How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is a piece of software that encrypts your private data, offering protection against cybercriminals, spies, and online censorship. It works by creating a secure encrypted connection from a remote location to a private VPN server. VPNs ensure complete online privacy and anonymity by creating a secure connection that masks your real IP address and location and encrypts your internet traffic data so that your activity is almost untraceable.
In recent years, the internet security industry has grown significantly, and VPNs are no longer reserved for technology experts. More and more internet users are using VPNs to protect their devices online. Downloading and using a good VPN service is one of the simplest ways to ensure your internet activity is secure and anonymous.
When you connect to a VPN server, your private traffic is passed through a secure tunnel to a remote server, so that no-one, including your Internet Service Provider, government agencies, spies, or cybercriminals, can access or decrypt it.
Utilizing a VPN service will replace your actual IP address and location with that of the VPN server. Your IP address is the unique number that identifies your device and your specific location and can be used to link you to your internet activity. With an alternate IP address, your identity is protected from anyone who may be trying to access it, and you can access the internet as if you were located in a country across the globe.
A Virtual Private Network or VPN enables internet users to safely connect to a private VPN server, no matter their location. VPNs are used for a range of business uses including such as employees working from home who can connect to the office network and large businesses with multiple office locations that use VPNs to allow a secure single network.
Alongside business uses, VPNs are also used by individuals to mask their location, secure their online activities, and gain access to geo-restricted websites and streaming sites by connection to private server locations.
The best VPNs protect your web traffic from third parties, spies, and anyone else that may be trying to steal or profit from your data. If you use unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots in cafes or airports, you may be putting your personal privacy at risk. However, a VPN will protect your private data from prying eyes, helping you to regain freedom online.
VPNs are also often used to access geo-restricted or censored apps, websites, and streaming services. By masking your real IP address, a VPN allows access to restricted content on websites and streaming sites such as Netflix. Downloading a VPN will give you more freedom on the internet and allow you to bypass firewalls, censorship, blocks, and geo-restrictions.
What is a VPN?
When you access a website without a VPN, your internet connection passes through your Internet Service Provider. Your ISP gives you a specific IP address that can be used to identify you and link you to your internet activity. Your internet provider controls all of your internet traffic and can view your browsing history and online activity.
Using a VPN offers online anonymity and privacy by creating a completely private connection between your device and the VPN’s server. A VPN hides your IP (internet protocol) address so that your online activities are almost untraceable. Importantly, VPN services create secure encrypted connections to offer an additional layer of protection for your internet activities.
A VPN enables users to connect to multiple remote server locations over significant distances. A VPN creates a secure encrypted tunnel between your local connection and the VPN server in another location, which may be across the globe. Using a VPN can mask your real IP address and replace it with that of the remote server. This allows you to enjoy greater online freedom, and access geo-restricted content on apps, websites, and streaming sites such as Netflix.
VPNs utilize the IP address of a remote server location rather than your own. This means that you can ensure your online privacy and anonymity. You can also rest assured that your browsing history cannot be monitored, stored, or sold by your internet service provider or web browser to third parties. However, it is important to remember that your browsing history and search activity can still be accessed if you utilize a public computer or one that is provided by your school, university, or employer.
A premium VPN provider will offer server locations all over the world. This means that you could choose to connect to any of them and make it appear as if your activity is originating from an entirely different location.
It is necessary to note that search engines also monitor and record your search activity, however, they will also associate the data with an IP address that is not your own. Thus, a VPN will ensure all of your internet activity and browsing history are completely anonymous and private.
What Does a VPN Do?
Here are the main functions of a VPN.
1. Ensures private browsing
Your online searches and browsing history are not private. Your internet service provider and your internet browser can access and monitor almost all of your online activity. Most of the websites and apps that you use every day can also retain data about your browsing habits. Also, web browsers can monitor your history and link that data to your actual IP address.
Without a VPN connection, your internet service provider (ISP) can view all of your online activity and browsing history. When you connect to a secure VPN service, all of your online activities are hidden. This is because your internet activity is connected to the VPN server’s IP address rather than your own. Your internet traffic will continue to run through your ISP, but your ISP won’t be able to access or view your activity.
