Virtual Private Network (VPN)

What is a Virtual Private Network (VPN)?

A virtual private network (VPN) is a software or hardware device that creates a private network, giving you online privacy and anonymity in a public network.

A VPN masks your internet protocol (IP) address to make it difficult to trace your online activities.

Besides, a VPN establishes a secure and encrypted connection to secure your information and systems from frequent and sophisticated cyber threats.

Key Takeaways

  • A VPN gives you privacy and anonymity by enabling a private network in the public internet
  • The appliance masks your IP address, making you online activities difficult to trace
  • A VPN establishes an encrypted connection to prevent cybercriminals from stealing confidential information
  • You can use a VPN to bypass geographic restrictions on websites
  • A VPN also protects you from being logged while torrenting
  • Consider factors like speed, encryption features, server locations, user support, and logging policies while selecting a VPN

How Does a VPN Work?

A VPN creates a data tunnel between your local network or computer and a node in another location, which could be thousands of miles away. This strategy makes your network traffic appear like its originating from a different location (the node’s IP address).

A VPN uses encryption mechanisms to covert data you send over a Wi-Fi or any other network connection. Encrypting the information, including your online transactions, makes it unreadable for an intruder who connects to the same Wi-Fi network. A hacker eavesdropping your network activities will not decrypt your information and requests without the key.

Apart from the security benefits, a VPN offers privacy. Even your internet service provider cannot know your browsing history, since a VPN hides your online search history. The security system masks your actual IP address and associates all your online activities with the VPN server’s IP address.

Many VPN vendors offer several servers globally. You can select a different location where you want your activity to appear to originate from. Even search engines that track your search history with associate the information with the VPN IP address, not yours.  

A VPN can hide the following information to preserve your online privacy:

  • Browsing History – without a VPN, your internet service provider and the web browser can track everything you do online. Besides, most of the sites you visit keep a history of your activities for “personalized experience.” Third-parties collect and sell this information for marketing purposes. Using a VPN prevents ISPs and websites from tracking your search history and tying it to your IP address
  • IP Address and Location – ISPs, website owners, and hackers can discover your online activities and location by capturing your IP address. Fortunately, a VPN masks your address and replaces it with an IP address in a different area, allowing you to maintain privacy and browse anonymously
  • Service Availability – some online services are not accessible in various regions. For instance, it isn’t easy to access local streaming services outside your country due to contractual terms and regulations in other areas. The service providers use your IP location to block your requests. In such an instance, you can connect to a VPN server with an IP address in your home country to gain access to local services while in other countries
  • Your Devices and Personal Information – a VPN establishes encryption and secure connection to prevent hackers from gaining unauthorized access to information and connected computers
  • Your Web Activity – are you a candidate for government surveillance? A VPN prevents third parties, including government agencies, from tracking your online activities. A VPN vendor that does not log your browsing history protects your internet freedom. Even your internet service provider cannot supply accurate records of your web activity to government agencies

Do I Need a VPN?

Connecting to the internet and transacting on public Wi-Fi networks exposes your confidential information, online transactions, and applications to cyberthreats.

Today, people are increasingly working remotely, accessing company networks at coffee shops, checking bank account while at a mall, and working using home’s Wi-Fi connection that has weak security controls. Sharing any sensitive information in this manner is vulnerable to risks like a stranger eavesdropping by connecting to the same network.

Fortunately, a VPN provides encryption and anonymity to protect your online activities. You can install the security appliance to send emails, shop online, access bank accounts, and work with corporate systems from any network while keeping your browsing actions private and secure.

Can a VPN Protect Against Identity Theft?

A VPN also protects you against identity theft.

Identity theft occurs when hackers steal your personal information and use it to commit more crime under your name. Criminals in possession of your data can easily open new accounts, file tax returns, rent, or buy property in your name.

A VPN encrypts your online transactions and makes it challenging for hackers to access personal details.

Factors to Consider When Selecting a VPN

Selecting a VPN that conforms with your specific needs and business values is crucial. Currently, there are many VPN sellers, and it is challenging to choose the best fit. This list presents vital factors to consider before selecting a VPN for your business or personal use.

You can consider the following six factors when selecting a VPN:

  1. Encryption – ensure that the VPN solution offers dependable encryption features that protect information and systems from hackers
  2. Speed – a VPN encryption process can take a toll on the connection speed. You should purchase a VPN service that values speed as much as they value privacy and security
  3. Premium Services – since one size does not fit all, you can get a VPN from vendors that offer a more accommodating service plan for your specific business needs
  4. Logging Policies – if you are serious about privacy, you should avoid VPN services in areas where governments legally bind VPN providers to collect and make user logs accessible to various agencies
  5. Servers – the number of servers in different parts of the world is an essential factor to consider. Many locations give several IP addresses to hide your online activities. Also, the VPN server’s proximity to your site plays a vital role in the connection efficiency and network failure control
  6. Support – it is imperative to purchase a VPN product from a provider that offers after-sale services and tech support. The best VPN vendor provides expert representatives to respond swiftly to any VPN errors.