Nowadays, almost every Internet user has a VPN, and lots of people have heard of it. Even though this is something truly essential in the modern Internet era, not everyone knows about VPN meaning. Therefore, we are going to make an easy guide on what is VPN means and all other info that you should know regarding the basics of VPN. What is a VPN tunnel? What is a VPN and how does it work? These and lots of other questions will be answered here, so you should keep reading it.
Many people use the Internet on the principle of “I have nothing to hide,” but it sounds like “I do not care about my rights.” This article is for those who does care about their rights, as well as for those who think about their Internet security. I will tell you in simple words about what the VPN is, what it is intended for, and how to use it.
You surely have heard about VPN more than once. Most often, VPN is recommended because it enables you to get access to the content blocked as a result of your geographical location and to generally improve security when using the Internet.
So, What Is a VPN?
Are you not sure what is the meaning of a VPN and what its functions are? Here is a brief guide that you should go through:
- What is VPN stand for? This abbreviation means “virtual private network.” It is a safe method of connecting your device with the cyberspace. Such network acts like a secure bridge separating your PC, smartphone, tablet, etc. and the Net;
- What is the purpose of a VPN? The main goal of a VPN is data protection. It is necessary for keeping your info and online traffic unreachable from any external interference. Browsing the Net, torrenting files, and doing other activities requiring an Internet connection might be dangerous since your personal data can be stolen or viewed by third parties unless it is well protected;
- What does a VPN tunnel mean? This is the internal network, a safe bridge. This tunnel is a hideaway connecting your device (computer, laptop, smartphone, etc.) with the Net;
- What is VPN router? A VPN router is a piece of routing equipment created specifically for working within a virtual private network environment. It allows using different private networks.
So in other words:
VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a secure tunnel between two or more devices. This network is called “virtual” because its work does not require laying wires. It works over the existing World Wide Web. The word “private” should be understood as closed, that is, inaccessible to outsiders. VPNs are used to protect web traffic from wiretapping, tampering, censorship, and to hide your identity and true location, to protect the data you send and receive, and to provide access to useful sites, online stores and services closed for your country or inside it. VPN is a technology that provides an encrypted connection over your Internet connection and allows you to reliably transmit data without distortion. Such a network connection of computers (geographically withdrawn from each other at a considerable distance) uses a “computer-to-computer” connection.
This connection method is scientifically called the VPN tunnel (or tunnel protocol). You can connect to such a tunnel if you have a computer with any operating system with an integrated VPN, capable of forwarding virtual ports to another network with the aid of a TCP/IP protocol.
The VPN encryption stage is implemented on the sender’s side, and the data is decrypted on the recipient’s side.
It seems complicated, doesn’t it?
Just imagine a scene from an action movie where a villain escapes from the scene of the crime along a highway in a sports car. He is chased by a police helicopter. The car enters a tunnel with several exits. The helicopter pilot does not know from which exit the car will drive out, and thus the villain flings off the pursuers.
VPN is such a tunnel connecting many roads. No one from the outside knows where the cars will be. No one from the outside knows what is going on in the tunnel.
To understand what VPN is, let’s study another example.
For example, you need to send a parcel to another city and you want to do it anonymously. At a regular post office you will be asked to provide an identification document, which means that will not be able to send the parcel anonymously. And there is no 100% guarantee that the contents of the parcel will be kept secret and the parcel will not be opened. But you can make use of the services of some special companies that will deliver the parcel without asking who the sender is, and they also guarantee a complete confidentiality of the content, its integrity and safety. VPN performs the function of such companies.
Thanks to VPN, you will be protected from interception of your logins/passwords in unprotected or public WI-FI access points, the history of your visits to any websites will not be accessible to anyone, and you will forget any website blockings as a nightmare. This is applicable to torrents, and to any other websites that can be prohibited.
How Does VPN Work?
Another popular question that we hear quite often is “what is a VPN for?” Initially, VPNs were created for facilitating work in the business sphere. There is a lot of confidential and important data involved in businesses, thus their networks required extra privacy. VPNs provided different businesses with this additional safety. Moreover, it was also possible to access such a private network from home or any other place, which was very convenient.
But what is the point of a VPN in modern conditions? Right now, there is a number of benefits, which make people choose a VPN. They include first and foremost reliable Internet protection.
