What are VPNs and why should you be using one?

You might already be aware what private browsing actually is, and how it’s not all that private! There are a couple of tools that offer robust protection when it comes to privacy needs of the web surfers – one is the TOR browser and the other is a VPN. Let’s look at the latter in this article and understand why you should be using a VPN for your day-to-day web browsing needs.

However, before we move any further, it is important to mention that there are good VPNs and there are bad VPNs in the market. In order to ensure that the virtual private network (VPN) you are using is indeed helpful for your data security and privacy needs, you must only use a reputed and well-recognised service. In fact, you can compare the two most popular VPN services and pick the best one for your needs.

What is a VPN?

VPN is the short form of virtual private network. Understanding the network part of a VPN is not that difficult. A VPN is basically a group of computers which can share multiple resources. The ‘private’ in it is self-explanatory. It’s the ‘virtual’ aspect of it which makes it pretty confusing for the people.

Whenever you connect to the Internet through a VPN, all the data sent from your computer/device to that private network (and vice versa) gets encapsulated in the form of data packets. Every data packet is encapsulated inside another one, much like a letter put inside an envelope to prevent its contents from being disclosed during transit. Anyone can still open the envelope though. That’s the reason we have organisations like CIA who put tamperproof tape on the flap of such letters. In case of VPN, it’s the encryption which does the job of the tamper-proof type. While a large number of VPNs employ SSL technology for encryption purposes (as is done by secure websites), others might use PPTP or IPSec technologies.

The final result is a network existing inside a network, however, owing to the encryption and encapsulation, a computer/device’s connection to a VPN stays private at all times even though the transmitted data moves over Internet.

Why should you use a VPN service?

Just like the private browsing mode of a web browser keeps the Internet activity traces off the computer, a virtual private network keeps eavesdroppers, cyber criminals and ISPs in the dark about the browsing activities of the user. Although the ISP might notice data transfer happening to/from your computer/device, they won’t be able to see what that data actually is.

A VPN service can come in pretty handy at places like coffee shops, airports and/or hotels as you are exposed to the risky unencrypted public Wi-Fi connections at these places. Connecting to a VPN service on these networks allows you to surf the Internet in a completely safe manner.

Many VPN service providers also enable their users to spoof their geographical location. This is done to help users access different types of geo-restricted content such a popular shows on Netflix. Use of a VPN service also helps in tackling ISP throttling and unwanted tracking while browsing the Internet.

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