encryption to keep their data secure. This made it much easier and more cost-effective to connect remote workers to a central network, as they could now use the public internet instead of expensive leased lines.
The first VPN protocol was called Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), which was developed by Microsoft in 1996. PPTP allowed users to create a secure connection between their computer and a remote server, using a username and password for authentication.
Another early VPN protocol was Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), which was developed by Microsoft and Cisco in 1999. L2TP was a more secure protocol than PPTP, as it used encryption to protect data in transit.
Today, VPNs are used by individuals and organizations all over the world to protect their online privacy and security. Modern VPNs use a range of encryption protocols, including OpenVPN, IPSec, and WireGuard, to create secure connections over the internet.
What are the Different Types of VPN
There are several types of VPNs, each with its own unique characteristics and use cases. The main types of VPNs are:
Remote Access VPN: This type of VPN is used by individuals or employees to connect to a company's network from a remote location, such as a home office or a coffee shop. Remote Access VPNs use encryption and authentication to secure the connection between the user and the company's network.
Site-to-Site VPN: This type of VPN is used to connect two or more networks together, such as a company's headquarters and its branch offices. Site-to-Site VPNs create a secure and encrypted connection between the networks, allowing users to access resources and communicate with each other securely.
Intranet VPN: An Intranet VPN is used to create a private network within a company's internal network. This type of VPN allows employees to access company resources securely and privately from within the network.
Extranet VPN: An Extranet VPN is used to create a secure and private connection between a company and its partners, suppliers, or customers. This type of VPN is used to share sensitive information securely between different organizations.
Mobile VPN: A Mobile VPN is used to provide secure and encrypted connections for mobile devices, such as smartphones or tablets. Mobile VPNs are often used by remote workers who need to access company resources securely from their mobile devices.
SSL VPN: An SSL VPN uses the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) protocol to create a secure and encrypted connection between a user and a remote network. SSL VPNs are often used to provide remote access to web-based applications and services.
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.
How to Use a VPN on Various Devices
How to use a VPN on my computer
Choose a VPN provider: First, you need to choose a VPN provider that meets your needs. There are many VPN providers available, so make sure to research and compare their features, prices, and user reviews before choosing one. It's also worth doing a trial and figuring out if you do like the product. Malwarebytes offers a highly rated Privacy VPN which you can try for free for 7 days.
Download and install the VPN software: Once you have chosen a VPN provider, you can download and install their software on your computer. You can usually find the download link on the provider's website or in the app store of your device.
Launch the VPN software: After the software is installed, launch the VPN client on your computer.
Log in: Enter your VPN account credentials, such as your username and password, to log in to the VPN software.
Choose a server: Once you are logged in, you will typically be presented with a list of servers to choose from. Select a server location to connect to. The location you choose will determine your virtual location and the IP address assigned to your computer.
Connect to the VPN: Click the connect button to establish a connection to the VPN server. Once connected, your computer will be protected by the VPN's encryption, and your internet traffic will be routed through the VPN server.
Verify the connection: You can verify that you are connected to the VPN by checking your IP address and location. There are many websites that can provide this information, such as WhatIsMyIPAddress.com.
Free VPN trial here.
How to use a VPN on my smartphone or tablet
When you choose a VPN provider for your computer, they will likely offer a VPN app for your other devices such as your phone and tablet. Many VPN providers offer cross-platform support, meaning you can use their service on multiple devices with one account.
For example, Malwarebytes, offers VPN apps for all device types, including Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android. Once you have signed up for our VPN service, you can simply download the app for your specific device, log in with your account credentials, and connect to a VPN server to secure your internet connection and protect your online privacy.
Using a VPN app on your phone or tablet can be especially useful when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, as these networks are often unsecured and can be vulnerable to hackers.
How to use a VPN on your smartphone
As mentioned earlier, VPN connections are also available for Android smartphones and iPhones, and they are generally easy to use. To set up a VPN on your smartphone, follow these steps:
Choose a reputable VPN provider: While there are free VPN providers available, it's recommended to choose a professional provider for better security and privacy.
Download and install the VPN app: Install the app from the iOS App Store or Google Play Store.
Log in to your account: Once the app is installed, log in to your VPN account.