It is highly likely that you have a Wi-Fi router at home. The devices connected to it can exchange data even without the Internet. It turns out that you have your own private network, but to connect to it, you must be physically within the reach of the router signal.
And now we will explain how exactly the VPN works. Your computer has a specific IP address that blocks an access to certain websites. You enable the VPN technology through some program or add-in. VPN changes your address to an address of a server in another country (for example, Holland or Germany). Further, a secure connection is established, and it cannot be blocked by the provider. As a result, you get a secure protocol that allows you to freely visit any Internet sites, being completely anonymous at the same time. VPN means a virtual private network. It works over the Internet, and therefore you can connect to it from anywhere.
For example, the company where you work can use a virtual private network for remote employees. Using VPN, they connect to the working network. At the same time, their computers, smartphones or tablets are virtually transferred to the office and connected to the network from the inside. To enter the virtual private network, you need to know the VPN server address, username and password.
Using VPN is pretty simple. Usually, a company engages a VPN server somewhere on a local computer, server, or data center, and connection to it is made using a VPN client on the customer device.
Now there are built-in VPN clients in all the present-day operating systems, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS and Linux.
The VPN connection between the client and the server is usually encrypted.
Also, a great benefit is enabling you to bypass any geolocation restrictions, particularly, when using online streaming services. The list can go on, and we will discuss all the positive sides of a VPN more in more details below.
For now, let us see how a VPN works for you as a user:
- You download a VPN application and install it right in your web browser. You can turn it on and off manually, or even make it start at the same time you open your browser;
- The software starts encrypting all your information even before anyone can see it. Neither your ISP nor a provider of Wi-Fi in any public place can access your data;
- The encoded data is transmitted via a secure VPN;
- Finally, your inquiry is processed in a secure way and content that you have been looking for becomes available for you. The endpoint can be any webpage, such as your online bank account, a streaming service, a web search engine, a file hosting service, etc.;
- The destination point somewhere on the Internet recognizes you as an allowed user and does not block your access. It cannot know your actual location. In fact, you can choose yourself what location should be shown.
Surfing the Net with a turned-off VPN is like openly displaying your sensitive information. It is not a big deal if you are watching funny videos on YouTube or reading online news, but it is not safe to stay unprotected when dealing with business correspondence, personal info, credit card details, taxes, etc.
Using a VPN makes it much more difficult, if not unachievable to track your location or webpages you are clicking on. Moreover, all your data is encrypted.
What Can a VPN Do?
Now that we have answered the question “what is a VPN and how does it work,” it is time to pay attention to several other important questions. The majority of your friends probably use a VPN, and you may be wondering “what is a VPN good for?” We have already gone through several positive sides of a VPN, and now, it is time to provide a more detailed description of the key advantages of such an application:
- VPN replaces your real IP with a fake one, if you use VPN, you are practically invisible on the Web. You go to a website, and they see that you are, for example, not from USA, but from Germany. Thanks to this, you may not be afraid of any website blockings.
- It encrypts the connection – neither your provider nor the system administrator at work will know where you come from. (What does the system administrator/provider see when you don’t have VPN? The whole history of your surfing, all the websites you visit without exception. What does he see when you are working via VPN? He sees that you are connected via VPN and … that’s all, he does not know anything else 🙂 In addition to that, in case of data interception, no attackers will be able to decode the data due to encryption.)
- With IP spoofing and traffic encryption, you become completely anonymous.
