What is a VPN: The Way It Works and Advantages It Offers
VPN has become a buzzword, which you may hear almost every day but not fully understand its purpose and the range of opportunities it offers. The following information provides the main knowledge for understanding the technology and becoming a tech-savvy user.
Let’s clarify the term and find out why it was invented.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) were originally created for large businesses and corporations to provide their employees with access to particular computers from various locations without compromising security.
For instance, Nike’s headquarter is located in Beaverton, Oregon, the USA, but the company does overseas manufacturing in China, India, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. In Beaverton, all the main computers are connected to Nike’s server via a network of cables, which are physical, highly secured, and hard to hack.
Running the cable from the USA to Thailand, to let an employee from the Thai factory connect to Nike’s private network, is just impossible. That is why creating a virtual private network — like a virtual cable between the countries — is what they need!
So how does it work?
VPN usually works with the help of three methods: encryption, security protocols, and servers.
- Encryption is encoding your data the way it can be read and used only by a computer with the appropriate decoder. There are several types of an encryption key that are necessary for encrypting or decrypting data (e.g., emails you send, files on your computer, etc.). These keys inform the computer what commutations on data should be performed to make it readable and usable.
- Security protocols guard any data that passes through the server by creating a secure connection. There are various types of security protocols used for different purposes, which also affect the type of VPN’s encryption. OpenVPN protocol is considered to be the most secure and the most widely used.
- Servers — the more servers VPN has around the world, the more locations you can choose from. Surfing or using the Internet for a particular purpose, you send your data to a server and request visiting a specific site. The server, in turn, transmits the information from that site back to the device you are using. However, when you turn on VPN, you send your data to the VPN’s server, and VPN sends only your request (without any data) to the website. This way your data moves through the encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN’s server — this is how you stay anonymous online.
What can you do with the help of VPN?
You can do a lot of amazing things online that you have never thought about!
You do not have to be a programmer to unblock content. With VPN on, you can enjoy your favorite show on Netflix (which is not available outside the USA) while vacationing in Germany, for example. You can read the news on BBS or share pictures on Instagram while being on a business trip to China, where lots of foreign services are blocked due to China’s Great Firewall regulation. All you need to do is to change your geolocation for the optimal one and enjoy.
Encrypting your data
Using public Wi-Fi can be dangerous as your personal data (such as passwords, credit card details, pictures, etc.) can be easily stolen due to the insecurity of such connection. Therefore, encryption will protect your data and, in case your connection is somehow broken, the stolen data will be impossible to read. Encrypting is also extremely useful if you wish your Internet Service Provider (ISR) or the government not to track your online activity.
Hiding your IP
With the help of VPN, you can hide your real IP address (which is kind of a home address of your device) and show the IP address provided by VPN instead. Hidden behind the VPN’s server, your real IP address will be impossible to be seen by the government, your ISR, or hackers.
VPN helps you torrent in two ways. The first way implies unblocking torrent sites in the countries they are forbidden (torrenting itself is not illegal, but downloading copyrighted materials is) and letting you download there. The second way is about preventing throttling, that is slowing a service by your ISP. As your ISP can’t track your online activity, it won’t know you are torrenting, and it won’t slow a service correspondingly.