What is a VPN: Your Guide to Virtual Private Networks | CyberNews (2022)

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In simple terms, it is a service that protects your privacy and internet connection while online, as well as helps bypass censorship and other restrictions.

It does this by creating an encrypted tunnel through which to send your data. In a sense, a VPN acts as a middleman between your device and remote servers, and carries your data over existing networks without exposing it to the public internet.

In this article, we’ll explain what a VPN is and how it works in more detail, as well as cover the ways it can be useful in your daily life.

What does a VPN do?

Before we get into how exactly a VPN works, let’s take a look at what it can do, and how you can use it to your advantage while using the internet.

Hide your online activities

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If you live in an oppressive regime, the government could use your internet history against you. If you’re connecting directly, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) knows every domain you visit. Using a VPN to secure the connection helps you avoid such surveillance – all your ISP will see is you connecting to a VPN. In some cases, they won’t even know that much.

Even if you’re living in a democracy, there are reasons why you may want to hide your online activities. A prime example is torrenting – while not illegal by itself, torrenting is mainly used for (and associated with) distributing copyrighted material. Being caught while torrenting can lead to legal issues, which is why many torrenters use VPNs to hide their IP address and protect their identity.

You may have also heard that certain companies make profit by selling your data. When you have a lot of data on someone, you can make accurate prediction models. For example, it makes much more sense for businesses that sell smart dog collars to target the people who have dogs. A VPN encrypts your traffic data and makes it invisible to your ISP or any other interested parties.

Defeat government censorship

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Sometimes ISPs block particular sites or online services, such as social media and news. This practice is especially common in countries with strict Internet and overall content censorship.

With a VPN, you can bypass the government censorship and blocks, because you’ll be connecting to the internet through a server in another country which doesn’t have internet content censorship laws.

And even if you live in a country that employs advanced anti-VPN technology like Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), such as China, you don’t need to worry. Many VPNs have traffic obfuscation tools that hide the fact of VPN usage from such technologies.

Access streaming content

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You might have heard that Netflix libraries aren’t all made equal. You pay more for your Netflix subscription inSwitzerland but get a smaller library of movies and TV series than users in the US. It doesn’t sound right.

To solve this, many people use a VPN because it lets you watch Netflix from anywhere, as if you’re locatedsomewhere else – just choose a VPN server in that country. This enables you toremove limits from the content libraries of the services you have subscribed for.

Since many entertainment platforms are moving to subscription-based models with third-party copyright holderslicensing content based on region, expect more of this in the future.

Get more flexibility with online purchases

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One of the most known lifehacks is that it’s best to buy plane tickets and buy hotel reservations in Incognito Mode. Even though VPN doesn’t do the same thing, it will prevent you from falling prey to price discrimination – the practice of charging a different price for the same goods or services depending on your location.

Many retailers are guilty of price discrimination, and there’s a good chance that your next purchase will be cheaper if you’re using a VPN. Plus, if you’re abroad and want to order something for when you get back home, the VPN might be the only way to access the local webpage version.

Bypass ISP restrictions

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ISPs sometimes deliberately slow down your internet connection by throttling bandwidth. This is especially true for P2P traffic – torrenting large files at high speed can be heavy on the internet infrastructure, and throttling is their way of solving that.

By using a VPN, you can hide the contents of your traffic, making it harder to pinpoint you and impose download speed limits. This is also one of those rare situations where a VPN can actually increase your connection speed.

ISPs also tend to collect data about their users, and use that information for targeted advertising purposes. Having your internet activities tracked and used against your own will is not fun. A VPN can prevent this by encrypting your traffic data and making tracking you virtually impossible.

Secure public wifi networks

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A VPN’s primary function is security and privacy protection. It comes in particularly handy when you’re faced with using public wifi in airports or cafes.

In these settings, a crafty hacker could set themselves up between you and the router, intercepting your traffic in what is known as a man-in-the-middle attack. A VPN can prevent this and ensure utmost online pricy because any intercepted traffic would be encrypted and useless.

Your IP address could also be useful to hackers. Because an IP address reveals your real location, you could become the victim of doxxing or DDoS attacks. A VPN gives you a different IP address when you connect and prevents such events from happening.

Access blocked websites

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A VPN is useful when you need to access websites that are blocked on your local network, such as at school or workplace, as well as websites that are only available in certain areas or countries. These sites may include social media, news channels, gaming and streaming platforms, and anything else that might be considered a distraction from work or school activities.

A VPN will change your IP address and route your traffic through its servers, thus allowing you to bypass school or corporate network restrictions and access all and any online content you want.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN changes your real IP address by rerouting your traffic through one of its servers via an encrypted tunnel. It is a combination of network infrastructures such as VPN servers and VPN software. Simply put, you need a remote server and a VPN tunneling protocol (or VPN client app) to establish a secure connection.

Let’s look at an example of how visiting Amazon would work without a VPN. You type the URL (https://amazon.com) into the address bar of your browser and press Enter. The Amazon homepage loads and you can do your Christmas shopping.