Here is the list of the benefits of a VPN to pay your attention to:
- Bypassing geographic restrictions. How many times have you tried to watch a video on YouTube or access a certain website and faced the message “this service or video is unavailable in your region?” Some content available on the Internet can be restricted to a particular country or region. In order to access it from your own country (if it is on a restricted country list), you can use a VPN in order to make it seem to be in some other place;
- Using streaming websites. It is truly convenient to subscribe to a certain streaming platform these days. The most widely known ones are Hulu and Netflix. These websites offer your favorite TV shows and movies gathered in a single place. However, they are not available all over the world, so while people living somewhere else cannot access them unless a reliable VPN is used to start enjoying watching favorite films and TV series without limitations;
- Staying safe on the Internet. Extra safety measures are required if you want to be protected from snooping. When it comes to using the Internet, snooping means hunting for someone’s private data and sensitive information transferred online. For example, it is not completely safe to use public Wi-Fi hotspots if you are dealing with important information. If you like to visit cafes and surf the Internet via Wi-Fi there or often travel and connect to open Wi-Fi points – no unashamed hacker sitting at a nearby table will be able to intercept the data of your credit card with CVV code or steal a password from the payment system together with your money. And it doesn’t matter whether you work from a laptop or from a mobile device – they are equally not protected without VPN. You should connect to a VPN in order to stay on the safe side;
- Remaining anonymous online. This option is perfect for someone who wants to remain incognito and/or hide their true location. A VPN makes it seem like you are using your device in another country. In most cases, you can even choose the place yourself;
- Protecting yourself while downloading torrent files. Torrenting movies or anything else can attract unwanted attention from your ISP. Torrenting by itself is not illegal, but certain content, for instance, movies can be protected by copyright. This means that you can potentially get a fine for downloading this type of content. Using a VPN along with torrent trackers guarantees your confidentiality and safeness.
As you can see, a VPN is a multi-purpose tool, which is crucial for every Internet user because even those using the Net occasionally can benefit from it greatly. Not only does it ensure security, but also provides various benefits, such as bypassing restrictions and even saving money on your purchases.
Why You Need a VPN?
What is VPN? It is a powerful tool created in order to enhance your online experience. The answers “what is the use of VPN” can be answered by having a look at its functions.
The following are the most noteworthy points:
- Ensuring online anonymity;
- Encrypting your data while browsing the web;
- Bypassing all geographical restrictions;
- Facilitating the use of various streaming platforms;
- Torrenting documents and files safely.
However, there are even more great uses of a VPN. They might not be so obvious from the functions of such an application; therefore, we have prepared a list of additional benefits of using a reliable VPN:
- Dealing with censorship imposed by governments. Even in modern society, some governments can prohibit the use of certain websites for their citizens. Those can be social media, video platforms, news outlets, and more. A VPN is a perfect solution for those wanting to have access to any information because it is a fundamental right of every person;
- Saving money due to purchasing stuff from some online shops. Some online vendors set different prices for their products depending on customers’ location. It is a common thing in the gaming industry when switching between different countries in an online store can change the price of the same game drastically. The same situation occurs virtually in any other shop selling various goods from clothes to electronics. Utilizing a VPN can let you save a great deal of money;
- Saving money on your flights. Plane tickets are not cheap and, luckily, the thing with changing countries when buying them works with some airlines as well. It does not mean that you have to change your departure and arrival locations, but simply change your country on a website when purchasing tickets using a VPN;
- Boosting the speed of online games. Low speed and severe lagging issues are common problems for lots of online gamers. The high speed and smooth game running are especially important when being engaged in an epic online battle. ISPs often reduce the Internet speed for those who play online because it puts heavy pressure and can interfere with data of other users. By utilizing a VPN, you can select a less loaded network nearby and enjoy playing your favorite games with no issues;
- Securing your voice and video chats. Not all online chat apps encrypt your data, which makes it easy for someone to overhear your conversations. If you enable a VPN while using apps like Skype, you will be protected from unwanted attention.
After you have learned the basic information about VPNs, it is time to have a look at more specific details. There are certain factors to be taken into consideration when deciding on which VPN application should be chosen, and those things are called VPN protocols. Let us find out what they are, what kinds of protocols exist, and how to pick a suitable one.
A VPN protocol determines how your data is transmitted over the Internet. In essence, it is a collection of encryption methods, instructions, and processes related to transmitting information.
VPN providers may use different protocols in order to ensure smooth data running between a VPN user and the endpoint.
Each VPN protocol comes with certain characteristics and benefits, which helps users select a VPN that matches their requirements most.
There are a few of the most extensively used protocols nowadays, including PPTP, IPSec, SSTP, Open VPN, L2TP, as well as IKEv2. Now, we will go through all these types to learn some general info about them. We will also discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each of these.
PPTP is an abbreviation that means Point to Point Tunneling Protocol. Microsoft became the first developer of this VPN protocol in the 1990s. Right now, it is the most common choice for people wanting to overcome geographic restrictions. They use this protocol for streaming shows and movies because it has great speed.
