What Is Virtual Private Network (VPN)? – How It Works, Types Of VPN
A virtual private network (VPN) is a popular tool for protecting your internet privacy and security. It encrypts your personal data and hides your real IP address on public networks.
In addition to privacy and security benefits, a VPN allows you to access more internet content. It lets you change your virtual location and access blocked websites.
This article explains what a VPN is, how it works, and why you might want to use it. We’ll also show you how to use a VPN and suggest alternatives.
What Is A Virtual Private Network (VPN)?
A virtual private network (VPN) is a technology that allows users to create a secure and private connection over a public network, such as the internet. It works by encrypting the user’s data and routing it through a VPN server, which acts as a middleman between the user’s device and the internet. This process masks the user’s IP address and hides their online activities from prying eyes.
A VPN is designed to provide privacy and security for users’ internet traffic. By encrypting the data, it ensures that even if it is intercepted, it cannot be read or understood by anyone other than the intended recipient. This is particularly important when using public Wi-Fi networks, as they are often vulnerable to hackers and eavesdroppers.
In addition to privacy and security, a VPN also allows users to bypass geo-restrictions and access content that may be blocked in their region. By connecting to a VPN server located in a different country, users can appear as if they are browsing from that location, thus unlocking access to geo-blocked websites and services.
How Does A Virtual Private Network (VPN) Work?
When a user connects to the internet without a VPN, their internet service provider (ISP) is the main intermediary between their device and the internet. The ISP assigns the user’s device a unique IP address and can track their online activities.
However, when a VPN connection is activated on a device, all web requests are routed through an encrypted tunnel and directed to a VPN server before reaching the target server. This process involves several key steps:
A VPN hides the user’s IP address and location by masking it with the IP address and location of the VPN server. This increases online anonymity and prevents websites from identifying the user’s true identity and location.
The VPN client and server go through an authentication process to ensure that they are communicating with each other securely. This prevents unauthorized parties from intercepting the user’s data.
A VPN connection establishes an encrypted tunnel for the user’s internet traffic. Each data packet is encapsulated within another data packet, making it difficult for malicious parties to intercept or read the data.
Many VPN providers use strong encryption protocols to secure the user’s data. This encryption is applied to all internet traffic passing through the VPN tunnel, ensuring that it is protected from potential eavesdropping or surveillance.
By routing the user’s internet traffic through a VPN server and encrypting it, a VPN provides an additional layer of security and privacy. It prevents the ISP and other third parties from seeing the user’s online activities and protects their data from interception.
Types Of Virtual Private Network (VPN)
There are several types of VPNs that serve different purposes and cater to different user needs:
Also known as a consumer or commercial VPN, a personal VPN is designed for individual users. It allows users to connect to the internet securely and privately, protecting their online privacy and bypassing geo-blocks. Personal VPNs are easy to set up on various devices, such as PCs, laptops, gaming consoles, and mobile devices.
Remote Access VPN:
A remote access VPN is used by employees to securely connect to their company’s network from outside the office. It enables remote workers to access company resources and data as if they were physically present in the office. Remote access VPNs are essential for ensuring secure communication and protecting sensitive company data, especially when employees are using public Wi-Fi hotspots.
Similar to a remote access VPN, a mobile VPN allows employees to connect to their company’s network remotely. The key difference is that a mobile VPN stays connected even if the user changes their network connection or loses connectivity. This is particularly useful for highly mobile users who frequently switch between different networks or have unstable internet connections.
A site-to-site VPN connects two or more networks located in different physical locations. For example, if a company has offices in Europe and Asia, a site-to-site VPN can merge the two private networks, allowing seamless communication and data sharing between them. Site-to-site VPNs are commonly used by global companies with multiple branches or offices to create a secure network connection between them.
Why You Should Use A Virtual Private Network (VPN) Service
One of the primary reasons to use a VPN service is to protect your online privacy. A VPN encrypts your internet traffic and routes it through a remote server, making it difficult for anyone to intercept and decipher your data. It masks your IP address, location, search and browsing history, and downloads, ensuring that your online activities remain private. This means that your internet service provider, websites you visit, and other third parties won’t be able to track or monitor your online behavior.
A VPN provides you with the freedom to access content that may be restricted or blocked in your region. By connecting to a VPN server located in a different country, you can bypass geo-restrictions and access websites, streaming services, and online content that would otherwise be unavailable to you. This allows you to enjoy your favorite TV shows, movies, and other online content from anywhere in the world.
Additionally, a VPN can help you overcome bandwidth throttling imposed by your internet service provider. Some ISPs limit the speed and performance of certain online activities, such as streaming or torrenting. By using a VPN, you can bypass these restrictions and enjoy a faster and smoother internet experience.
Moreover, a VPN can also help you avoid price discrimination while shopping online. Some websites and online stores may display different prices based on your location or browsing habits. By connecting to a VPN server in a different country, you can access the best deals and prices available, ensuring that you get the most value for your money.
In addition to privacy and freedom, a VPN service enhances your online security. When you connect to a VPN, your internet connection is encrypted, making it extremely difficult for hackers, cybercriminals, or other malicious entities to intercept and access your data. This is especially important when using public Wi-Fi networks, which are often unsecured and vulnerable to attacks. By using a VPN on public Wi-Fi, you can protect your sensitive information, such as passwords, credit card details, and personal data, from being compromised.