Here’s how it works in more technical terms:

  1. Your browser contacts a Domain Name Server (DNS) assigned by your ISP, asking it to translatethe website domain into an IP address.
  2. Knowing the Amazon server’s IP address, your device can now send a request and retrieve thewebsite.
  3. Your ISP routes your request to the Amazon server and returns a response.
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This is very simplified, but that’s essentially how any connection works if you’re not using a VPN.

(Video) What is Virtual Private Network (VPN) EXPLAINED in 3 min

In this example, the Amazon website is secure and uses TLS/SSL (HTTPS), so your connection is encrypted. If you visit an insecure website that doesn’t have TLS, your data won’t be encrypted.

But despite the TLS encryption, this type of session still isn’t completely private:

  • By sending a DNS request to your ISP, you are telling your ISP that you want to visitAmazon.com
  • Further communication through your ISP tells them what you’re looking up on Amazon
  • Amazon also knows your IP address and can therefore determine your location as well as,potentially, your identity

Now let’s look at an example of how visiting Amazon would work if you were using a VPN:

  1. Firstly, you would connect to a VPN server in a country of your choosing, e.g., the UK
  2. The VPN app uses a tunneling protocol to create an encrypted connection to the VPN server
  3. You type amazon.com into the address bar and click Enter. Yet this time, the DNS query is resolved bythe VPN, denying your ISP knowledge of what you’re doing
  4. The VPN establishes a connection between their server and the Amazon.com server
  5. Traffic goes from you to the VPN server, then to Amazon’s server, and back
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Why are VPNs good for privacy?

Connecting to the internet via a remote VPN server does several things:

  • It hides your IP address (and thus your location and identity) from the website or onlineservice you’re using. In our above example, Amazon would see the VPN server IP address rather than your own
  • Additionally, it prevents your ISP and, by extension, your government from knowing whatyou’re doing online – your ISP can see you’re connecting to the VPN server IP, but nothing beyondthat point
  • It encrypts your data, protecting your privacy and security if someone intercepts it. This isparticularly relevant if you’re using public wifi and visiting insecure websites, which don’t encrypt theconnection via TLS/SSL

Your browsing history can get you in a lot of trouble in certain situations. For example, imagineyou’re in China and visiting a political forum where users are expressing anti-government views. Or perhaps you’revisiting a porn site as a citizen of Saudi Arabia.

Without a VPN, your ISP knows everything you’re doing on the internet. In countries with strictinternet controls, ISP data is often freely available to government agencies.

VPNs’ ability to redirect and encrypt traffic has made them a favorite tool for anyone seeking online security,anonymity, or simply trying to unblockcensor and restricted content.

What is VPN encryption?

VPN encryption is a process of making the data traveling between a device and a VPN server unreadable to anyone without an encryption key, namely other devices.

VPN tunnels that go from your device to the VPN service provider’s server are also secured by using encryption.

VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic, including your browser, torrent, messaging app traffic, or whatever else you may be doing on the internet. No one will be able to see or intercept your online activities because of VPN encryption

Although encryption slows down your connection a little, it does not interfere with your ability to connect to the Internet. It simply makes it impossible for someone to reveal network exchanges.

How does VPN encryption work?

Your data is encrypted all throughout the transferring process between a device and a VPN server. It gets deciphered only at the endpoint – when leaving the VPN tunnel and entering your device.

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VPNs use three types of cryptography: symmetric encryption, asymmetric encryption, and hashing.Here’s how VPN encryption works:

  1. When you connect to a VPN server, the connection performs a “handshake” between a VPN client and a VPN server.During this step, hashing is used to authenticate that the user is interacting with a real VPNserver, and asymmetric encryption is used to exchange symmetric encryption keys.A few popularexamples of asymmetric (or public key) protocols used at this stage are RSA or Diffie-Hellman.
  2. Once the handshake is successful, symmetric encryption is used to encrypt all data passingbetween the user and the VPN server. The most common symmetric encryption cipher used by VPNs is AES(specifically, AES-256).

Most top VPN services rely on the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) cipher to seal the data that goes through – the same type of encryption that financial and government institutions use.

What is AES-256?

AES-256 stands for Advanced Encryption Standard using 256-bit integers to process data. It isa symmetric key encryption algorithm for encryption and decryption. Generally, it’s considered thegold standard of modern encryption. VPNs use it to create a safe tunnel for your private data exchanges.

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You might see weaker AES standards like AES-128. This simply implies that the cryptographic key is shorter and easier(although still virtually impossible) to “brute force.” As a rule of thumb, the longer the encryption key,the more potential combinations, which would take longer to crack. It’s the same principle as using alonger password means it’s harder to guess.

On the flip side, a longer encryption key means slower connections because the encryption and decryption take longer.

In the wild, you will most often find three variations of AES: AES-128, AES-192, and AES-256.Additionally, you may encounter different modes of operation, such as AES-256-GCM or AES-256-CBC.

Not all tunneling protocols support this kind of encryption. For example, PPTP uses the much weaker MPPE cipher,whereas the new WireGuard protocol primarily uses ChaCha20.

What is a VPN server?