Also, the websites and apps that you use won’t be able to see your real IP location or address, just that of the remote server, which is used by countless other internet users and thus cannot be used to identify you or link you to your activity.
Anyone who gains access to your IP address can view your previous internet activity and browsing history, as well as where you were located when you made each search. Your IP address can be used to link all of your online activity to you and your device.
2. Bypass geo-restrictions
You may have a paid subscription to a streaming service such as Netflix. When you travel abroad, the streaming service may not be available. This is due to contractual agreements and regulations that differ depending on the country you are in.
However, a VPN enables you to choose an IP address that is located in your home country. This should allow you to continue to watch your favorite television shows and movies as you would at home.
3. Protect your devices
A VPN can be used to protect all of your devices including your laptop, desktop computer, Android tablet, iPhone, and Smart TV, by anyone trying to steal your personal data or monitor your private internet activity.
Your device may be the target of cybercriminals, especially if you frequently utilize unsecured public Wi-Fi hotspots in restaurants, hotels, or on public transport. A VPN ensures all of the data that you send and receive on your devices are protected so that nobody can track your activity.
4. Public Wi-Fi networks
If you connect to an unsecured public Wi-Fi network with an active VPN connection you can rest assured that no one with access to the same network will be able to view or steal your data. Even the network’s operators will not have access to your private information. This is especially important that it is often difficult to tell whether a public Wi-Fi connection is what it claims to be, as cybercriminals often create fake connections to attract vulnerable users.
Do I Need a VPN?
If you are worried about your anonymity and privacy online, we would recommend installing a high-quality VPN service. You should download and use the VPN whenever you use the internet to ensure your activities remain completely private. A good VPN service should not significantly affect or slow your internet connection as it will run in the background. Using a VPN connection is the only way to ensure your identity is completely protected online.
A VPN acts as a stand-in for your usual internet activity. Instead of your actual IP location and address, the websites and apps that you visit will only be able to see the VPN server’s address and location. When you utilize a VPN service, your internet traffic is rerouted through a secure tunnel of servers. The data that is sent through the tunnel is encrypted so that it is almost impossible to decipher. This ensures that your internet activity and browsing history remain private.
Browsing the internet or completing online banking transactions over an unsecured public Wi-Fi network may expose your private data and identity. This is why a VPN is a vital addition for any internet user that is concerned about their anonymity and privacy on the internet.
Consider how many times you have read emails, or checked your online bank balance while at a cafe or on the bus. Unless you were connected to a private network that is secured by a password, any data that was sent or received during your browsing session may be exposed to cybercriminals or anyone else that is connected to the same local network.
A VPN offers an additional layer of anonymity to protect your internet activities including sending private emails, completing online transactions, or checking your bank balance online. A VPN ensures all of your web activities are anonymous and encrypted.
Using a VPN will also allow you to access the geo-restricted content on a range of streaming sites such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, HBO, YouTube, and more. A VPN will enable access to content that would typically be unavailable in your region. This means that you can even watch movies before they are set to be released in your country.
Also, if you travel frequently, for business or leisure, a VPN is a great addition. Typically, if you are away from home, you will be unable to watch your favorite shows on your usual streaming services. However, being abroad does not mean that you have to use the internet differently. A VPN connection will enable you to use the internet as you would if you were at home.
Gamers will benefit from using a VPN on their gaming devices too. A VPN can enable access to games, updates, skins, maps, and add-ons that might not be available in your country. Using a VPN will also protect you from threats related to online gaming such as DDoS attacks. A premium VPN connection might even reduce latency and ping, and improve your overall connection speed and gaming experience.
Many VPN services also support P2P file sharing and torrenting. If you do not use a VPN while torrenting, anyone could view your IP location and link your torrenting activity to you. A secure VPN connection will hide your IP location and address, enabling you to torrent anonymously.
We would recommend installing and using a VPN on all of your devices and operating systems. VPN providers typically offer the same client for both Windows and macOS devices. The best VPN companies also offer great apps for Android and iPhone mobile devices too.
What Are VPN Protocols?
