With the decline in online privacy and increasing number of cyber attacks, internet users feel the need to learn how to protect themselves when going online. More and more people are discovering the benefits of virtual private networks. (VPN's)
However, if you don’t have a VPN yet and are wondering what it does or how it works, you have come to the right place. In this article, we go over the basics of virtual private networks to help you understand them and decide whether or not you need one.
First things first: what is VPN?
VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network and refers to software that is used to encrypt users’ Internet traffic and mask their online identity by hiding their IP address. Therefore, the main purpose of this technology is to help you stay secure and private when browsing the Internet.
How does it work?
Typically, when you connect to the Internet, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) receives the request and redirects you to the website you intend to visit. As your Internet traffic passes through your ISPs, they can see everything you do online. What’s more, they can track users’ behaviour and sell their personal details to advertisers and other third parties.
Here’s when a VPN comes into play. It redirects your Internet traffic through a remote VPN server, this way hiding your IP address and encrypting all of the information that is sent or received. With a VPN on, all the data you send and receive travels via an encrypted tunnel so that nobody can steal your private information or spy on your online activities.
Here’s what happens when you enable VPN
As you already know, a VPN ensures that nobody, not even your ISP, can see where you go or what you do on the Internet. The only thing visible to them is the fact that you are using a VPN service. Here’s what also happens due to this setup:
Your ISP can’t see what you do on the Internet, meaning that they are not able to identify what websites you visit or log your info. What’s more, they can no longer throttle the connection speeds (which they often do) or sell your private info to the highest bidder.
Your device is assigned an IP address of the remote VPN server, keeping advertisers and other snoopers away from monitoring your online activities. Furthermore, if you connect to a server that is located in a country other than yours, you appear to be browsing the Internet from there. This helps you to bypass Internet censorship and provides with secure access to media content and streaming services.
Your Internet traffic is encrypted, so you can stay safe and private even on unsecured public Wi-Fi networks. Even if a malicious user somehow manages to take over your data, they will not be able to decipher it.
How secure is VPN?
Using a VPN is by far the most reliable way to protect your privacy and secure your online activities. A VPN hides your IP address and encrypts all the traffic you send and receive, meaning that:
Snoopers trying to spy on you will only be able to trace it back to the VPN server;
Even if someone manages to intercept your data, they cannot decipher it.
However, remember that safety directly depends on the company that provides the VPN service. For example, NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy and uses two security protocols: OpenVPN with 2048-bit SSL encryption and the 3072-bit IKEv2/IPsec that is currently the most secure protocol available. Additional security features, such as DNS leak protection and double data encryption, are also available. What’s more, the NordVPN service is based in Panama, which has no data retention laws, meaning that none of your data is recorded, stored or passed to anyone.
Why should you use VPN?
It is true that there’s no privacy online as we are watched and tracked everywhere we go on the Internet. What websites we visit, what pop-ups we click on, what clothes we buy and what we search for – all this information is collected by our ISPs, advertisers, governments and other third parties.
Unfortunately, no magic tool can make you completely anonymous when browsing the web, but getting a VPN is the best you can do to stay private and safe in the digital world. On top of that, VPNs have a couple of additional benefits and are also used for streaming, P2P or bypassing censorship. Usually, Internet users turn to VPN services for these main reasons:
General privacy and security. Nobody likes to be watched over their shoulder, right? With your IP address hidden and communications encrypted, you can be sure your data stays safe from the prying eyes.
Protect themselves from cybercrime. Hackers are getting creative these days, and it’s really easy to fall into their traps. VPN services are by far the most reliable method to secure your communications and avoid becoming a victim.
Safely access websites and services. VPN helps you securely bypass content restrictions and censorship by allowing you to connect to hundreds of remote servers in different worldwide locations. This is especially helpful if you are going for a vacation abroad or live in a highly-restricted country. When your IP gets hidden, it’s no longer possible to tell which country you are browsing from.
Shield themselves from DDoS attacks. No all digital assaults are about money – some hackers simply enjoy the power of interfering with other people’s connections and devices. Denial of service attacks are getting increasingly common in the online gaming communities, but using a VPN can help gamers avoid the wrath of their vindictive opponents.
Bypass ISP throttling, which has a direct impact on how fast you can access or download content online.
When you use a VPN, your ISP doesn’t have the freedom to control your connection speed or restrict your access to certain websites or services.While the main purpose of VPN services is to protect your data from snoopers, hackers and malicious online threats, it’s completely up to you how you choose to use your VPN service.
Getting started with VPN
Although more and more Internet users join the VPN trend, many people still think that using a VPN service is some kind of rocket science. While it’s true that some digital security tools can be a little confusing and “geeky,” many decent VPN service providers design their apps to be intuitive and easy-to-use.
With all that has been already said, you want to look for a VPN service that is reliable, secure and easy-to-use. Besides, when choosing a VPN, it is extremely important to take into consideration:
Whether or not the chosen VPN provider keeps logs of your activities;
What external support or tracking tools it employs;
Which country the service based in and what requirements it has for collecting users’ data;
How much the service costs and what payment options it offers;
Whether the VPN service offers extra security tools, such as DNS leak protection, Kill Switch or Double VPN.
If you are still not sure which VPN provider is the best for protecting your privacy, take your time to browse the web. There are plenty of VPN comparison websites providing objective and in-depth reviews to help you choose. Also, don’t be afraid to try different providers – some of them offer free trial period so that you can have the freedom to take their service for a test drive and quit if you are not satisfied.
Once you have the NordVPN app on your device, it doesn’t get any easier than this: pick any server, and your traffic immediately gets protected. Here are some tips on how to make use of some NordVPN benefits and get the best VPN experience:
The easiest way to protect your privacy is to click the Quick Connect button. Once you do this, a special algorithm will connect you to the best server available at the moment.
If there is a specific destination you wish to connect, find it on the map and simply tap/click on the VPN pin.
All apps also include a detailed server list, so you can choose the closest or the least loaded server. As for now, NordVPN has 4873 servers in 62 countries, so there’s a lot to choose from. Note that the less crowded and closer to you a server is, the faster VPN connection you will get.
There is also a number of specific servers, optimized for different needs: P2P, Double VPN, Onion Over VPN, and Dedicated IP servers.
Turn on the CyberSec feature to avoid annoying ads and malicious websites.
Try proxy extensions for Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox – both are lightweight and fast so that you can jump between locations in no time.