A VPN server is what enables users to use the VPN service in the first place. It is a combination of VPN hardware, such as physical servers stored in physical places, and VPN software.

The top providers have hundreds or even thousands of servers scattered across the globe. The further the VPN server is from the user’s real location, the worse the performance will be, so servers in various locations are important for better performance. On top of that, the more locations a provider has servers in, the more virtual locations a user can connect to without actually having to move.

Some providers also use diskless, RAM-only servers. These are the kind of servers that have no external storage, and any data that’s on them gets wiped clean with every server reboot. VPN providers choose RAM-only servers to ensure complete user privacy and comply with their no-logs policies.

What does a VPN server do?

A VPN server forwards your internet traffic to the destination server and returns the response to you.

When you connect to a VPN server, your IP address changes, and so does your virtual location. Thus, the websites that you visit will assume that you’re based in the VPN servers’ country. This is especially useful for bypassing geo-restrictions and various other content blocks and Internet censorship.

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By contrast, if you’re not connecting through a VPN server, the owner of any website you visit will know your real IP address and your location. You may want to avoid this for privacy reasons, as well as certain content restrictions. Some websites and services are available only in specific locations, or have local versions

What is a VPN client?

A VPN client (or a VPN app) is the software on your device that communicates with a VPN server, establishes the connection, and encrypts data.

How does a VPN client work?

A VPN app (or client) is where you control your VPN experience: which server to connect to, which tunneling protocol to use, which features to activate, etc. Most VPN service providers have apps for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Amazon Fire TV, and other devices and operating systems.

(Video) What is a VPN and How Does it Work? [Video Explainer]

That said, you can also use a VPN without a custom VPN app. All major operating systems offer VPN functionality in some form. For example, you can set up a VPN connection through your networking settings on Windows.

You can also set up a VPN client on your wifi router by following instructions from your VPN provider.

VPN protocols

The primary function of a VPN protocol or tunneling protocol is to establish a safe tunnel between your device and the VPN server. When a VPN connects to a VPN server, it creates a tunnel to send data. The protocol used to create this connection determines how your data is sent through the network.

Some protocols are more secure, some are faster, some are better on mobile devices or older PCs, some are better at bypassing firewalls, and some are just outdated

Common VPN protocols

Most VPN providers didn’t develop the protocols themselves but merely implemented the technology in their apps. Here are the most common protocols that you could find in most VPN clients:

IKEv2 – stands for Internet Key Exchange version 2. It mainly handles request and response confirmations. For authentication, IPSec is also often used together with IKEv2 (IKEv2/IPSec). This protocol is very efficient on an unreliable connection. IKEv2 effectively reestablishes after a connection loss. It’s also one of the fastest, most used tunneling protocols on mobile devices because it can easily switch between wireless to cellular connection, and vice versa.

OpenVPN – by far the most common tunneling protocol on desktop apps. This is an open-source protocol based on OpenSSL. It comes in two types – TCP and UDP.

  • UDP is the User Datagram Protocol. It is much faster because it doesn’t allow the recipient to resend data requests. This means less verification of data integrity, which allows for morerapid exchanges, hence better speeds.
  • TCP is the Transmission Control Protocol. It allows multiple data verifications, so the processing time may be slower, limiting your internet speed. Use UDP on the networks youcan trust, while TCP will be better on public wifi hotspots.

L2TP/IPSec – On its own, L2TP doesn’t provide any encryption. Its job is request and responseconfirmations. Encryption enters the arena with IPSec, which is often used in conjunction. There are many discussions about whether this protocol is secure because it was co-developed with the NSA. The EdwardSnowden leaks seemed to imply that the NSA may have backdoors to access L2TP/IPSec traffic.

WireGuard – the next-gen of tunneling protocols. It uses fewer lines ofcode, making it easier to audit, and squeezes the most out of your device’s processing power. It’s ideal for mobiledevices and slower computers, has up-do-date encryption built-in, and offers reliable connections. WireGuard gives the best performance of any current VPN tunneling protocol.

SSTP – Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol. Created by Microsoft, this protocol is not exclusive toWindows and provides a high level of encryption. While SSTP is very capable, there are concerns that Microsoft may have backdoors to access SSTP traffic.

PPTP – Point to Point Tunneling Protocol. Developed in the late ’90s and the first to become widelyavailable. This protocol relies on outdated encryption, which has become vulnerable to brute force attacks as computing powergrew. As such, few VPN service providers currently offer this protocol.

Proprietary VPN protocols

Some VPN service providers have developed their own tunneling protocols:

Catapult Hydra – developed for the Hotspot Shield VPN service. The company claims that this protocol allows the serviceto achieve much better connection speeds than using standard tunneling protocols. Whether due to Catapult Hydra orother reasons, Hotspot Shield has always been among the fastest VPNs.

NordLynx – only available on NordVPN. NordLynx is a modified version of WireGuard, solving potential securityissues while keeping the performance intact.

Lightway – only available on ExpressVPN. It uses an open-source implementation of Transport Layer Security (TLS),wolfSSL. Its goal is to be as lightweight as possible, aiming for ease of maintenance and high performance.