VPNs utilize a number of secure protocols to encrypt internet data securely. Strong protocols are especially important as the information is being sent through a public network between two remote locations. A VPN protocol uses encryption and transmission methods to make sure that your internet connection is secure, by encrypting the data that is sent between your device and the secure server.
Common VPN protocols include IPSec (IP Security), SSL (Secure Sockets Layer), TLS (Transport Layer Security), PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol), L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), OpenVPN, IKEv1, and IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange), and WireGuard.
All VPN protocols utilize a “handshake” process of authentication between your device and the remote server. To ensure the success of this connection, the connecting device must offer a key that reflects that of the receiving location.
OpenVPN is one of the best protocols and is commonly used by premium VPN providers. The tunneling protocol utilizes military-standard encryption to ensure your VPN connections are completely secure. OpenVPN is highly configurable and offers excellent speeds and security. It is compatible with both UDP and TCP ports. UDP offers a faster option, making it a common choice for gamers and streamers for its seamless experience. TCP offers a higher level of security at the cost of a slightly slower connection speed.
The IKEv2 protocol is often utilized with IPSec and provides first-rate encryption. This protocol has a range of benefits such as the option to automatically re-establish a safe VPN connection. It is a popular option for mobile users as it can easily change between networks.
How Does a VPN Work for Streaming?
In recent years, VPNs have become a useful addition for anyone wanting to access the geo-restricted content on streaming sites such as Netflix. Whether you want to catch up on your favorite television show from home while vacationing abroad, or access sports coverage that is not available in your region, you need a VPN.
If you enjoy watching sports, television shows, and movies, a VPN is a great addition to enhance your streaming experience and gain access to additional content. You can use VPN connections to access overseas content on streaming sites such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, and more.
If you pay for a Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription, you will have access to a significant amount of content as standard. However, there is always more content that will not be available in your particular location.
A VPN will enable you to get much more out of your streaming subscriptions by allowing you to overcome geo-blocks, censorship, and restrictions on a host of content. Installing a VPN on your streaming devices will mean that you can access UK streaming sites such as BBC iPlayer, as well as overseas Amazon Prime Video and Netflix libraries.
A streaming VPN can alter your IP location to make it appear as if your connection is coming from somewhere across the globe. Thus, you can access a host of television shows and movies that would not typically be available in your region.
Do I Need a VPN at Home?
Using a VPN is a great way to ensure your browsing activity is safe when connected to the internet on public WiFi, but it can also be useful at home. Although you do not need to worry as much about your online privacy when at home, your ISP still has significant insight into your internet activity, so it pays to use a VPN service at home too.
Installing a VPN will protect your data from your Internet Service Provider and government agencies. Even if your internet service provider is requested to hand over records of your internet activity, your VPN can protect your online freedom, as long as your provider has a strict no-logs policy.
A VPN works to create a secure connection between your device and the server bypassing your internet connection through an encrypted VPN tunnel. VPN technology is great for protecting your browsing activity on public Wi-Fi networks but it can also be used to protect your devices from other threats at home too. Moreover, a VPN can enable access to restricted streaming content that you would not otherwise have access to.
Typically we can rest assured that our home network provides a secure connection. The main threat to your browsing activity at home comes from your ISP. Many ISPs are allowed to monitor, store, and sell private user data to third parties. Despite that ISPs may say this data is anonymous, it is still concerning.
ISPs are also not the only organizations that may be monitoring your web activity as governments, and the websites and apps that you visit may be storing your personal data too.
Many users use VPNs for the sole purpose of accessing streaming content on geo-restricted sites. Every streaming service has different contracts to offer television shows and movies that may be restricted to specific locations. This is where VPN clients come in useful. You can utilize your VPN to create a connection to a remote VPN server and access streaming content that is typically restricted in your country. Streaming sites such as Netflix have implemented VPN blocking technology, however, the best VPN providers are able to overcome such restrictions.
Whether or not you require a VPN at home will come down to your internet habits and preferences. There is a range of reasons to install VPN client software to help protect your internet activity. However, it is important to consider whether you will use it or not and keep in mind that a VPN may slightly slow your internet speeds. An unused VPN client is a waste of money.
