Every citizen demands access to the internet without restrictions and with complete anonymity. But, in today’s age, it is not possible. Every country has internet laws under which users don’t have unlimited internet freedom. Their activities are monitored, and data is shared with government agencies. To prevent this, people are using a VPN.
For all the privacy-conscious and tech-savvy people, VPN is a blessing. It does wonders in their lives. But do you know what a VPN is? This guide focuses on what a VPN is, it’s working, its advantages, and much more. So, let’s begin with it.
What Is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network, a VPN, is a privacy-boosting tool. It encrypts the data and makes it invisible to anyone spying on your activities. The changing security landscape results in increased cyber-attacks that risk your online security and privacy. This gives rise to the use of a VPN. A VPN disguises your identity and makes you completely anonymous while you surf the web. The VPN software uses an encryption process for safeguarding your data.
It hides your actual IP address and your internet traffic and boosts your online security. It hides your IP address by routing your traffic to a secure tunnel. Encryption is an efficient process that makes your data traffic unreadable. Thus, your ISPs or any other third party can’t track your online activities. Using a VPN has become a necessity in today’s world. It gives you complete online freedom without exposing your real identity. Other than freedom, a VPN is beneficial for the following reasons:
- Access the geographically restricted content
- Avoid tracking
- Bypass strict censorships
- Download torrents
- Protection against ISPs
- Play online games
- Remain anonymous
- Use accessible Wi-Fi networks without worrying about online security.
How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN hides your actual IP address by creating an encrypted channel between the local server and the VPN server. It assigns you a new IP address and substitutes it with your original one. All your internet traffic passes through that IP address to the VPN server. Your ISP or third-party agent won’t see what you’re doing. Thus, in this way, VPN works. Your data or request to access any website or service is being made from the VPN server.
It seems like your device’s location made the request. But in reality, it is the VPN server that makes the request. Every VPN provider offers a list of servers to the users. You must select the nearest one for a safe and secure browsing experience. Once you connect with the VPN server, this will happen to your data:
- The VPN software installed on your device encrypts your data. The data passes through the encrypted tunnel to the VPN server.
- The VPN server is present in some other location. It decrypts the data sent by your device.
- The private server sends the data to the internet and receives the answer.
- The reply is again encrypted by the VPN server and sent back to the local server.
- Now the client’s server decrypts the data so you can understand it.
A VPN works like a filter that changes all your data to an unreadable form. No one can ever know what it is all about. In this way, you can surf the web anonymously.
Is VPNs Legal?
In the majority of countries, using a VPN is legal. There is nothing wrong with using a VPN. When one wants to protect their online security and privacy, this is what a VPN does. Using a VPN is legal in all the following circumstances:
- Bypassing geographical restrictions
- Masking your IP address
- Playing online games
- Protecting organizational security
- Safeguarding your data on a public Wi-Fi network
- Surfing the web anonymously.
Using a VPN for any illegal activity is illegal, no matter if VPN use is allowed in your location or not. Using a VPN to download copyrighted movies, music, and illicit files is shameful. If you’re such things, you are wrong, and the VPN company has the right to block your account for a lifetime. Countries with strict internet and privacy laws have partially or entirely banned the use of a VPN. These countries include:
Protecting one’s online privacy is every individual’s right. A VPN is a powerful privacy-boosting tool that offers excellent anonymity to the user. The use of a VPN is illegal if you become a part of any illicit act. But if you are using it for legitimate reasons like maintaining your online privacy, it is fair to use a VPN.
How to Choose a VPN For Yourself?
When using a VPN, you can’t use a random one. The VPN selection process is an essential one that you can’t skip. There are criteria that you need to follow while choosing a VPN. It is vital because if your VPN is not according to the requirements, it won’t give you exceptional results. The following mentioned below are those things that help you in choosing the best VPN for you.
The ISP deliberately throttles the bandwidth, which frustrates the users. Most people use a VPN to bypass throttling. Make sure the VPN you’re choosing has a fast and reliable speed. The speeds should be consistent on local and international servers without connection lags. A fast-speed VPN is also ideal for streaming, torrenting, and playing online games.
Always choose a VPN that provides robust security. It is one of the most crucial aspects of VPN selection. It knows if your VPN offers the utmost security level and checks the encryption and security protocols it provides. The highest encryption level is AES 256-bit, and the most secure protocol is OpenVPN. Also, ensure the VPNs have some advanced security features to boost the security level. These features include DNS leak protection, kill switch, splitting tunnelling, and double VPN.
No Data Leak
One of the fundamental purposes of using a VPN is to hide your real identity. If you use a VPN that leaks your identity, then what’s the purpose of using it? Always choose a VPN that protects against DNS, IP, and WebRTC leaks.
The location of the VPN from where it belongs is also essential. A VPN belonging to any country of the surveillance alliance group is not much safe and private use. These countries have strict laws that collect users’ data and monitor their activities. Your VPN should be outside the jurisdiction of five eyes, nine eyes, and fourteen eyes groups.