It is an easy protocol to start with, and it is supported by the majority of ISPs. However, you should keep yourself away from those providers who offer only PPTP protocol. Even though PPTP VPN is fast, it is not very secure. Besides, nearly every firewall can block this type of protocol easily. This protocol is the best choice for gamers and streamers because of its high speed and smooth data transmission. It can also be easily set up by any Internet surfer.
It is a tunneling protocol based on the point-to-point principle – it creates a tunnel, while capturing data. It is the most widespread type of technology that allows you to connect to VPN through the existing Internet connections. This choice will be an ideal solution for home use and for business. It does not require installation of additional equipment, while it can be used with the aid of simple and cheap applications. PPTP VPN technology is perfectly compatible with all the operating systems. Despite of a great number of advantages, the PPP protocol technology cannot guarantee a high level of security for the user, therefore this variant cannot be used for serious purposes and organizations.
Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is the meaning behind SSTP VPN. It is another protocol made by Windows developers that was originally launched together with one of their products. Other OSs are also compatible with it, including Linux or Android.
Talking about security, it is much safer than PPTP. It has other benefits as well, though, it is not the most popular protocol as being developed by Microsoft, it works best on Windows, and there might be difficulties in using it on other platforms. The protocol can easily deal with any existing firewall. Although it is not as fast as PPTP, the speed is still decent.
IPSec stands for Internet Protocol Security. As you can tell from its name, it is a safe protocol designed to transmit information over the Internet Protocol network. It encrypts information in a way that it is impossible for the receiver to know that it was encrypted.
While tough security is a good thing, setting the protocol up is definitely not a simple task. Some VPN providers may have troubles with configuring it. People often use this protocol together with L2TP or IKEv2. It allows using two different ways of encrypting information, including Tunnel and Transport. Tunnel provides better overall security.
L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol. It is considered to be a better version of PPTP. Since it does not actually encrypt any data, the protocol should be used together with the IPSec.
We can say that L2TP works in two ways. The first one is setting up the Point-to-Point Protocol connection, and the second one is using Internet Protocol Security encryption.
Although it is a secure protocol, it can slow down the Internet speed because it requires extra encryption. There are usually no problems with setting this protocol up, and the majority of VPNs support it. However, further configuration is required to ensure that it will not be blocked by the filter. Even though some firewalls may be a problem for this type of protocol, it is still an excellent option for replacing the Open VPN.
IKEv2 is an abbreviation meaning Internet Key Exchange version 2. The developers of this protocol are Cisco Systems and Microsoft. It is a quite fast and safe choice for those thinking of which protocol should be picked. It is also supported by Blackberry. This one is quicker than PPTP and L2TP, and the level of safety that it provides is also high. The protocol handles changing networks easily. Everything will work smoothly even if you switch from Wi-Fi to mobile Internet.
Unfortunately, VPN providers with lack of experience might fail to set this protocol up properly. This might lead to problems with speed and even affect Internet connection stability. Being one of the newest protocols, IKEv2 is a great, modern option that should be considered.
However, there might be some difficulties with its compatibility with some older platforms. All in all, it is a quite good VPN that can be used.
There are plenty of advantages of this protocol type, which makes it the first choice for lots of VPN users. There are a few methods of security involved, which makes Open VPN highly safe to use. Identification and encryption have several levels. The accessibility of this protocol is another great benefit because it works on mobile devices powered by Android or iOS. It is also the best option for bypassing any firewalls. One of its drawbacks is that this VPN protocol may affect an Internet connection speed due to powerful encryption.
VPN Additional Info
A VPN is an outstanding technology created for your protection while surfing the Net.
Nevertheless, it is not the only option available. People often select either a VPN application or proxy server. Both of them provide some kind of security while hiding your real location, which allows using the Internet with no limits. But are they the same thing? There are certain differences between them, and now, we will go through the factors explaining why subscribing for a VPN service rather than using a proxy server is a perfect solution.
VPN-services vs Anonymizers
In very simple words, an anonymizer is a small tunnel for the browser through which you can get to one or another site unnoticed. This tunnel transfers the data that no one can see or intercept.
VPN is a big tunnel between your device (whether it be a computer or a smartphone) and the entire global Internet for all your applications at once: for the browser, messenger and so on. When using VPN, incoming and outgoing connections are made not directly, but through a server, which can be located both in our country or abroad.
