VPNs might seem complicated but the truth is that they are easy to use by just about anyone and anywhere. One of the most popular questions that people search for online is What is VPN. This post will demystify VPNs and tell you what they can do for you, when they can be used and how to use them.
So what is a VPN?
A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it does exactly what it stands for. It is a service which provides you with safe web access and the ability to private route the connection through a server, while hiding the online actions.
How Does a VPN Work?
VPN is a true lifesaver as it does all the heavy weightlifting for you. When you start the VPN application from the VPN service, it would encrypt the data before even the Internet Service Provider or any other Wi-Fi provider can see it. The data would then go to the VPN and from its server to the online destination such as the bank website or a video sharing website and even a search engine. The online destination would see that the data comes from the VPN server and it would see only its location, and not your location.
The internet consists of various servers that are responsible for storing the websites and providing access to them to anyone that is interested in viewing them. Servers connect with one another all the time to share information and data in order to allow users to browse the page easily. This might be great for surfing the web at decent speed, but not very much so for your privacy.
When you go online, it is similar to taking a commercial airline flight. The flight attendants, security personnel, baggage handlers, and the ticket agent all need different pieces of data to get you to your destination or back. It is similar to what happens on the web with exchange of information. Now, if one is only going to secure a website that is for games and does not require any sort of personal information, then it might be fine. However, if it is business emails, online banking or anything similar, then the matter is more sensitive and requires care.
When a VPN is used, data would be encrypted and would be sent to the ISP in encrypted form and then to the VPN server which is the third party connecting you to the web. This helps solve security or privacy issues in a number of ways.
- No one would be able to identify you easily or the computer as the source of data, and would not be able to see which websites you are visiting or the data being transferred.
- The VPN server would be shown as the traffic origin to the destination site, instead of you.
- The data is encrypted and no one would be able to see the raw data as it would be encrypted.
Is VPN Secure?
The question which people usually have is just how safe or secure VPN is. Every VPN service provider offers services which are different and they cannot be entirely similar due to two factors. Fortunately, you can keep your personal data safe by choosing to buy vpn with bitcoin.
Limitations of the Type of VPN Technology Being Used By Provider
There are always legal and policy limitations that are present and these impact how the technology can be used. The laws of the country in which the server is located and the company providing the VPN are located may different, along with the policies of the company. These affect how the technology is implemented into the service. Let’s look at some of these factors.
The VPN protocols are there to define just how the service is able to handle the data transmission through the VPN. Some of the most common protocols are Open VPN, IKEV2, SSTP, L2TP and PPTP. These are defined as below.
It takes what is best in the protocols and limits their flaws. Based on SSL/ TLS, Open VPN is an open source project. This means that it would be constantly improved by a huge number of developers. The connection is secured using keys which are known only between the two participating parties of the transmission. Hence, it is most secure and versatile out there.
IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Version 2)
A Microsoft-built protocol is IKEv2. It is an iteration of the previous protocols by Microsoft and it is more secure. One of the best security services is offered by the protocol.
Another Microsoft-built protocol is the SSTP. With the help of some SSL/ TLS encryption, connection is established. It has become the de facto standard when it comes to web encryption these days. Built on symmetric-key cryptography, it is one of the strengths of SSL and TLS. It is a setup where only two parties would be involved for the transfer to decode the data. It is a secure solution.
PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol)
This is easily one of the oldest protocols that are still in use today. It had been originally designed by Microsoft. A good thing about it is the fact that it works perfectly on old computers which run on a Windows Operating System. It is easy to set it up. However, it is barely secure according to the high standards of today.
L2TP/ IPSEC (Layer 2-Tunneling-Protocol)
A combination of Cisco and PPTP L2F protocol, the concept behind the protocol is sound. A secure connection is established using keys on each end of the data tunnel. However, the execution is not as safe. But, security improves with the addition of IPSEC.
VPNs provide you with the option to choose the protocol that you want to use. Open VPN and IKEv2 are the most secure protocols. Keep in mind that not all devices allow one to use all of the protocols. As most of the protocols had been built by Microsoft, only Windows PCs would be able to use them. Apple devices would face certain limitations.
