It is important to note that your Iphone will say “VPN” for several reasons, and it’s not always obvious what they mean. So let’s explore.
Reasons Your Iphone May Say “VPN”
To begin with, VPNs encrypt your internet traffic, meaning that your ISP (your internet service provider) cannot see what you are browsing or what kind of content you are consuming. VPNs are great for private browsing or when you are abroad, where your privacy is more appreciated. They are also popular with people who are blocking ads or looking for a better deal on services such as Netflix or Spotify.
Think of a typical VPN scenario: you are using a public library’s wifi in a coffee shop and you see an ad for a weight loss plan. The weight loss plan provider has their servers set up in such a way that every time someone clicks on an ad, their sensitive data (their logins, passwords, credit card numbers, etc) is stolen.
This is why your Iphone may say “VPN” when you are in a public place and your security is questionable. Your Iphone may also say “VPN” in an attempt to trick you into giving your personal information to someone you don’t know if you can trust. Finally, your Iphone may say “VPN” to protect you against malicious software that can capture your personal data when you are online.
What Does VPN Mean?
In a nutshell, VPN means “virtual private network”. Think of a VPN as a safe room with all the amenities of home. When you connect to a VPN, you are able to access resources that are usually only available to connected devices (e.g., your work email, bank accounts, etc). This is why VPNs are commonly associated with computers and laptops rather than phones.
In addition to providing you with a safe room for your digital devices, a VPN also acts as a security blanket. When you are connected to a VPN, your device’s internet connection is secured and encrypted, meaning that malicious software (e.g., keyloggers, ransomware, etc) cannot eavesdrop on your data. Furthermore, many VPNs offer optional two-factor authentication, adding an extra layer of security.
Now, let’s move on to the next topic.
How Does VPN Work?
VPNs work by establishing a secure connection with a server that is usually located in another country. When you connect to a VPN, your device will create a secure connection with the server and all the data that you send and receive will be encrypted. Your ISP (your internet service provider) will not be able to see what you are browsing or what kind of content you are consuming. The endpoint of your VPN connection will display a green bar, signifying that your data is secure.
VPNs are also frequently used to circumvent geographic restrictions. Imagine that you are a US citizen who wants to watch a movie that is only available in theaters in another country. You could buy the movie from your local library but you are likely to incur additional charges because of the DVD’s geographic location. When you connect to a VPN, you can download the American version of the film and watch it in peace without worry of being charged extra by your ISP.
More Than Meets The Eye
Your Iphone is a smart device, and in some cases, it may say “VPN” for more reasons than we have discussed so far. Let’s explore a few more scenarios where your Iphone may say “VPN”:
- You are in China and you are searching for a VPN to unblock websites and services that are restricted in the country. While there are many good free VPNs offered by reputable companies, keep in mind that many of them log your activity and share your data with third parties (e.g., marketing companies, etc). If this concerns you, consider connecting to a VPN that is based in the UK or US, where you will have more privacy options.
- Your phone is about to expire, and you need to renew it before the provider pulls the plug. If you connect to a VPN while your device is locked, the connection will be preserved, meaning that you can continue to access resources without frustration. This is a common problem for Android users who want to keep their data secure while performing a warranty repair.
- You have a public WiFi hotspot at the airport and you need some privacy while you are using it. You can protect your data while on the public WiFi by connecting to a VPN, and since many VPNs give you a free trial before you commit to a payment plan, there is no reason not to try out the service. Remember to cancel the trial before you reach the end of the month, or you will be auto-billed.
- You have a VPN trial available on your mobile device and you want to explore its features without having to commit. You can connect to a VPN and access its helpful tutorials without risking your personal data.
- You have your phone’s home WiFi network protected with a passcode and you want to connect to a VPN to protect your data while on the go. Many VPNs offer mobile apps, so installing and using them while you are on the move is easy. Keep in mind that your phone may say “VPN” for other reasons as well, so it’s not always obvious what it is trying to tell you.
- You are in a coffee shop or a hotel and you need a VPN to browse the web securely. Your device will say “VPN” because a VPN is the first step towards securing your personal data. You can use your VPN to access websites and services that may be blocked by your coffee shop’s or hotel’s internet provider. Remember that not all VPNs are created equal, and some of them are created with privacy concerns in mind, while others exist solely to provide access to blocked content.
- You have a VPN trial available on your desktop and you want to connect to it on your phone. Since your phone can access all your desktop’s content through a Virtual Private Network, creating an additional connection via a VPN for mobile use makes sense.
Hopefully, you can see how connecting to a VPN can make your Iphone much more useful. Your device may say “VPN” in the scenarios outlined above, but this does not always mean that you should connect to a VPN. In some cases, your device may say “VPN” simply because it does not know what else to say. Knowing what reasons to expect when your Iphone says “VPN” can help you decide whether or not to connect to a VPN in a specific situation.