What is a VPN?

When using the internet online, there are tools out there that track and monitor activity online and there are people that help themselves to useful information such as credit card details, personal details and more. This is where VPN’s can step in.

VPN stands for ‘Virtual Private Network’. It allows somebody to access the internet as they would do normally, except it does something a little differently. When someone reaches out to a website, their IP address is used to help the website to send the information back to their computer, and an IP address can be used to find more information about a person such as their location or more, if someone knows what they’re doing.

A VPN is a great tool, as it removes this IP address from being publicly visible. It scrambles this information so that you could appear from anywhere within the world, not reflecting your actual location. Some of the biggest companies that offer VPNs are ExpressVPN and NordVPN, both of which offer a large selection of servers across more than 50 countries

How Does it Work?

When you reach out to the internet, your computer reaches out with information as to where the website should send the information to. This is the IP address which we detailed earlier. The path of where your data goes from and to is also traceable is hackers are really skilled and what to know what you’re doing.

A VPN acts as a middle man and stands between you and the internet with a big sheet. It stops anyone seeing the full path from your computer to the website or vice versa. When accessing a website or something on the internet through a VPN you’ll create a sort of tunnel that is hidden from the outer world, encrypted and essentially gibberish to anyone other than the VPN and your computer.

Because of the way it does this, the VPN now sees your computer as part of the network, hence the term for ‘Network’ in Virtual Private Network. When using a VPN to surf the web your information will be encrypted and illegible to anyone other than you and your VPN to ensure there’s nothing that can be deciphered if anyone tried to. The VPN will then reach out to the internet and request the information from sites you request, therefore masking your IP address from sight.

If anyone tries to understand the end point location (the IP address) using this method, they will either find the one for the VPN (which is often masked using other techniques) or it will find encrypted information that cannot be read. It hides your digital path, or footprint from any hackers governments and more.

How Does it Help me Become More Secure?

VPN uses encryption methods to help mask information and make it illegible. It’s the same as writing a message in code, and only the person you give it to knowing about the code and how to read the message, to everyone else it wouldn’t make any sense. This is how encryption works. Different VPN providers offer different VPN protocols, each ensuring security in a different manner of ways. Some of protocols used are IPSec, L2TP, PPTP, SSTP and OpenVPN.

It’s not just computers that a VPN is limited to, either. Some VPN providers offer protection online from surfing from mobile devices too. If you’d like to be protected when using your mobile, then it’s a good idea to look for a company who offer a mobile app. This allows you to turn the VPN on whenever required, so that any surfing of the web is done so through the VPN from that device.

Should I Use One?

It’s entirely up to you, but it doesn’t harm you to have one. If you’re a high profile person, or you are conscious of the dangers online, then a VPN is a great way to mitigate some of the risks associated when using the internet. For most people, the main risks are of people being scammed or not using appropriate due diligence when using online sites, most of which can be resolved from care and using information correctly. VPNs can be great for accessing overseas content on sites such as Netflix or BBC iPlayer.

A VPN is a fantastic tool and really can save you a headache if you ever were to encounter s not so nice person or bot online, and there’s plenty of ways to get one set up for your device.