What is a VPN?
You might have seen the term VPN thrown around. So, if you want to get to the bottom of it and discover what a VPN is and why you should care about it, you’re in the right place.
Simply put, VPN stands for virtual private network. So, what does a VPN do? It’s a tool designed to keep your online identity secure, private and anonymous.
VPNs do this by changing your dedicated IP address with a new one that from a global location of your choosing.
Sounds complicated? Read on to discover what is a VPN and learn all you need to know.
How does a VPN work?
Before we get into VPNs, you first need to understand what an IP address is. IP stands for internet protocol. So, an IP address is a unique set of numbers that is used to identify your computer online. Think of it as a postal address for your computer, smartphone, or any other device with access to the internet.
While an IP address is necessary in order to send information over the internet, annoyingly an IP address also reveals your geographical location to any website or application that you’re trying to access.
Most ISPs (Internet Service Providers), assign users a static IP address. Which means every time you connect to the Internet you use the same IP address. In other cases, you might get a dynamic IP address which changes with each internet connection.
Nevertheless, both types of IP addresses will reveal your current location. This is where the unique features of a secure VPN service come in.
What is a VPN connection?
VPN providers have a network of servers located in various locations around the globe and are able re-route your traffic. So what is a VPN connection and how does it work?
Basically, when you use a VPN, your IP address gets momentarily exchanged with a new IP coming from a location specified by you. Now, the VPN server receiving your request will be able to see your new, foreign IP address and allow you to pass.
At the same time, VPN apps also encrypt your traffic, protecting your security and anonymity online.
ZenMate is different from most VPN providers, because we do not keep any logs or history of our users’ online activity.
How to use a VPN?
VPN service provides can make your life easier and improve your Internet browsing experience in 2 major ways.
First, a virtual private network can hide your online identity, meaning you can’t be tracked by cybercriminals, advertising agencies or the government. All your activity online is anonymous. And your private browsing leaves no tracks behind.
Secondly, since all good and reliable VPN providers will let you choose the country you would like to receive your new IP address from, you can also use a VPN to access blocked streaming sites or unblock websites that are not available in your current location. Either because of governmental censorship or geo-restrictions.
Everything you need to know about VPNs
A VPN service isn’t a tool used only by super advanced tech people. But it’s a piece of technology that all internet users can easily get familiar with.
Here are 5 everyday examples of when you what is a VPN and how it can be used:
1. When using public Wi-Fi: public Wi-Fis from hotels, airports or coffee shops are a super easy to hack. Cyber-criminals can get access to all your personal information like passwords and banking details in a heart-beat when you’re using public internet networks. Using a VPN to encrypt all your traffic will stop you from having your money and identity stolen.
2. When living abroad: A VPN allows expats to online shop, research and stream just like in their home country, meaning you can watch the latest episodes of your favorite shows or unblock YouTube no matter where you live.
3. When traveling to a country with strict censorship: Many countries in the world censor parts of the internet, including social media, messaging platforms, and adult sites. So you’ll be able to bypass censorship and unblock any site.
4. When torrenting: Torrenting is a great way to share files online, but the problem with torrenting is that all the people you connect with can see your IP address. If you don’t want anyone to track you while torrenting then you better use a VPN.
5. When you just want to be anonymous: You don’t need to give a reason for not wanting advertisers or your government to spy on what you are doing online. Privacy is your right and you can protect it!
The Basics of VPN Protocols
In order to keep your data secure, VPNs can use several different ‘protocols’, which offer several encryption standards and levels of security. VPN protocols can be a bit complicated to explain. We’ve put together this comparison so you know what to look out for:
IP security (IPsec): This protocol is usually used alongside L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) in order to encrypt your traffic. Overall it is believed to be a secure method, however, it can slow your traffic in comparison to other VPN protocols.
OpenVPN: OpenVPN is the newest and most secure protocol. It is much faster than other methods and there is also no reason to believe that anyone (including the NSA) has compromised these connections. This type of protocol is not integrated into popular operating systems, meaning you will need a third-party app – such as ZenMate – to use it.
PPTP: There are many known security issues with point-to-point tunnelling protocol. For a while now, it has been assumed that the NSA is decrypting PPTP connections meaning the security offered by this method is dubious. It is not recommended to use PPTP if you are looking for ultimate security.
SSTP: Secure Socket Tunnelling Protocol is also a very secure form of protocol and uses AES encryption, which is basically the gold standard for encrypted data methods. Overall SSTP offers high levels of security, the main downside of SSTP is that it is mostly just for Windows users.