What to look for when choosing a VPN?

VPN services are not made equal. Some of them have more features, better security measures. Others have completedthird-party audits that add credibility to their transparency claims. When choosing a VPN service, you’remaking a conscious decision to trust a company with your data. The least you could do is invest time insome research.

Here are a few things to look out for:

#1 Reputation

Even if you’re just looking for a VPN to unblock Netflix, the service’s reputation is essential.Your privacy is important and you should never trade it.

Unfortunately, it can be challenging to know what VPN services are up to behind closed doors. Yet if a VPN providerhas been caught red-handed giving away user data or bending the truth about their services – that’s a good way toknow which VPN not to choose.

#2 Jurisdiction

Where a VPN operates from matters. Some countries require VPNs to collect user data whereas othershave harsh copyright laws. As a user of such a VPN, you run the risk of letting your data get into the wrong hands.

The Edward Snowden leaks shed light on the scope of surveillance around the globe. If you think that living outsideof the US makes you safe against the NSA and you’ll have nothing to worry about, think again. The surveillancealliance known colloquially as the 14-Eyes shares intelligence data on each other’s citizens. And they’re not eventhe worst of the bunch.

#3 Anonymous payment options

You are as anonymous as your method of payment. Paying with a credit card leaves records not only on yourbanking statement but in the company’s accounting logs. It never hurts to check if your chosen servicesupports payments via cryptocurrency, prepaid cards, or other options. As a rule of thumb, the less personalinformation you provide, the better the service is for your privacy.

#4 Technical specifications

Encryption, reliable tunneling protocols, leak protection, a kill switch – all of these arenecessary for a secure VPN. The provider can be very transparent, but if they don’t have the tech to provide privacyand security, you’re going to have a bad time.

As there are hundreds of VPN services to choose from, picking the best one might seem like a daunting task. Luckily, there are a few ways to distinguish the good from the bad. Here’s what you need to look for in a quality VPN:

  • Tunneling protocols. Not all VPN protocols were createdequal. Some, like PPTP, are downright outdated. So, when choosing yourVPN, look for fast and secure protocols like OpenVPN, IKEv2, andWireGuard.
  • Server list. It comes without saying that you shouldpick a VPN that offers servers in the country you want to connect to.However, a broader coverage is always better in general, as the serverswon’t be as crowded. You should also look for servers near you for afaster connection.
  • Logging policy. Always read the logging policy of theVPN you’re about to download. Look for a service that doesn’t keep anypersonal logs. Also, it’s better when the logging policy is audited byan independent third-party.
  • Streaming and torrenting. Not all VPN services are ableto unblock various streaming platforms like Netflix. Similarly, not allVPNs support torrenting. Keep this in mind when looking for yourperfect VPN - usually, reading a couple of reviews will give you thegist of whether the VPN will suit your needs.
  • Apps and devices. Whether you use Windows, macOS, iOS,Android, or Linux, it’s a good idea to check whether a VPN offers a goodapplication for your operating system. Some VPNs also support routers,smart TVs, and gaming consoles.

If you find it too difficult to pick a VPN yourself, you can check out our list of the best VPNs or simply download one of our top choices like NordVPN, Surfshark, or IPVanish.

How to set up a VPN connection

Setting up a VPN connection can be either very easy, or relatively difficult - it depends on whether you are using a VPN app, or attempting to manually configure VPN files on your chosen device.

Using a VPN app is usually pretty simple and straightforward, while manual setup and installation on routers or devices that don’t necessarily support VPNs require some technical knowledge.

(Video) VPN for dummies | Virtual Private Networks Explained

Set up a VPN on your device

Setting up a VPN on a device such as Windows or Mac computers, as well as iPhone and/or iPad, or Android devices is very simple, because most VPN providers have dedicated apps for them. Here’s how to set up a VPN on your device:

  1. Purchase a VPN subscription. NordVPN has apps for all major operating systems and some other devices as well.
  2. Download the app and follow installation instructions.
  3. Open the app and connect to a VPN server.

Set up a VPN manually

Most devices have built-in VPNs that you can configure to your liking. However, they might not support certain tunneling protocols such as WireGuard or OpenVPN, or you might not be able to choose from a variety of locations.

Besides that, setting up a VPN manually requires certain additional knowledge. Built-in VPNs also might not be as secure as the third-party VPN providers.

Nevertheless, if you’d like to try this, we suggest taking a look at our extensive guide on how to manually set up a VPN on different devices.

Install a VPN on your router

Installing a VPN on your router is the best way to set up a VPN connection for devices that don’t support VPNs, or if you want to protect your whole home network.

The process of setting up a VPN on a router is more complicated than manually setting it up on a device that already supports VPNs. Besides, not all routers support VPNs either. You won’t be able to install a VPN on most ISP-issued routers or older models.

As setting up a VPN on your router requires some technical knowledge and focus, we suggest you take a look at our guide on how to install a VPN on your router.

