A VPN, or virtual private network, is one of the most effective, yet easiest to use, solutions out there for improving a user’s privacy and security when on the internet. If we want to do anything online, we are going to have to connect our devices to other devices – this is essentially what the internet does after all.
With more people taking note of the apparent lack of concern that big corporations show for their data, many of us are in search of a simple solution that will let us use our online devices as we usually do without having to worry so much about privacy. VPNs are a simple but very effective way of achieving this. Understanding how a VPN works will help you to understand exactly how and why it improves your online privacy.
What is a VPN?
There are two components to a VPN – the client application that sits on the device using the VPN, and a VPN server that hosts its own application.
The client application sets up an encrypted communications tunnel between the device (client) and the VPN server and ensures that all the outgoing data sent from the device is first encrypted and sent to the VPN server, from where it is passed on to the wider internet.
When a website receives a request from the user via the VPN server, the VPN server is the user as far as the website is concerned. This means that the IP address that the website logs will be the IP address of the VPN server, not the original device.
The website will return the same result to the request that it would if it was a normal user asking for it. Once the VPN server has this result, it can then encrypt it and send it back to the client, where the client-side application will decrypt it.
One of the most common reasons for using a VPN is the privacy enhancements that it offers. As we mentioned above, using a VPN means that online services won’t be able to discern the IP address of the devices you use. Given that an IP address can ultimately be traced back to a physical address, the want to obscure it is understandable.
A VPN enhances your online privacy and, while it is not a foolproof method, it is incredibly effective for something that sits on your devices and works automatically.
Because all of the encryptions between your device and the VPN server are encrypted, they can’t be easily intercepted and read by a snooper. Because they obscure the user’s IP address, a VPN massively reduces the chances of anyone targeting you or your IP address specifically.
An increasingly common use case for a VPN is to enable a user to circumvent region blocking. All the user needs to do is to use a VPN server located in a particular country and they can connect to the wider internet as if they themselves were in that country.
A VPN is an effective and affordable solution for improving the privacy and security of internet users. It won’t be able to protect you from everything, but it will make your general browsing significantly more secure.