What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?

If you’re reading this, I assume you’re either already aware of the necessity of a VPN, or you’re considering purchasing one.

What is a VPN, and how does it work?

A VPN is a virtual private network. It works with your computer, tablet, or phone to create a secure connection between your device and a server, enabling you to engage in real-time communication while protecting your personal information.

The necessity of a VPN is a commonplace in today’s world. While the internet allows us to access all sorts of information and engage in business transactions, it also creates the necessity for everyone to protect their personal information. If you shop online, especially if you’re using unsecure public Wi-Fi, your personal information can be vulnerable to hackers and other online criminals who want to steal your identity.

Even if you’re not a digital native, it’s likely you’re at least somewhat aware of the threats posed by the internet. If you’re unsure of how to protect yourself online, it’s time to begin your education. Here’s a brief guide to what is a VPN and how it works:

What Is A VPN?

A VPN is a type of security software that enables you to securely connect to a server, website, or other network-enabled device. Once you’re connected, you can engage in real-time communication with the server or device, as if you were connected through a traditional private network.

VPNs protect your personal information by enabling you to browse the web privately, securely, and anonymously. As a result, you can shop online with complete confidence. You’ll also find VPNs significantly enhance your speed and reliability when browsing the web. Since your data is encrypted during transit, network issues such as slowed down connections and dropped packets are eliminated. The use of a VPN also extends to other platforms such as Android and iOs, as well as desktop software such as Chrome and Firefox.

Types Of VPNs

There are three primary types of VPNs:

  • L2TP/IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol): This is the most commonly used type of VPN, especially since it’s free and open source. It is highly compatible with all types of operating systems, including Windows, macOS, and Linux. L2TP/IPSec VPNs are easy to set up and use and provide good performance. They also provide good security, as the encryption protocols used are more than adequate for protecting your personal information. (See also: How to Set Up a VPN Connection on Your Phone)
  • OpenVPN: This is the original VPN. It was developed in the 1990s and has since acquired a significant following. OpenVPN provides good performance, as it was designed to handle high network traffic. It is also highly compatible with all operating systems and devices. However, since it is open source and does not use strong encryption protocols, it is not considered as secure as some of the other VPN types. (See also: Best VPNs for 2020)
  • Chrome/Firefox VPN Extensions: These VPN extensions give you the ability to easily and securely connect to a server, website, or other network-enabled device from within your web browser. They also provide a graphical user interface (GUI) for ease of use. Some of the better-known extensions are NordVPN, IPVanish, and StrongVPN.

It’s also worth noting that some VPNs offer more than one type of security protocol, enabling you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. For example, the StrongVPN extension enables you to choose between OpenVPN and L2TP/IPSec for your connection type.

How Does VPN Work?

When you install a VPN on your device, it will create a virtual private network, or VPN, that can be accessed from within your browser or other software applications. Once you’re connected to the VPN, you can access the internet or any other network-enabled device securely and anonymously through a tunnel established between your computer, tablet, or phone and the VPN server. This tunnel is secured with strong encryption protocols, ensuring that only you and the server (and possibly those you’re communicating with) can decrypt the data traveling between your devices.

Why Should You Care About Using A VPN?

The majority of today’s cybercrime occurs online, and for good reason. According to the company DigiCert, between 63% and 74% of all new malware infections and ransomware are linked to online criminal activities. The figure is even higher for enterprises, as 70% of all security breaches involve some form of cybercrime.

This is probably why more and more people are choosing to use VPNs to protect their personal and business information, as these statistics indicate that online criminals are specifically targeting users who are insecure online. The truth is, even if you’re not a digital native, you’re most likely already aware of the threats posed by the internet. Most people shop online, bank online, or do online business from some point in their day-to-day life. Since your information is at-risk whenever you use unsecure public Wi-Fi or other networks, why not protect it? 

Protecting Your Personal Information

Whether you’re a digital native or a member of the techno nomad generation, chances are you’re already aware of the necessity of protecting your personal information. That’s why you’re reading this article. However, despite your awareness, you might not be taking the proper precautions. That’s why it’s imperative you understand how to protect yourself and what you need to do.

To help you better understand the necessity of a VPN and how it works, let’s explore some of the threats posed by the internet and how a VPN can help protect you from cybercriminals.

Real-Time Online Threats

It’s essential to understand that even if you’re not a digital native, you’re still at-risk whenever you use unsecure public Wi-Fi or other networks. This is because your information is being transmitted in the clear, meaning it’s vulnerable to anyone with an internet connection. Even if you’re using a VPN, the security of your data is only as good as the privacy policies of the VPN service you’re using.

For example, if you’re connecting to a Swiss-based server through a VPN, all of your data is encrypted and secure. In contrast, if you’re connecting to a server based in Panama, your data will only be as secure as the Panamanian government’s commitment to protecting your privacy.

Now, online threats are constantly evolving and changing, and it’s become extremely difficult to keep up with all the new hacks and tricks cybercriminals are developing. As a result, it’s important to continuously update your security software and change your passwords regularly.

Threat From Within

While we’re on the subject of online threats, it’s also worth exploring the risks posed by insiders. Research conducted by the security company Gartner indicates that 62% of all enterprise security breaches are a result of a malicious insider (employee, contractor, or volunteer). This is probably because humans are the weakest link in any security chain, and it’s critical to understand how to protect ourselves from malicious insiders.

You might be an insider, as well. If you work in a sensitive role such as sales or account management, you probably have access to a lot of confidential information. That’s why it’s important to use proper security measures, such as two-factor authentication and a restricted network, to protect your personal information.

Why Is A VPN Important?

Encrypted VPNs significantly enhance your security online by enabling you to browse the web privately, securely, and anonymously. By connecting your device to a trusted VPN, you’re able to access the internet with complete confidence, as your personal information is scrambled and unintelligible to anyone with the appropriate security software.

This makes VPNs extremely important if you shop online or do any kind of business online. That’s because without a VPN, all of your personal information is highly vulnerable to cybercriminals. If you’re not convinced that you need a VPN, then perhaps it’s time to reconsider your choices.

However, even if you’re not a digital native, chances are you’re already aware of the risks posed by the internet and choose to take precautions. Just because you’re aware of the risks doesn’t mean you have to live with them. Luckily, there are many reputable companies out there that create and maintain reliable VPNs. If you’re looking for a simple, free, and secure way to protect yourself online, then a VPN is a great option. Just remember to keep your passwords and other account information secure, as well as educate yourself on the latest cyberthreats.

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