VPN vulnerabilities

There are no perfect cybersecurity products, and using a VPN comes with some risks as well. Here are some potential VPN vulnerabilities that you should be aware of:

  1. Some VPN services still use outdated protocols with known vulnerabilities. That is why most leading providers have phased out the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP).
  2. Hackers can impersonate VPN servers and intercept your data if your VPN is insecure.
  3. Your real IP address can leak if a VPN server goes down while you’re connected and compromise your privacy. Top VPNs offer kill switch features to disable your internet connection when the VPN drops.
  4. Your data is probably being sold if a VPN service is free. Think about it: the maintenance of server fleets costs money. Hence, when the service is free, the money has to come from somewhere. In many cases, the VPN is collecting your data and selling it off to third parties.
  5. Some VPNs log user data, even though the logging may not be extensive. There have been instances of several VPN providers handing over user data to governments when asked. That’s why it’s important to make sure that your chosen provider is a no-logs VPN.

Alternatives to VPN

There are other tools out there that offer similar solutions. Which VPN alternatives work for you depends onwhat functionality you need. If you need to quickly unblock some site, it might not make much sense topay for a top-notch VPN server. Even when a VPN is an appropriate solution, you might have identical results usingother options.

You can find workarounds to various problems by using VPN alternatives. Here are some of them:

Tor browser

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The Tor browser is an open-source browser and a network that offers anonymity by directing your traffic through a network of volunteer nodes. The traffic is encrypted, so no one along its journey can view it. To reach the desired website, your connection jumps through several of these nodes (also called relays or simply “servers”), making tracking your activities difficult.

In some ways, Tor is a free alternative to VPN networks, but it has downsides. Firstly, these nodes your traffic goes through are often just servers hosted on volunteer users’ PCs. This, together with the fact that your connection goes through at least 3 nodes chosen randomly, means the speed can never compare to a top-tier VPN.

Additionally, Tor has potential security issues. An experiment in 2007 showed how compromised exit nodes could be used to intercept traffic. Having enough of these nodes on the network may even lead to deanonymization. Tor is continuously monitoring all their compromised relays and blacklisting them, but they can’t realistically keep them all at bay.

Proxy services

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A proxy allows you to do the same thing as a VPN – appear as though you’re connecting from a different location. Proxy services work by connecting you to the internet through an intermediate server. They’re great if you want to access a blocked website at school, for example.

The main difference from a VPN is that most types of proxies don’t use encryption, meaning they’re not as secure. Additionally, proxies work at the app level – you can set a SOCKS proxy up on your browser or torrent client, but they won’t protect any apps you use that don’t have a proxy set up.

Some VPNs include proxy services as part of the package.

Learn more: Proxy vs. VPN

VPN browsers

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These tools integrate VPN functionalities within a browser so that you could surf the web withoutbeing tracked. For example, the Aloha browser even uses VPN tunneling protocols like IKEv2 and IPSec.

The downside is that a VPN browser only protects your browser traffic. Everything else that leaves your computer canbe seen and traced back to you.

VPN glossary

The VPN-related terminology can be hard to understand if you’re not already familiar with it. Here are some of the terms you may encounter when looking for a VPN or using one.

Dedicated IP (static IP)

Each time you connect to a VPN server, you will get a different IP address. These IPs are shared among many users andthey are known as dynamic IP addresses.

There are benefits to having a shared IP address. For one thing, this makes it a lot harder to link you to youronline activities. However you need your IP address to stay the same whenever you connect for some things to work.

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To solve the issue, some VPN service providers offer dedicated IP addresses for an additional fee.

DNS leak protection

A DNS leak is a situation that occurs when your traffic goes through a VPN server, but your ISP’s DNS still resolvesyour DNS queries. This is primarily due to issues with the Windows operating system.

Some VPNs have features built into their apps to prevent this from happening.

Kill switch

If you get disconnected from a VPN server, your device will try to reconnect via your regular connection. That meansthe website you’re visiting now knows your real IP, while your ISP knows what website you’re on.

The kill switch is a featurethat solves this type of leak by “killing” your internet if the VPN drops.

(Video) Introduction to Virtual Private Networks (VPN)

Military-grade encryption

This phrase usually describes AES-256, the industry standard data encryption cipher.

Multi-hop (double VPN)

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The multi-hop or doubleVPN feature lets you connect through 2 or more VPN servers instead of 1. It significantly increases securityat the cost of performance.

No-log policy

A “no-log”, “no-logs”, or “no logging” policy is the VPN provider’s promise not to store any data associated with your online activities.

In reality, it’s often a “some logs” or “no activity logs” policy, as VPNs may keep track of timestamps of when you connect to a VPN server and other anonymous data.

In recent years, top VPN services have been asking third-party companies to audit their no-log policies, making it the closest thing users have to proof that the providers don’t keep track of their data.

Simultaneous connections

A VPN subscription usually lets you use the service on several devices at once. This lets youinstall the VPN on all your smart devices or share a subscription among friends and family.

The number of simultaneous connections can range from zero to unlimited.

Split tunneling

You may want to use a VPN for some online activities, while at the same time not using it for others. For example,suppose you use online banking. In that case, your VPN connection may trigger security measures put in place toprotect users against suspicious logins.