However, considering that ISPs are allowed to store and sell user search history and data, a VPN may be a suitable addition to your devices. If you are worried about your online privacy, or you simply want to access geo-restricted streaming content, we would recommend installing a VPN on your devices.
How to Choose a VPN
There is an endless array of VPN services on the market, making it difficult to choose the best one for you. However, it does not have to be overwhelming. Simply consider the features that are most important for you and choose a VPN that best fulfills them.
If you are not sure what features you require, we have compiled a list of the most important ones to help you choose the best VPN for you.
Well-designed client: Make sure that you choose a VPN that features a simple and well-designed client that ensures it is easy to use, especially if you haven’t used a VPN before. A good VPN client should feature easy-to-use “Connect” and “Disconnect” buttons as well as an easy-to-navigate server map.
Excellent customer service: Another important feature to consider when choosing a VPN provider is its customer service. The best VPNs will offer 24/7 live chat support in case you run into any issues while using the service.
Wide device support: It is likely that you will want to use your VPN on all of your devices. Providers such as Surfshark offer unlimited simultaneous device connections, allowing you to install the VPN on your laptop, mobile phone, tablet, gaming console, and more, and share the VPN with your friends and family too.
Thus, it is important to make sure that your chosen VPN works with all of your devices and includes mobile apps for Android and iOS so that you can use it on your smartphone and tablet too. Premium VPNs usually also offer protection for routers, Smart TVs, and gaming consoles.
Do I Need to Use a VPN All the Time?
We would recommend that you install and use a VPN whenever you connect to the internet. Keeping your virtual private network activated all of the time will ensure you are safe from hackers, identity leaks, data breaches, and malicious third-party actors such as ISPs and advertisers. A VPN will encrypt your data traffic and protect your anonymity and privacy to ensure completely private internet access.
When you use a VPN from a secure VPN provider, your real IP location and address will be hidden by that of the VPN’s server. When you connect to the internet through a VPN your internet access data is passed through a secure tunnel to a remote server. This ensures that no one will be able to see the websites that you use and what you browse.
A high-quality virtual private network will also offer additional security features such as a kill-switch and DNS leak protection which offer extra layers of protection for your personal data.
Public networks: You should use a VPN when using public Wi-Fi networks. There are countless unsafe Wi-Fi hotspots that are common targets for cybercriminals, who sometimes set up fake connection points to prey on vulnerable internet users. A premium VPN provider will offer strong encryption to ensure your network traffic is protected from malicious users.
Streaming geo-restricted content: If you want to access streaming content that is not typically available in your region, you should use a VPN connection. Simply connect to a remote server in the same country as the content you are trying to access.
Financial transactions: We would also recommend activating your VPN when you perform financial transactions or share sensitive identifying information across your local network. Without a VPN, hackers and cybercriminals may be able to access your local network traffic and steal your private information. However, a VPN’s encryption will ensure that no one can view your activity or information.
Bandwidth throttling: A VPN is also a useful addition to overcome bandwidth throttling. Some ISPs intentionally slow down local network connection speeds. This often occurs if the ISP cannot keep up with the demand on their servers because of constant streaming and gaming. Your ISP may target you for bandwidth throttling if they notice intense activity on your connection. However, if you use a VPN, your ISP will be unable to see what you do online and will therefore less likely to restrict your connection speeds.
HTTP extensions: Not all websites are safe and some websites still lack the secure HTTPS extension and instead use HTTP. HTTPS operates on the secure TLS protocol to encrypt the data traffic to ensure a secure connection between the internet user and the website. While we would still recommend using a VPN when you access HTTPS sites, HTTPS encryption is typically weaker than that of a VPN, a VPN is even more important if you access an HTTP website.
Firewalls: If you want to bypass firewalls on websites you visit, a VPN is a useful addition. You will be able to use the VPN to overcome such restrictions as the VPN creates an encrypted tunnel and hides your actual IP so nobody can view your activity and restrict your traffic.
Ads and pop-ups: Also, if you notice annoying pop-ups or malicious ads on your internet browser, many premium VPNs will also offer high-quality ad and malware blocking features to ensure a smoother user experience.