What is a VPN and why is it important?

VPN services are a tool you need to protect your internet security. However, VPN services not only protect but also help to cope with various access locks. In simple terms, this is a service that helps you hide your IP address and protect your internet traffic and data.

What can a VPN do for you?

VPN services encrypt all data that you send to the Internet.

When you connect to a VPN server, all of your internet traffic becomes encrypted. This means that no one will know what you are doing on the Internet, including even your ISP. This means that the Internet provider will not be able to limit the speed of your connection, which is especially important when you play online games or watch streaming.

how does vpn work

Encryption will prevent hackers from gaining access to your personal data that you provide on various sites – for example, your passwords. This is especially important if you are connecting to a public WiFi hotspot – these networks tend to be poorly secured and a favourite habitat for cybercriminals. With a VPN, you protect yourself at least by encrypting your data – even if someone manages to steal it, they will never be able to decrypt it.

Your VPN will also hide your original IP address.

Websites and various online services (such as Netflix) use the IP addresses of users to determine their location. By connecting to a VPN server in the USA, for example, you will present yourself to various sites as a user from that country, since you will receive an IP address from the VPN server from the USA pool.

Having lost access to your real IP, no web service will know that you are in fact in Russia or another country. This is especially important if you intend to download torrents or bypass geographic or censored access locks. So you can get access to any movie, TV series and game in the world, so you can work on the Internet from any other country in the world completely free.

Some VPN services can block dangerous websites and ads.

Malicious websites can “plant” dangerous software and tracking files on your device, which you will only learn about ex post facto. VPN services with built-in protection help protect against computer viruses by blocking access to dangerous sites in advance.

Some VPNs can also block ads and pop-ups. It will also protect your device from malware infection and allow ad-free access to streaming platforms.

How do VPN services work?

Your VPN service will redirect all your internet traffic through one of its servers, where it will be encrypted. For example, you are in Russia and you are about to connect to a server in the United States. In this case, the VPN service will send all your Internet traffic from the Russian Federation to the United States in a fully encrypted form. Encryption prevents your ISP from knowing which site you are trying to access and thus block your connection.

what is a vpn

The VPN server will then redirect your traffic to the site you want to visit – for example, to the site of some web service or streaming platform (like Netflix). The site will see that the VPN server is the source of the traffic, not your device. In other words, it will see the IP address of the VPN server, not your device. The best VPNs have thousands of servers and regularly update their IP address databases so that web services don’t have time to blacklist and block them. This will provide you with complete privacy and freedom of action.

How can a VPN guarantee my privacy?

VPN services gain access to a large amount of confidential information, and therefore they require strict data processing policies and reliable security tools. Some VPN services cannot be trusted, so you need to carefully and thoughtfully choose a service that is reliable and secure enough.

Reliable VPN services use a variety of tools to protect user data.

No tax policy

Strict, no-log data policies prevent VPNs from tracking users online activities. So, services cannot record your actions, and therefore they simply will have nothing to provide to government agencies if they suddenly turn to them with such a request. Besides, it means that if a VPN service is hacked by hackers, your data will not become someone else property – there is no data.

DNS leak protection

Whenever you visit a site, your computer sends a request to a DNS server asking for the site’s IP address. As a rule, these requests go to the DNS servers of the Internet provider, thanks to which the latter will know which sites you are visiting.

When you connect to a VPN, your DNS requests are sent to the VPN’s DNS servers. But sometimes your device sends requests to the provider, and you may never know about it. This is a DNS leak, which is why it is important to have protection against it.

IPv6 leak protection

Currently, IPv6 is available, but almost all VPNs still use IPv4 addresses. As a consequence, there is a possibility of facing a major problem and even a security vulnerability.

If your ISP supports IPv6 and you are accessing a site that also supports this protocol, then your traffic will be directed through the ISP’s servers, not through the VPN service’s servers. This will reveal your activity to the ISP and your location to the site.

Reliable VPN services disable IPv6 traffic to protect you from such leaks. You will still be able to visit sites that support IPv6, as long as your IP address is IPv4.

WebRTC leak protection

Popular browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Internet Explorer, Opera) use WebRTC technology to exchange data with each other. And for that, they need to know the source IP address of the corresponding device.

The technology behind this communication is much more complex than the systems used by sites like Netflix, so hiding your IP address from it is also much more difficult. Third parties can access your real IP address and location information using WebRTC, that’s a fact.

A trusted VPN service will disable WebRTC and protect your IP address to keep you safe from this kind of danger.

What are the problems with using a VPN?

The advantages of using a VPN outweigh the disadvantages and potential problems, however, you still need to be aware of the potential difficulties associated with using a VPN.

The connection speed will decrease slightly.

It takes time to transfer data from the device to the server. Accordingly, when working through a VPN, the distance increases, and with it, the response time increases. It also takes some time to encrypt and decrypt traffic. Therefore, the connection speed may drop slightly, and this is completely normal.

Unreliable VPNs can spy on you.

If you opt for an unreliable provider, then you can hardly be sure that your data and actions are not being tracked and transferred to outsiders. If your service is registered on the territory of countries belonging to the 5/9/14 eyes intelligence alliance, then it may even be forced to provide your data to the government.

You can protect yourself from this by choosing a reliable and reputable VPN service with a strict no-log policy and servers where all data is stored in RAM. This approach to data storage allows you to completely delete all information on every server restart, so your VPN has nothing to share with the authorities, even by a court order.

Some sites block VPN users.

Some sites (such as Netflix) compare users’ IP addresses with lists of known IP addresses belonging to VPN services. If it turns out that the user is using a VPN, then access will be blocked. You can work around this problem by connecting to a different server in the same region.

PayPal and some online banks may block access to your account if they notice an attempt to log in from a foreign IP address.

VPN and Dark Web security

If you connect to a VPN first and then to Tor (a “Tor-over-VPN” or “Onion-over-VPN” connection), you will gain access to privacy protected by the Tor network. Besides, this type of connection will prevent Tor nodes from knowing your original IP address, which serves as an additional layer of protection. Finally, you don’t have to worry about your ISP detecting that you are connected to Tor — it will only see encrypted traffic sent to your VPN server.

A Tor-with-VPN connection will also give you full access to the Tor network, even if it’s blocked in your country.

The benefit of a Tor-with-VPN connection is the fact that your VPN won’t know what you were doing on the Tor. If you encounter an error in the Tor Browser (which has already happened before), then the connection to the VPN, established in the first place, will become an additional layer of protection between you and the possible data leakage as a result of the error.

Establishing such a connection is very simple: first, connect to your preferable VPN server, and then launch the Tor Browser.

You can read more on Wikipedia here.

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