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For cases like these, VPNs offer the split tunneling feature. On your VPN app, you can specify which websites orapps can bypass the encrypted tunnel and connect directly. That way, you can stay protected with a VPNwhen it counts, but route your Steam game downloads through your ISP to make them faster.

Shadowsocks

Aside from the regular tunneling protocols, you may also find something called Shadowsocks. It stands in a league ofits own – as an open-source encryption protocol project for proxies.

First developed to defeat the Great Firewall of China, it disguises your traffic to seem like a regular HTTPSexchange. This makes it harder to detect (and block) than looking for signs of OpenVPN usage.

Stealth mode (obfuscated servers)

Obfuscated servers feature has many names and different implementations, but the idea is similar to Shadowsocks. Stealth mode is used to scramble regular VPN traffic and add an extra layer of encryption to the already encrypted VPN traffic, making it difficult to detect even by advanced methods like Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)

Tor over VPN (onion over VPN)

Several VPNs offer an integrationwith the Tor network for maximum security. This puts so many layers between you and the destination serverthat finding out what you’re doing is practically impossible. However, your connection speed will suffersignificantly.

FAQ

Are VPNs legal?

Yes, VPNs are legal in most countries. However, there are some countries which have laws that limit VPN usage or ban them altogether. However, this is a pretty rare occurrence. But while using a VPN is generally fine, doing so to commit a crime is illegal.

Can VPN steal my data?

Yes, a VPN provider can steal your data in theory. However, many top VPNs operate under no-logging policies, meaning they don’t collect your information. And if they do, then maybe they’re not that good anyway.

How much does a VPN cost?

A monthly VPN subscription costs between $5-12 on average, and an annual subscription is between $3-8 per month. Most VPN prices depend on the duration of your subscription. If you subscribe for more extended periods, you pay less per month, and the longer the subscription period, the lower the price.

Can a VPN see my passwords?

No, a VPN most likely can’t see your passwords. That would be possible only in cases when a website uses HTTP, so you should avoid typing out your login credentials on such websites anyway. Luckily, most websites use HTTPS, which encrypts your data and makes stealing your password impossible.

How does a VPN increase your security?

VPN increases your security by hiding your real IP address, hiding the IP address of a website or service that you are using from your ISP, and securing your connection by using encryption. These measures make a VPN one of the best cybersecurity and online privacy tools.

Can you be tracked with a VPN?

It’s very difficult to track a person who uses a VPN. However, there are ways of tracking your online activity even when you use a VPN: cookies, digital fingerprinting, DNS leaks, malware, and doxxing. So while a VPN is an excellent privacy tool, it does not completely eliminate tracking risks.

Is a VPN worth it?

Yes, a VPN is worth having, especially if you value your privacy and security while browsing online, torrenting or doing anything else that requires internet connection. Besides that, a VPN can also help you bypass content restrictions, access blocked websites and avoid ISP speed throttling.

(Video) What is a VPN? (Virtual Private Network) | @SolutionsReview Explores

Is a VPN the same as wifi?

No, a VPN is not the same as wifi, even though they both work in similar ways. Wifi simply connects your device to a server which in turn is connected to the public internet, while a VPN connects you to a server using encrypted tunnels, and allows you to use its server to access websites and apps.

FAQs

What is a VPN: Your Guide to Virtual Private Networks | CyberNews? ›

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. In simple terms, it is a service that protects your privacy and internet connection while online, as well as helps bypass censorship and other restrictions. It does this by creating an encrypted tunnel through which to send your data.

What is a virtual private network VPN used for? ›

VPN stands for "virtual private network" — a service that helps you stay private online. A VPN establishes a secure, encrypted connection between your computer and the internet, providing a private tunnel for your data and communications while you use public networks.

What is VPN and how it works? ›

A VPN encrypts your data, so your credentials and online activity remain private—even from your internet service provider (ISP). This extra step of connecting to a VPN makes you virtually invisible and it gives you access to media and websites you may not see otherwise.

What is a VPN Virtual Private Networks explained Norton? ›

A virtual private network, better known as a VPN, gives you online privacy and anonymity by creating a private network from a public internet connection. VPNs mask your internet protocol (IP) address so your online actions are virtually untraceable.

What is VPN example? ›

Network-based VPNs are virtual private networks that securely connect two networks together across an untrusted network. One common example is an IPsec-based WAN, where all the offices of a business connect to each other across the internet using IPsec tunnels. There are several kinds of network VPNs.

Do I need a VPN on my phone? ›

Yes, You Should! A VPN (virtual private network) is a service that provides a secure Internet connection by using private servers in remote locations. All data traveling between your computer, smartphone or tablet and the VPN server is securely encrypted.

Who needs a VPN? ›

Having a VPN protects your identity and IP address, so that if you inadvertently upset someone, they are not able to track your location. Sidestep ISP Slowdowns. Some internet service providers knowingly slow down their network for one reason or another. With a VPN, you can avoid unnecessary ISP lag.