Furthermore, a VPN is crucial for remote workers who need to access company files and resources securely. By connecting to a VPN, remote employees can establish a secure connection to their company’s network, ensuring that their data remains protected from unauthorized access.
How To Use A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Choose A Reliable VPN Provider:
Before using a VPN, it’s essential to select a reputable VPN service provider. Look for providers that offer strong encryption, a wide range of server locations, a strict no-logs policy, and reliable customer support. Some popular VPN providers include NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and Surfshark.
Install The VPN Client:
Once you have chosen a VPN provider, download and install their VPN client software on your device. Most VPN services offer clients for various operating systems, including Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
Set Up Your VPN Connection:
Launch the VPN client and enter your login credentials provided by the VPN service. Once logged in, you may have the option to customize your VPN settings, such as enabling additional features like a kill switch or choosing a specific VPN protocol. These settings can enhance your VPN experience but are not mandatory for basic usage.
Connect To A VPN Server:
After configuring your settings, you can connect to a VPN server. Most VPN clients offer options like “Quick connect” that automatically connect you to the fastest server available. Alternatively, you can manually select a server location from a list provided by the VPN service.
Enjoy A Secure And Private Internet Experience
Once connected to a VPN server, all your internet traffic will be encrypted and routed through the VPN server, ensuring that your online activities remain private and secure. You can now browse the internet, access geo-blocked content, stream videos, download files, and perform other online activities with peace of mind.
While VPNs are highly effective, there are alternative tools that can provide similar functionalities:
A proxy server acts as an intermediary between your device and the website you want to access. It can mask your IP address and provide some level of anonymity. However, proxies typically lack the robust encryption and advanced features offered by VPNs.
Tor is a free and open-source anonymous web browser that routes your internet traffic through a network of volunteer-operated servers. It provides a high level of anonymity by encrypting and bouncing your traffic through multiple nodes. However, Tor can be slower compared to VPNs and only protects your browsing activities within the Tor browser.
SmartDNS is a technology that allows you to bypass geo-restrictions by using a DNS server to unblock specific websites. It does not provide encryption or hide your IP address, but it can be useful for accessing geo-blocked content without affecting your internet connection speed.
Lantern is a peer-to-peer web censorship circumvention tool that allows users to access blocked websites through a network of trusted users. While Lantern can effectively bypass censorship, it collects some user data and is not designed as a comprehensive privacy and security solution.
7 Main Features And Functions Of A Virtual Private Network (VPN)
1. Multiple Server Locations:
A VPN service allows users to connect to servers located in different geographic areas. This feature is particularly useful for accessing content worldwide. For example, if you want to watch a TV show or access a website that is only available in a specific country, you can connect to a server located in that country using a VPN. The VPN will mask your IP address and make it appear as if you are browsing from that country, allowing you to bypass geo-fence restrictions and access the content you want.
2. SPI Firewall Bypass:
Many routers come with a built-in security feature called SPI firewall (Stateful Packet Inspection). This firewall blocks unauthorized network ports and protocols from accessing the protected network. However, VPN tunnels create encrypted protocols (such as IPSec or PPTP) to encapsulate data packets, making them hidden from the SPI firewall’s inspection. This allows VPN users to bypass the SPI firewall and access blocked websites or applications. By using a VPN with SPI firewall bypass capabilities, businesses can access certain resources that are blocked by the firewall, while individuals can ensure their privacy and security by keeping their traffic hidden from prying eyes.
3. Support for OpenVPN:
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN protocol that is widely regarded as one of the most secure and reliable protocols available. It provides strong encryption and is compatible with various operating systems and devices. When choosing a VPN service, it is important to look for support for the OpenVPN protocol. This ensures that your data is encrypted using the latest and most secure standards, protecting your online activities from potential threats and unauthorized access.
4. Integrated Kill Switch:
A kill switch is an important feature in a VPN client software or router firmware. It automatically disables your internet connection if the VPN connection drops, ensuring that your online activity and real IP address are not exposed. Without a kill switch, your computer could inadvertently connect to the internet without the protection of the VPN, potentially exposing your sensitive information to your internet service provider (ISP) or third-party applications. An integrated kill switch adds an extra layer of security by ensuring that your internet connection is always protected when using a VPN.
5. Anonymous DNS Servers:
DNS resolution is the process of translating domain names into IP addresses. This translation is performed by DNS servers, which can be maintained by domain name registrars, ISPs, or DNS hosting services. By using a VPN, you can route your internet traffic through anonymous DNS servers. Instead of connecting to websites using your regular DNS servers, your computer will connect through the VPN server, making it much harder for anyone to track your online activities. This adds an extra layer of privacy and security to your browsing experience.
6. No Log Policy:
7. Router Support:
Setting up a VPN on your router provides a more convenient and cost-effective way to protect all devices connected to your home network. Instead of installing the VPN on each individual device, you can set it up on your router, which will then provide VPN protection for all devices connected to the network. This means that all your devices, including smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, and gaming consoles, will benefit from the VPN’s encryption and privacy features. Additionally, setting up the VPN on the router can be easier to manage and maintain compared to installing it on each device separately. However, it is important to ensure that your router is compatible with the VPN service you choose.