A VPN is a virtual private network and is one of the most secure ways to search and use the internet. A VPN network essentially takes over your entire internet connect and all the applications on your computer, giving you complete protection against viruses, hackers, and even internet service providers can’t see your traffic and track your location.
VPN networks are able to do this by channeling your connection through another system, thus changing your IP address. This also has the side effect of spoofing your location which enables you to bypass content restrictions and filters. However, it isn’t transported through to another network in the ways you’d expect from a standard proxy.
VPN networks are advanced and have various security protocols and encryptions that make the connection between you and the internet incredibly secure. In addition, VPNs can also be applied to your mobile devices as well, and the providers of VPN offers other awesome bonuses such as 24/7 customer care and you can even get your own dedicated server for personal use, if you have the money.
How Does a VPN Work?
When you usually search and use the internet, you first have to connect to your internet service provider who then, in turn, connects you to any website and location on the internet. The connection between you and the internet is not secure or encrypted and if you are using public Wi-Fi you have the chance of being abused by hackers who can intercept your traffic. In addition, all your traffic is accessible and viewed by your provider, which means you have little to no privacy when you are surfing the web. However, with a VPN, many of these issues can be resolved.
A VPN is a method of securing and encrypting your internet traffic and computer applications by channelling your connection through another server/location, which hides your IP address and geographical location. The tunnels between you and the internet are heavily encrypted with military grade security (usually AES-256-bit), and the networks have various security protocols which can be used to personalise your security to how you like.
This extra security gives you protection against hackers and any other malicious individuals who may be snooping around your connection, including ISPs and Government agencies. VPN networks also allow you to bypass content filters and access restricted sites through the ability to mask your IP address, as you are essentially telling the internet that you are searching from a fake location, and one that has access to content that isn’t available anywhere else.back to menu ↑
Why Use a VPN Network: The Pros and Cons
There are tons of benefits to using a VPN network and they probably outweigh the negatives. However, for a complete in-depth review, both sides will be considered.
The Benefits of Use a VPN
- Firstly, VPN networks provide you with privacy when surfing the web, as your traffic is encrypted and tunneled through another server (which can even be in another country). This setup means that ISPs and Government agencies alike are unable to view your traffic and see what you’re up too, as all they will see is encryption with code.
- Secondly, the amazing side effect of VPNs is the ability to bypass content filters and have unprecedented access to the internet and all its sources. This ability to avoid censorship is the result of VPNs ability to IP mask and send your connection through a different location, giving the internet the impression you’re searching from somewhere else. This geographical spoofing also allows you to obtain content that may not be available in your home country. For example, China has extremely harsh censorship laws that do not allow its citizens access to sites like Facebook and Twitter. With a VPN, you can safely work around the censorship and access these sites freely.
- Thirdly, VPNs offer you safety when searching the web and give you protection against hackers and other malicious individuals after your information. The tunnels between you and the server are encrypted and mean that anyone trying to intercept your traffic via public Wi-Fi will be unable to read any of your data.
- Finally, having a VPN gives you the ability to engage in P2P downloads and uploads safely without the risk of your privacy or safety being breached. However, you should check your VPN provider’s policies on P2P as not all providers allow this kind of activity on their servers.
The Limitations on VPN Service
- Having a VPN does not make you entirely anonymous on the web. Although your ISP can not see your traffic and what you are up to, your VPN provider can and has the ability to track every move you make. This ability to track your traffic is mostly used for troubleshooting and customer support issues, etc. However, you should look for a ‘no logs’ provider when looking for a VPN service, as these put in the most effort to protect their users privacy and not track you in real-time.
- Log keeping breaches privacy! Many VPN providers will keep logs on what goes on in their network and will keep track of what their users search. This is especially bad where the VPN service is based in a country with censorship and surveillance laws which require companies to hand over any data the Government requests, which will in turn breach your privacy. Find a service with a ‘no logs’ policy so you know they won’t have anything to hand over if push comes to shove. No logs companies also have more trust.