Basic setup: The default settings are usually designed for the average smartphone user. The app will guide you through the key functions of the VPN services.
Turn on the VPN: Most VPN apps offer a simple on/off switch on the home screen.
Switch servers: If you want to change your virtual location, select the desired country from the list of available servers.
Advanced setup: If you require a higher degree of data protection, you can select other protocols for your encryption method, depending on the VPN you're using. Additionally, some VPN apps offer diagnostic and other advanced features that you can explore before subscribing.
Activate the VPN connection: Once you have completed the setup, activate the VPN connection through the app to ensure safe browsing.
How to use a VPN on TV
Many modern Smart TVs allow you to download a VPN app directly from their on-board app stores. For example, TVs that run Android TV will support VPN Android apps. If your TV doesn’t support a VPN app, use a router with baked-in VPN support or program your router with your VPN settings to use VPN on your TV. Alternatively, try plugging a streaming stick with VPN software into your TV’s HDMI port.
How to use a VPN on Netflix
Using a VPN to watch Netflix can be straightforward or challenging, depending on your device. If your device’s operating system, like Windows, macOS, iOS, or Android, supports a VPN app, download, activate, and run your VPN to watch Netflix from a different location. Alternatively, use a VPN router or program your router to use your VPN settings.
How to use a VPN for gaming
How to use a VPN on PS4 or PS5
If you want to know how to use a VPN on PS4 or PS5 consoles, you may be in for a challenging journey. There are no VPN apps you can download from the Sony PlayStation Store. Here are some options you can try:
Use a Wi-Fi router with baked-in VPN support.
Enter your VPN information manually into your router.
Connect your Sony console to your PC via Ethernet and activate Internet connection sharing on your PC.
How to use a VPN on Xbox
For many players, Xbox Ones are more than gaming consoles; they’re entertainment units. While a VPN may slightly slow down an Internet connection, it allows gamers to play titles unavailable in their region or consume digital entertainment content from another country.
But you’ll have to put in some effort if you want to know how to use a VPN on Xbox One or an older Microsoft console, as there are no VPN apps you can download. Here are some options you can try:
Use a Wi-Fi router with baked-in VPN support.
Enter your VPN information manually into your router.
Connect your Xbox to your PC via Ethernet and activate Internet connection sharing on your PC.
How to use a VPN to change location
If you want to learn how to use a VPN to change location — simply connect to a VPN server with a different IP address than yours. You’ll appear to be connecting to the Internet from the VPN server’s location instead of yours, which can be a different city or country. Using this method, you can potentially unlock new entertainment content by bypassing geoblocks.
Can you trust a VPN connection
Using a VPN can provide an additional layer of security and privacy for your online activities, but whether or not a VPN is truly secure depends on several factors.The strength of the encryption used by the VPN provider is a critical factor. Most VPNs use a combination of encryption protocols to secure the connection between the user's device and the VPN server. The most common encryption protocols used by VPNs are OpenVPN, IPSec, and WireGuard. These protocols use advanced encryption algorithms to ensure that the data being transmitted is secure and protected from prying eyes.
The physical security of the VPN server is another important factor. A VPN server can be vulnerable to physical attacks or breaches if it is not properly secured. Good VPN providers like Malwarebytes take steps to secure their servers, such as using multi-factor authentication, firewalls, and other security measures.
Finally, it's important to note that no VPN is 100% secure. While a VPN can provide an additional layer of security and privacy, it is still possible for a determined attacker to compromise a VPN connection. However, using a reputable VPN provider can significantly reduce the risk of such attacks.
In conclusion, using a VPN is an essential tool for safeguarding your online privacy and security. It allows you to browse the internet securely, without worrying about anyone monitoring your online activities. However, using a VPN alone is not enough to protect your online presence from cyber threats.
It's also important to use reputable antivirus and internet security software to protect your device from malware and viruses. Additionally, being cognizant of cyber security threats, such as phishing scams and data breaches, and taking appropriate measures to protect yourself can go a long way in ensuring your online safety.
By combining the use of a VPN with other security measures, you can create a comprehensive approach to protect yourself online. Remember, the internet can be a dangerous place, but by taking the necessary precautions, you can surf the web with confidence and peace of mind.
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.