In simple words, encryption works by starting with the plain data, applying a secret code to transform this data which ends with encrypted data. The ending data would be only readable by someone that has the original key which was used to encrypt the data. There are many modern algorithms which help encrypt the data. The VPN can be very secure, but the connection protocol and the encryption mechanism used for handling the information impact its ability to do b secure.
Normally, VPN companies ensure that data, privacy and overall security are protected on the web. Remember that the law in the jurisdiction would impact their commitment.
Is It Legal to Use VPN?
Typically, the answer would be a yes but it is not always the case. In legal years, the concept of VPN is rather new and there are still many jurisdictions out there which have not been able to keep up in the first place. This means that it is quite murky to say whether it is entirely legal or not.
In most countries around the world such as the US, UK, Canada and even Pakistan allow VPNs to be used. However, countries like China, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Iran are not as clear about VPN usage. To figure out the country that one lives in or intends to visit, make sure to read on the relevant laws of that specific country to have a better idea.
Does VPN Make Users Fully Anonymous Online?
Now, the answer to this question would be a negative but the extent to which VPNs offer anonymity is still impressive. However, without a VPN, the connection would be completely open and the ISP. This would lead to a person with the right tools to access your data. By using a VPN, many of the problems would be solved through the encryption of transmission and it would make it appear as if the server itself is making the connection.
Do VPN Service Providers Keep Logs?
In many jurisdictions, VPN service providers might be legally required to keep records. The level of protection offered varies from provider to provider. Most of the concerns can be taken care of if one chooses the VPN service provider wisely.
VPN Logging Policies
The level of anonymity and privacy that you have is significantly affected where the VPN has a VPN Logging Policy which keeps your records such as on the following.
- User Activity
- Connection/ Disconnection Timestamps
- IP Addresses
- Devices Used
- Payment Information
How to Choose a VPN Provider?
Free VPN VS Paid VPN
A good VPN service costs money. They provide excellent service which is justifies the cost of the service. Besides, there are employees, infrastructure, data transfer and robust servers that need to be taken care of. How could these be taken care of is the service was for free? However, the thing about paid VPN services is that they are often for just a few dollars and do not cost a lot of money.
How Much Does VPN Cost?
With just $3 to $5 a month, you can take advantage of improved online privacy. There are also some more experience options that start at about $10 but the majority of the service providers only charge a few dollars. Hence, VPNs are rather affordable.
Besides, most of the services even provide huge discounts if one is willing to subscribe to their services for two or more years up front, instead of having to renew the subscription on a monthly basis. For instance Nord VPN offers up to 75 percent off if users subscribe to its 3 years plan which is great savings.
However, it is advised to choose a well-known VPN provider as it would provide better online security as compared to lesser known providers. Do not compromise on quality due to a few dollars difference as using VPN allows you to access sites or even apps which you might not be able to such as Grindr which is banned in many Muslim countries and having a VPN allows you to meet people without having to worry about anything.
Why Should VPN Be Used?
There are many good reasons for using a VPN. The following reasons will help give you an idea of why you should consider getting a VPN.
- Web activity would be encrypted by the VPN.
- Online activity would be hidden from anyone who might be interested in knowing about it such as the authorities or a hacker.
- It helps hide the location which enables you to access some of the geo-blocked content such as Netflix or Facebook if one is in China.
- Better anonymity is offered on the web.
- Helps keep the connection protection, especially when one is using a public wifi hotspot.
When Not To Use VPN?
In reality, there is no real reason for not using a VPN as it provides online privacy and security which might be otherwise compromised in its absence. One of the main reasons why one might not want to use a VPN might be to avoid slow internet as VPNs tend to slow down the connection speed. This means that the next time you consider watching a video while using the VPN, it would take time to load.
Extra Layer of Security
The incredible thing about VPNs is that provide an extra layer of security on top of the usual SSL protocols on the website. In order to achieve better security, one can download good antivirus software, avoid downloading shady software, and share less private information on social media and the like. If you want to maximum security, then you need to be more conscious when using the internet and sufficiently follow the precautions.