- You are not entirely untraceable by websites, and your IP address can be found. Most websites track traffic using a range of software and analytics including cookies which VPNs cannot deal with. In addition, some provider’s networks experience IP leaks (as a result of poor encryption) and result in your IP address being exposed with particular searches.
- VPN networks are going to slow down your connection as your computer is going to be encrypting and then decrypting data at fast paces, and this can have a hit on your speeds. However, with modern technology, you should only experience a 10% reduction, and the closer the server is to your geographical location, the faster the speeds will be. Note that some providers are better than others.
What Should Consider When Looking for a VPN?
Finding a good VPN service really depends on what you want and what you plan on using it for. Unfortunately, VPN providers differ a lot and their packages and plans can vary in price and features.
Your first point-of-call should be to check out the reviews on VPNs and check out our top 5 VPN. That will give you an overview of the best ones on the market at this point in time. However, this article will give you a list of things to consider.
- Security– If you are looking for some extra security when searching the web, you should check out the provider’s encryption and security protocols (explained later). You want to look for a provider that offers OpenVPN with at least a 256-bit military encryption.
- Privacy – VPN services promise privacy, but you should always read the fine print. Check whether they keep logs and what country they are based in. Avoid services based in the UK and ones that keep logs
- Speed – VPNs will slow down your connection, so look for providers that have good connection speeds
- Server range – If you are looking to bypass content filters and geo-spoof your location, you are going to want to find a provider with a wide range of server availability. In addition, the higher the range of server locations a provider has, the better connection speeds you’ll have, especially if you live in a remote country
- Customer support – If you are completely new to VPN and have no idea what you are doing, finding a provider with great customer service is a must, as they will be able to answer your questions professionally and in a timely fashion
- Software– Find a VPN client that look good and provides you with a bunch of different options. Look for clients that allow a lot of security customisation, kill switches, DNS leak prevention and other bonuses like stealth servers, double encryption and VPN through Onion that give you extra power with security and privacy
- Multi-device compatibility– A good VPN provider will offer the option to have their VPN network on a range of devices with multiple connections allowed through one account. If you want to protect your devices, search for the amount of simultaneous connection offered by the VPN service
VPN Protocols and Encryptions
You and your internet data are protected on a VPN using encrypted tunnels and connections. There are a range of encryptions and security protocols that VPN networks employ to protect you against malicious individuals. Security protocols are instructions that allow a connection to be encrypted between a pair of computers, and there are various options with different results, including PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN, SSTP and IKEv2.
Point-to-point tunnelling protocol (PPTP) is an old and useless way of encrypting your data and connection, and in short, should be avoided at all costs as it has many vulnerabilities
Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP) is a decent security protocol to use and is secure enough for most casual users. However, it is still can be comprised by Government agencies such as the NSA
This is the best security protocol and is fairly new. The protocol call is very secure, supports a range of encryptions and can bypass firewalls. It can, however, slow down your system
Secure socket tunnelling protocol is another great protocol to use. It is very secure and can bypass most firewalls. In addition, it can be entirely integrated into Windows. However, it only really works on Windows when compared to other systems.
Internet Key Exchange (version 2) is a fast security protocol and is relatively stable. In addition, it can support some strong encryptions and is easy to setup. However, it is very limited and can only be supported on a few platforms.
For most users, a recommendation should be to use an OpenVPN protocol with RSA-2048 handshaking, SHA-1 data authentication and 128-bit encryption. However, if you are looking for something heftier, use an OpenVPN security protocol with RSA-2048 for handshaking, SHA256 for authentication and AES-256 for data encryption. However, the latter may slow down your computer. In addition, not all mobile devices support AES-256, so it may be more appropriate to use L2TP 128-bit encryption instead.
VPNs are an excellent way to protect yourself on the internet, as well as a good way to give you privacy from ISP and Government agencies (to some degree). They allow you to securely use the internet without the risk of hackers or malicious individuals intercepting your traffic and stealing your information, as well as allowing you to bypass content filters by masking your IP and spoofing your geographical location. Hopefully this guide has helped you understand VPN networks a little more and that you now know how to choose a VPN that’s right for you.