For example, if you want to go to an American site, but it cannot be accessed from Italy, just connect through a US server. In this case, the site takes you for an American user. The PandaVPN service has over 100 servers in the virtual network, which are located in 68 cities of 43 countries of the world, thus you will be well-connected almost everywhere.
Proxy vs VPN
In modern society, we often hear from the news about some kind of information leakage. Anything from incredibly important data to simple family photos can be stolen using the Internet and used for someone’s advantage, even if the data is confidential. This makes it incredibly important to think about your own Internet safety, which involves using some technologies like a VPN or proxy. Generally speaking, both of them make it seem like you are accessing the Internet from some place, which is not your actual location. However, they function in very different ways, and their features may also differ significantly.
The General Info about Proxy
Proxy servers are designed in a way to mask your Internet traffic. They make it seem like your Internet activity is conducted in another place, ensuring that your real location remains unknown.
Proxies are suitable for dealing with some simple tasks like watching geo restricted videos on different streaming platforms or using servers implementing Internet Protocol restrictions. For instance, an online game may come with IP-restricted login bonuses. Imagine that someone in your family is also playing the same game as you are, but only one can grab a bonus because of the same IP. In this case, altering IP addresses can be very helpful to enjoy additional benefits.
However, proxies are only good for such easy and not really crucial tasks. While they are good at hiding your real IP address, they do not provide any security. This means that any data you are transmitting over the Internet is not encrypted, which is a quite dangerous situation, especially when it comes to sending confidential details. Anybody who has a wish and special knowledge can gain access to your data fairly easy. Moreover, it is not enough to install a proxy to start benefitting from it. Configuring it is required to use it with your browser, torrent tracker, and other applications which have access to the Internet.
The Two Main Types of Proxies
The most popular proxy protocols are the following:
- HTTP Proxy. This is the oldest type of proxy that was specifically designed for operating with web traffic. It is essential to use some type of additional encryption while working with an HTTP proxy. It does not encrypt any data; therefore, your e-mails and bank account info are in danger when being sent over the Internet;
- SOCKS Proxy. It is an abbreviation standing for SOCKet Secure, which is a quite useful addition to the HTTP proxy because it works with any type of data. You can use it with your browser, torrent tracker, and other applications with no problems. The main drawback of this proxy type is the same as with HTTP — it does not encrypt data. In addition, it is even slower.
Choosing the right proxy is not very easy. Those available for free work poorly, but if you wish to have a really decent proxy, then you will have to pay for it.
Why You Should Choose VPN over Proxy
Both VPNs and Proxies disguise your real IP address to give the impression of you being in a totally different place. However, it is the only similarity between the two tools. VPNs can be used with different OSs and on several devices simultaneously. While proxies have to be set up for each application separately, VPNs start working right away with no problems. This means that once you have a VPN on your smartphone, tablet, or any other device, you can use it with your browser, torrent tracker, various system updates, and so on.
Your info will be encrypted on its way, which ensures maximum safety for your sensitive information. Only after being encoded, it travels to the final destination securely, so that nobody can access your data when you are using a VPN, not even your Internet service provider. Needless to say that hackers hunting for personal info will not get to it either. With a VPN, you can stop worrying about accessing the Internet via a public Wi-Fi or while on the road. Travelling requires working with local Internet service providers and Wi-Fi, which is not secure for sending important information. Setting up a VPN on your device that you are traveling with will solve all these problems.
Some people may say that some drawbacks of VPNs are their price and high technical requirements. This does not mean that subscribing for a VPN service will be expensive for you since it will probably cost you a few bucks a month in most cases. You will most likely have to pay for it in order to enjoy all the benefits. However, there are definitely some free and efficient options out there too. As for the technical side of the question, using a VPN will require a rather powerful device.
Another factor to keep in mind is not really a disadvantage, but a nuance worth knowing. There is a range of VPN protocols, which means that you will need some extra time to figure out which one works for you.
However, spending some time discovering the types of VPN protocols and deciding on which one to use will definitely be rewarding. Each protocol has its strong and weak sides, so everyone can find a good one.
All in all, proxies are a decent option for basic tasks like watching geo blocked videos on YouTube. At the same time, a VPN ensures your anonymity, security, and provides a wide range of other benefits.