What is a VPN?
A VPN or Virtual Private Network provides digital consumers with online privacy and anonymity. Essentially, the technology works by creating a private network for your internet connection, masking your internet protocol address (IP), so your online actions stay invisible.
VPN services have grown increasingly popular in recent years as consumers become more concerned about how their data is managed online. A VPN gives users a more secure and encrypted way to connect to the internet. These tools are frequently used for both consumers trying to maintain privacy, and companies supporting remote and hybrid workers.
How does a VPN work?
A VPN establishes a protected network connection for users on public networks. VPNs hide your IP address by redirecting it through a custom remote server, run by the VPN host. This means the VPN becomes the source of the data, rather than your IP.
The VPN technology means your Internet Service Provider and other parties cannot see which websites you visit, or what kind of data you’re sending and receiving online. VPN technologies work almost like a filter, turning all of your information into encrypted content.
VPN technology is useful because surfing the web can be a dangerous experience. Using an unsecured Wi-Fi network exposes your private information and browsing habits. VPNs disguise the data traffic you create online and offer an extra layer of security.
What does a VPN protect?
A VPN system securely encrypts your data by scrambling it, so anyone who manages to access your information still couldn’t use it. However, the technology also works by giving you an additional layer of privacy. Without a VPN, internet service providers can examine your entire browsing history. However, with a VPN, all of your search history is hidden.
- Your browsing history: Your ISP can track almost everything you do online, including when you’re using an Incognito browser. VPNs hide your browsing information so internet providers can’t see you’ve been looking for airline tickets and sell your data to marketing teams to help target you.
- Your location and IP address: Anyone with your IP address can see what you’ve been looking at on the internet, and where you’re located. Because VPNs use IP addresses which aren’t your own, they allow you to maintain online privacy and search the web anonymously.
- Your location for streaming: Aside from making it easier to hide your location from hackers, VPNs can also change your location to enable access to region-locked content. For instance, you can use your VPN to see what’s available on Netflix in different countries.
- Your devices: Your VPN helps to protect devices like laptops, computers, tablets, and smartphones. Your devices are often prime targets for criminals when you access the internet, particularly if you’re on a public Wi-Fi network.
- Your web activity: VPN technology protects you against internet service providers seeing your browsing history. This also means you’re protected if your government agency asks your ISP to provide records of your activity.
Is a VPN beneficial?
AVPN encrypts and disguises your data traffic online and protects it from external access. Unencrypted data can be viewed by anyone with access to your IP, putting you at risk. VPNs can make you safer when you’re browsing online, while simultaneously giving you more scope to use the internet however you want to.
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Updated November 26, 2021