Why Would you Use a VPN?
There are many reasons why people use a VPN, some of the most common are as follows:
- Anonymity on the internet: A VPN connection hides your IP address and location. With a VPN connection you use an IP address that belongs to the VPN server. This way your own IP address stays hidden. Websites and other parties won’t be able to trace your online actions back to your location and identity. All they will see, when you are using a VPN, is a strange IP address that has nothing to do with you. With a VPN you can browse the internet anonymously.
- Protection against hackers and governments: People are becoming more and more aware of their vulnerability on the internet. Without a secure VPN connection, it is easy for others to intercept the data that you, sometimes unknowingly, spread when you are online. Without knowing it, others could tap your devices and use your personal information. You can prevent this with a VPN because it encrypts all your internet traffic.
- Secure internet access on public networks: Using a public network can be very risky. Other users on the same network can easily tap into your data and personal information. Since you don’t want others to have access to, for instance, your email login or credit card information it might be wise to use a VPN connection. The VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic. A hacker will only see encrypted matter and won’t be able to see or use your personal information.
- Bypassing censorship and geographical restrictions: For a normal internet user there can be many restrictions as to what you can and cannot access online. For instance, you cannot watch all the content available on BBC iPlayer if you are not accessing the internet via a British IP address. Also, some services like Netflix offer different content in different geographical zones. Some governments (e.g. China and Turkey) block access to certain internet services, such as, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook, or Twitter. By changing your geographical location with a VPN, you can bypass these different restrictions.
- Downloading and uploading anonymously: Downloading is illegal in most countries and more than ever before downloaders are tracked down and sometimes even prosecuted. To make sure nobody knows what you are downloading or uploading you can use a VPN connection. Because of the encrypted traffic and the rerouted IP address you can download anonymously with a VPN.
- Prevent companies from building a file on you: Advertising networks such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter are constantly collecting information about you through your online traffic. With this information they can show you tailored adds but more importantly they are free to sell this information to a third party. By encrypting your data using a VPN these networks won’t be able to collect information on you and they will have less influence on what you see online.
- Access to your company’s network: More and more companies are giving people the possibility of working from home. Some people use a VPN connection to access the company network at home. This enables people to efficiently work from home.
Disadvantages of a Free VPN
With free VPNs it is always good to think about how these services can be free. You might not pay for their service in money, but there is always another way you pay. For this reason, you might want to check what these free services do with your information. Do they protect it with their lives or sell it without hesitation? Moreover, a free VPN often doesn’t have the same advantages of paid VPN services. The provider can limit your data, speed, and safety to convince you to eventually buy their paid service.
How Does a VPN Work Technically?
When you have found a reliable VPN provider you download and install their software. Then you select your preferred security settings and set up a safe connection with your desired VPN server. When the connection has been established the following will happen to your data traffic:
- The VPN software on your computer encrypts your data and sends it to the VPN server through a secure connection.
- The encrypted data from your computer is decrypted by the VPN server.
- The VPN server will go on the internet with the decrypted data and will receive all traffic sent back, that is meant for the user.
- The traffic is then sent back to you (the user) after the VPN server encrypts it.
The VPN connection will encrypt your data traffic, making it virtually impossible for hackers or governments to intercept it. The secure connection also provides the user with anonymity because your internet traffic is rerouted through an external VPN server. Because you are surfing the web via the IP address of the VPN server your own IP address will stay hidden. Normally your location and even your identity could be revealed through your IP address because it is unique to your internet connection. By using a different IP address on the VPN server none of your actions online are traceable to you and you can now cruise the web anonymously.
The VPN application will run in the background of your computer, tablet, or smartphone. You can access the internet as you normally do and you won’t notice anything different.