Does VPN work on home Wi-Fi? ›

Stop your ISP from watching you

That's rich personal — and private — information you're giving away to your ISP every time you connect to the internet at home. The good news is that a VPN at home can prevent your ISP from snooping on you by encrypting your traffic before the ISP can see it.

How do I turn VPN on? ›

  1. Open your phone's Settings app.
  2. Tap Network & internet Advanced. VPN. If you can't find it, search for "VPN." If you still can't find it, get help from your device manufacturer.
  3. Next to the VPN that you want to disconnect, tap Settings . To disconnect: Turn off that VPN. To forget the network: Tap Forget.

Should I turn on VPN on Norton? ›

Norton needs to maintain its reputation, so it can't have any security issues or data breaches. Its VPN is great for people who only need to protect their identity. However, if you're looking for more than browsing and you also need to download torrents or bypass geoblocks, I recommend checking out other VPN services.

Do I need VPN on my iPhone? ›

Even if the iPhone is super-secure, it can't stand up alone to threats that lurk behind public Wi-Fi networks. A VPN connection secures your online traffic and data against eavesdropping, constant ad-tracking, Wi-Fi spoofing and cybercriminals, whenever you're connected to public Wi-Fi networks.

How does a VPN work on a phone? ›

What is a VPN? A virtual private network (VPN) conceals internet data traveling to and from your device. VPN software lives on your devices — whether that's a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It sends your data in a scrambled format (this is known as encryption) that's unreadable to anyone who may want to intercept it.

Is WiFi a VPN? ›

A VPN works by connecting your computer, tablet, or smartphone to a server, so you can go online using the server's internet connection. The public WiFi network is only used to connect your device to the server, rather than to any of the websites or applications you subsequently access.

Why do you need a VPN? ›

The main purpose of a VPN is to hide your online activity. VPNs are often used to guard against hackers and snoops on public networks, but they're also useful for hiding your IP address, browsing activity, and personal data on any Wi-Fi network — even at home.

Do you need a VPN at home? ›

VPN is highly recommended in any case, especially working with sensitive data. You should keep it on most of the time to keep yourself safe from hackers, data breaches, leaks, and intrusive snoopers such as ISPs or advertisers. VPNs encrypt your traffic and protect your privacy from third parties and cybercriminals.

Why you shouldn't use a VPN? ›

The 10 biggest VPN disadvantages are:

A VPN won't give you complete anonymity: Read more. Your privacy isn't always guaranteed: Read more. Using a VPN is illegal in some countries: Read more. A safe, top-quality VPN will cost you money: Read more.

How much is VPN a month? ›

10 Best VPN Services 2022
ServiceMonthly priceDetails
ExpressVPN$12.95/mo.View Plans
NordVPN$11.95/mo.View Plans
CyberGhost$12.99/mo.View Plans
Private Internet Access$11.95/mo.View Plans
6 more rows

How do I get a free VPN on my phone? ›

The best free VPNs for Android:
  1. PrivadoVPN.
  2. TunnelBear.
  3. Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection.
  4. Hotspot Shield VPN.
  5. Avira Phantom VPN.
Jun 23, 2022

What happens if you don't use a VPN? ›

If you don't use a VPN, there are four things that could happen: your data could be stolen, you could get hacked, you could be spied on by the government, or you could experience reduced internet speeds. Protect yourself by using a VPN!

Is a VPN Free Wi-Fi? ›

The best way to stay safe while using public WiFi is to use a low-cost premium VPN. They offer robust security features that protect you from hackers waiting on public WiFi networks.

How do I setup a VPN at home? ›

To setup your home router as a VPN server:
  1. Open up your preferred browser.
  2. Enter your router's LAN (internal) IP address into the search bar. ...
  3. Enter the router's username and password. ...
  4. Go into Settings (or Advanced Settings) > VPN Service.
  5. Enable the VPN Service.
May 11, 2022

Can VPN be tracked? ›

However, if you use a poor quality VPN, you could still be tracked. A premium quality VPN encrypts data and hides your IP address by routing your activity through a VPN server; even if someone tries to monitor your traffic, all they'll see is the VPN server's IP and complete gibberish.

Should you use VPN all the time? ›

The answer to “should I leave a VPN on?” is yes. VPNs offer the best online security, so you should leave your VPN on at all times to protect yourself against data leaks and cyberattacks, while you're using public W-Fi, and against intrusive snoopers such as ISPs or advertisers. So always keep your VPN on.

Does VPN protect from hackers? ›

How does a VPN prevent hacking? By redirecting your internet traffic to disguise your IP address, it makes it impossible to track you. And by encrypting the information you send across the internet; it stops anyone who wants to intercept your information from being able to read it.

How do I download a VPN? ›

VPN software encrypts your internet traffic and sends your data to an external server via a secure connection.
...
Download a VPN for Free in 3 Steps
  1. Choose a reliable VPN provider.
  2. Go to the official website of your preferred VPN provider. ...
  3. Download the VPN app.

Why does my phone show VPN? ›

When you see this VPN logo at the top corner screen of your mobile phone it means that you have an active VPN connection running. A VPN program can be set to automatically start when you turn on your phone or you may have activated it yourself.

