Internet users all around the world are concerned regarding online privacy and security more than ever. Due to this, a dramatic surge in the usage of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) has been observed.
A VPN is known for protecting your online privacy, data, and keeping your identity safe. If you are interested in knowing the mechanics of a VPN and ‘how does a VPN work?’ then you are at the right place!
Before getting into the inner workings of a VPN, it is important to understand what it really means.
What is Virtual Private Network?
When you are browsing the web, there is a constant exchange of data between your device and the websites that you are using. For instance, the IP address of your device, your location, and other such data is shared to the website before you can view the webpage of that website in your browser window.
If you want to safeguard your personal data and do not want any third-party to have access to it, then you can use a VPN. A virtual private network establishes a tunnel between your device and the web, and all your personal data goes through this tunnel. This tunnel is an external server, the VPN server, which encrypts your data.
Through the VPN server, a user is able to achieve multiple things:
- Firstly, your Internet Protocol (IP) address is hidden from the websites.
- Secondly, your online data is safe, and a hacker cannot steal it easily.
- Thirdly, it changes your location as perceived by the internet so that you can have access to online resources that are restricted in your geographical location.
Users can run a VPN on any device, be it a computer, mobile phone, tablet, smart TV, or even a router. Using a VPN allows you to become anonymous and provides you with a secure bubble to freely surf the internet.
In order to run a VPN, users need a VPN client on their device, which is a type of software. This VPN client connects your computer to a VPN server in another location. Let’s take a look at the explanation of certain terms related to a virtual private network:
- VPN Protocol: A VPN uses a VPN protocol to exchange data between users and websites while protecting the same. There are various kinds of VPN Protocols. Some are faster, while others are more secure.
Examples of good VPN Protocols are OpenVPN and IKEv2. These 2 provide a combination of high security, speed, and reliability.
- VPN Server: When you use a VPN, your computer connects to a VPN server. The VPN server is a powerful computer located remotely, and many users can be connected to it simultaneously.
VPN server receives your data when you open a website, encrypts it, and then sends the request to the website with your encrypted data.
- IP Address: Each device has an online address that is sent to websites and services so they can send their data back to that address.
- Static/Dedicated IP: Each time a user connects to a VPN server, the user’s device is provided with a specific IP address, which is known as static or dedicated IP.
- P2P Functionality: When a VPN enables you to use peer-to-peer (P2P) apps, for example, a torrent application, then this means that the VPN has P2P functionality.
- Kill Switch: A kill switch keeps on checking your VPN connection constantly, and it blocks your internet connection if it detects that the same have failed. The kill switch protects your data in the absence of a secure connection.
How does a VPN Work?
When you have bought a subscription to a good VPN provider, like NordVPN or ExpressVPN, you need to download and install its app on your devices, such as mobile phone, tablet, and computer.
After installing it, you have to select your chosen settings, and then you are set to surf the internet securely. Now, the VPN follows the steps mentioned below in order to provide you with a secure connection:
- The VPN application on your device starts with the encryption of your data traffic, and then it sends the encrypted data via your ISP to the VPN server.
- The VPN server receives your encrypted data and then decrypts it.
- The data will be sent to the web by the VPN server, and then it will receive a reply that is meant for the user.
- The VPN server again encrypts the traffic and sends the reply back to you.
- The VPN software on your computer or phone, or any other device, will then decrypt the received data for your convenience.
The encryption provided by the VPN server provides you with tight security against hackers and data thefts. The VPN connection also makes you anonymous to the internet because the data traffic is rerouted through the VPN server.
The internet can see the IP address of the VPN server but your IP address remains hidden, making you anonymous and protecting your privacy. This means that none of your online activities can be traced back to you, giving you increased online freedom.
The VPN application on your device runs in the background and does not interfere with any of your other applications or activities. Thus, you would be able to use your device the same as before with the only difference being that now you can bypass any online restrictions due to the VPN connection.
Role of a VPN to Protect You While on Public Wi-Fi
When using a public Wi-Fi network, you automatically become an easy target for hackers as it is less safe than your private network. You are not at all aware of who else is using the same network as you and who has set up the WI-Fi in the first place.
Hackers and data thieves can easily steal your personal data on public Wi-Fi. As a VPN sends your data traffic through an encrypted tunnel, it makes it almost impossible for anyone to have access to your data. That is why it is extremely important to use a VPN when surfing the net on a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
Is Using a VPN Safe?
It can come to you whether a VPN is safe or not, especially when you are putting all your personal data in the hands of someone who can, to your thoughts, steal or misuse it.
Your VPN provider can indeed access your private information if it desires, and so, it is important to choose a trusted VPN provider. Most of the premium VPN providers do not log your browsing history, via their no-log policy, and also do not store your data.
However, some VPN providers can abuse the private data of their users and sell it to advertisers. But, if you choose a paid premium VPN service, your data is in safe hands; rest assured. We have mentioned here some of the best VPN providers that you can wholeheartedly trust:
- ExpressVPN – It is one of the best VPNs out there. They provide fast and secure servers and have great customer service for $6.67 a month.
- NordVPN – This one offers dedicated IP addresses, which makes it convenient for you to access web resources not available in your region. It also offers double VPN connections for added security and privacy. It starts at $3.71 a month.
- Surfshark – A premium VPN provider but much cheaper than ExpressVPN. It is immensely user-friendly, and you can easily set it up on your devices, and the plans start at $2.49 a month.
How does a VPN Affect Your Internet Speed?
Some users avoid using a VPN to browse the internet as they believe that it will slow down their internet speed. Some VPNs actually slow down your internet connection because a VPN reroutes your connection through an external server. This makes your web pages load slower than usual. But, this is not the case always.
When you buy a premium VPN, like ExpressVPN or NordVPN, they actually try to make your internet connection as fast as possible and sometimes even faster than the usual speed.
So, when choosing a VPN provider, you should research well and opt for one of the fastest VPNs out there. It is possible that your internet speed may be artificially restricted by your internet service provider or another party. In that case, having a good VPN will actually prove to be highly useful as it will improve your speed.
Having a VPN connection from a reputable VPN provider will be an advantage to your overall internet experience. It provides you with advanced security, privacy, and anonymity while surfing online using an external server that acts as a tunnel.
Now that you know and understand how a VPN works and how it is absolutely safe to use a VPN from a trusted VPN provider, you can invest in a premium VPN service.
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