What is a VPN and why do you need one?


Why do you need a VPN Connection?

Ever wanted to access content only available in a few countries? Or ever been worried about someone accessing your personal information over any unsecured public Wi-Fi network?

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) not only gives you a layer of privacy by encrypting your online data but prevents prying eyes over the net from getting their hands on your sensitive information.

What is a VPN and how does it work?

A VPN or Virtual Private Network masks your true identity and location when turned on, as a secure tunnel between you and a remote server operated by your VPN service provider is created.

All traffic on the network goes through an encrypted tunnel and exits the VPN server making your true IP address and any other location data completely unreadable.

The value of a VPN can only be gauged by thinking of a few situations where it might come in handy. Imagine you’re using a public network source at a mall, internet cafe, or a local airport.

You might normally connect and think it's safe. But do you know who’s monitoring internet traffic on that network?

Can you even determine the authenticity of the network or that it’s not being operated by nefarious individuals looking to take advantage of public internet traffic?

If you however connect to the same network with a VPN, you’re protected from snooping eyes by nefarious individuals or network providers themselves.

Aside from privacy, VPNs can help you unblock geo-restricted services like Netflix. If you stream Netflix with the help of the best VPNs, you will never have to deal with geo-blocked titles. The same goes for other services too like BBC iPlayer, which is only available in the UK.

Anyway, the authenticity of a network is always hard to prove. Even if it says, for example, LAX_Pulic Wi-Fi, it doesn't mean it's operated by the LAX Administration.

At home, you don’t need to worry too much about someone spying on your network because the hardware is owned by you. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) has a lot of data about what you do online including your purchase history and preferences.

Thanks to government regulations, this data can be sold by your ISP to advertisers and users alike, meaning the company you pay for internet access is making money from your data.

While companies like Facebook and Google display targeted advertising to you and financially benefit from your internet activity, you’re not necessarily liable to use said services.

Sure you might not be able to have access to top-quality memes or listen to political rants from friends and family, you can still live a nice, maybe better life. That choice isn’t always given when it comes to your ISP, which acts as a gateway to the internet.

Another example of the use of a VPN is localized versions of websites when traveling abroad. Maybe this means a different Google handle but sometimes it may involve inaccessible sites and language barriers.

With a VPN however, you can connect to a remote server in a different country and manipulate your location. If you’re outside the US, you can connect to a familiar address and browse normally or you can do the opposite, connect to a remote server thousands of miles away and access an unavailable streaming site in the US from the comfort of your home.

A VPN can also be used to bypass restrictions on websites imposed by local governments or to gain access to content that may be geo-restricted by international regulations such as the US Netflix libraries which aren't available to someone streaming Netflix from outside the US.

This happens as all web traffic is encrypted via VPN servers and your true IP address is hidden from local authorities, allowing you to breach restrictions and gain access to the content you want to watch.

Do all my devices need a VPN Connection?

Any device you wish to use a VPN connection on means you will have to install a VPN client for it. The majority of devices support multiple VPN service features but this isn't always the case.

In the case of mobile phones, you can download apps for iOS or Android since we use these devices to connect to the internet anyways,  and it isn't easy to intercept phone data.

You would have to be involved in real shady business to have law enforcement monitor your cellular activity and data via special equipment or through mobile carriers. Nonetheless, VPN apps would also always be up to date, saving you from unnecessary trouble.

Some issues you may face when using a VPN

Some sites have technology that allows them to recognize when you are using a VPN to access content and mark your VPN traffic as suspicious, blocking you from connecting to them.

Netflix is well known to do this as they do not want you getting access to titles and libraries via a VPN connection, which would otherwise be unavailable for you to stream due to regional licensing issues.

There is still a way to work around it as some VPN services like ExpressVPN still allow you to access the US Netflix but it may not be the case for long. Another issue is a poor connection, which VPNs are notorious for.

This happens because data has to be encrypted and routed through servers before a connection is made, which results in laggy connection and increased buffering when streaming content.

Final Thoughts

It is important that you purchase a good VPN server if you care about protecting sensitive data from potential snoopers and from your ISP so you can safely surf the web and be able to access content that would otherwise be unavailable due to geo-restrictions or laws placed by local authorities.

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