How do I setup a VPN on my laptop? ›

When you have a VPN profile, you're ready to connect.
  1. In Settings, select Network & internet > VPN.
  2. Next to the VPN connection you want to use, select Connect.
  3. If you're prompted, enter your username and password or other sign-in info.

Is VPN Free with Norton? ›

No, Norton Secure VPN is not free; however, they do offer a 60-day money-back guarantee. If users do not like Norton Secure VPN, all they have to do is reach out to Norton's customer service and request a refund, given they're within 60 days of purchase. You can reach Norton's customer service at (855) 815-2726.

Does Norton VPN track my internet? ›

Norton Secure VPN is a no-log VPN that encrypts your personal information and doesn't track or store your online activity or location.

Is VPN free with Norton 360? ›

A subscription to Norton 360 Standard includes Secure VPN for one device, while a $349.99 per year subscription to Norton 360 with LifeLock Ultimate includes unlimited VPN installation licenses. Norton Secure VPN provides all the assurances of a VPN, but other services provide more tools to protect your privacy.

Do iphones have built in VPN? ›

The short answer: no. The iPhone doesn't come with its own built-in VPN and Private Relay certainly isn't an answer to that. It's worth noting nor do any of Apple's other devices.

Does VPN harm your phone? ›

Recent research suggests that many VPNs for Android have privacy and security flaws, and the problem of choosing a reliable VPN goes even further.

Does Apple provide a VPN? ›

Secure access to private corporate networks is available in iOS, iPadOS, and macOS using established industry-standard virtual private network (VPN) protocols.

Do you have to pay for VPN? ›

On average, VPNs cost about $10 per month, but they can cost as much as $20 and as little as $3 per month. Most VPNs have pay-by-the-month options if you don't want to sign up for a yearly contract. However, monthly subscriptions are generally the most expensive.

Where is VPN located on my phone? ›

How to Setup an Android VPN connection - YouTube

How do I know if I'm on a VPN? ›

To see if you're using a proxy/VPN online, go to www.whatismyproxy.com. It will say if you're connected to a proxy or not. PC: Check under your WiFi settings, to see if there is a VPN/proxy showing up. Mac: Check your top status bar.

Why you shouldn't use a VPN? ›

The 10 biggest VPN disadvantages are:

A VPN won't give you complete anonymity: Read more. Your privacy isn't always guaranteed: Read more. Using a VPN is illegal in some countries: Read more. A safe, top-quality VPN will cost you money: Read more.

When should you use a VPN? ›

Always use a VPN to encrypt any internet connection and help protect your data. Keep your VPN on when you wish to avoid bandwidth throttling. Sometimes ISPs tend to slow down users' traffic. This is because some ISPs do not have enough resources to cope with 24/7 streaming and gaming.

What is VPN used for on Android? ›

Android VPN options

VPNs allow devices that aren't physically on a network to securely access the network. Android includes a built-in (PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and IPSec) VPN client. Devices running Android 4.0 and later also support VPN apps.

Why you should use a VPN? ›

A VPN will hide the contents of your web traffic from some observers and can make it harder for you to be tracked online. But a VPN can, at best, provide only limited protection against the threats you're most likely to encounter on the web: malware, social engineering scams, and phishing sites.

Should I use a VPN on my home Wi-Fi? ›

VPN is highly recommended in any case, especially working with sensitive data. You should keep it on most of the time to keep yourself safe from hackers, data breaches, leaks, and intrusive snoopers such as ISPs or advertisers. VPNs encrypt your traffic and protect your privacy from third parties and cybercriminals.

Is VPN necessary for home Wi-Fi? ›

Using a VPN at home is preferable, advised even, but it isn't always essential. The main reason it may not be necessary, is that your internet activity should already be shielded by your password-protected Wi-Fi network. The other concern is connecting to a remote server can slow your connection speed.

How do I VPN to my home Wi-Fi? ›

To connect to your VPN, go back to Settings > Network & Internet > VPN. Click on your VPN name. If you want, at this point you can select Advanced Options to edit the connection properties, clear your sign-in info, or set up a VPN proxy. Select Connect and enter a password if you've set one.

Who needs a VPN? ›

Having a VPN protects your identity and IP address, so that if you inadvertently upset someone, they are not able to track your location. Sidestep ISP Slowdowns. Some internet service providers knowingly slow down their network for one reason or another. With a VPN, you can avoid unnecessary ISP lag.

What happens if you don't use a VPN? ›

If you don't use a VPN, there are four things that could happen: your data could be stolen, you could get hacked, you could be spied on by the government, or you could experience reduced internet speeds. Protect yourself by using a VPN!

How do I turn on my VPN? ›

  1. If you haven't already, add a VPN.
  2. Open your phone's Settings app.
  3. Tap Network & internet. VPN. ...
  4. Next to the VPN you want to change, tap Settings .
  5. Turn Always-on VPN on or off. If you've set up a VPN through an app, you won't have the always-on option.
  6. If needed, tap Save.

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