A VPN has to exhibit a no-log policy that doesn’t collect your online data. It includes your IP address, timestamp connections, and browsing history. Do check the VPN’s log policy thoroughly. You’ll get to know what type of data they store. The majority of VPNs claim to follow a no-log procedure. But are involved in violating users’ data like the Hola VPN. Thus, if the VPN has a log audit report, it’s private and won’t risk your online presence.
A vast server network means more nearby servers that enable faster connections. So, ensure the VPN you select comes with an extensive server network. A VPN having a vast server network allows easy access to geographically blocked content and websites.
Your VPN should offer more than two simultaneous connections. It is yet another important consideration and is of great importance. Simultaneous connections mean that you can connect to different devices at a time with a single account. If you want a VPN for your family or business, it is worth it to use a VPN that offers multiple connections.
Your VPN should have dedicated and optimized servers for streaming and torrenting. The presence of these servers connects directly to the servers that are designed for this purpose.
Always choose a VPN that offers adequate customer support. It is crucial because users need technical assistance that only the support team can provide. Your VPN should have responsive email support and a live chat option 24/7, ready to help users.
Reasons For Using a VPN
Using a VPN is very beneficial, but what are the reasons to use a VPN? The following mentioned below are some of the reasons why one should use a VPN.
Protect Your IP Address
To surf the web without leaving behind any marks, one should use a VPN. A VPN is famous for hiding your actual IP address and location. The VPN assigns you a new IP address and replaces your original one. Your ISP can view that you’re using a VPN, but they won’t ever track you. It is because your data undergoes the process of encryption, which makes it an unreadable form. You need decryption keys to convert it into readable material, and it is not an easy task.
Bypass Government Restrictions
Government restrictions vary from country to country. You can’t use a VPN if you live in any country that follows strict internet laws and censorship. But accessing free internet is the fundamental right of every individual. Also, if someone is there for some work purpose, what will they do? In all such circumstances, using a VPN is the best possible solution. If you are a journalist, political, or social influencer working remotely, you need a VPN to prevent government restrictions.
As the technological world advances, the risk of cyber-attacks is also increasing. Protecting yourself from being a victim of cyber crimes has become necessary to protect your online presence. Hackers and cyber-crooks are present everywhere on the web. They need a gateway to enter your network because it can easily invade anyone’s privacy and compromise their valuable data. It would be best to use a VPN as it encrypts your online data and protects it from all snooping eyes.
Securing Your Identity on Public Wi-Fi
Another crucial reason to use a VPN is to safeguard your identity while using a public Wi-Fi network. Using a free network is full of risks and vulnerabilities. Most users use it because it is free but unaware of the negative consequences. When you connect on an open Wi-Fi, hackers or any malicious agent spying on your activities tracks and enters your network. Once they enter your network, the rest is history. They can access your email, business, and personal data without your consent. The eavesdropper can only view the encrypted data packets and won’t be able to access them. Thus, it’s recommended to use a VPN on public Wi-Fi.
Streaming Geo-Blocked Content and Websites
One of the prime reasons to use a VPN is to access streaming sites for geographically restricted content. Let’s suppose if you’re living in the US, then you can’t access BBC iPlayer. Or, if you are in Australia, it’s impossible to access US Netflix. Here a VPN comes into play. A reliable VPN allows streaming of all the content available on various streaming sites.
The most famous include Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, HBO, and Hulu. Moreover, if you live in any high censorship country like China or the UAE, then with a VPN, you can access Google, What’s App, and YouTube. In short, a VPN is a great tool to access blocked content and websites.
Download and Uploading Torrent Files
Torrenting has been regarded as an illegal act. Most countries, including the USA, have banned it, and if you are caught doing it, you have to face hefty fines and imprisonment. If you don’t want to put yourself in any illegal action during torrenting, you should use a VPN. Torrenting with a VPN is completely secure unless you indulge in something that’s prohibited. If you do, then your VPN provider may cancel your account. But for legal purposes, use a VPN and keep your identity under the cover.
Playing Online Games
Some people love to play online games, and with a VPN, they can do it. Yes! A VPN allows you to access online games as much as you want. The advanced security feature of a VPN ensures that you remain anonymous, and no one can detect your identity. Moreover, they provide fast and consistent speeds you can get on regular days. All these things ensure that your gaming experience is worth excellent.
ISP throttling is quite common, and no one is unaware of it. Your ISPs deliberately throttle your connection; as a result, you face speed issues. It becomes the worst situation when you’re streaming, playing games, or downloading torrents. With a VPN, you can prevent throttling and enjoy doing whatever you want. VPNs have an obfuscated protocol that helps in bypassing throttling. So, now you don’t have to worry about slow internet speed because a VPN ensures that it doesn’t happen.
If you work in an organization, then also you need a VPN. Hackers and your competitors are always after you and your data. To win the race competition, they’ll go to any limit. But by using a VPN, your business data remains protected. Now, it is the era of remote working. The pandemic has created an environment of work from home. The home networks are not as secure as the official ones. If you are using a VPN with your home network, you don’t need to worry much. The VPN handles making your access to business data safe.
Prevent Unwanted Advertising
Advertisers are present everywhere on the web. They track your activities and collect the relevant information by which they can make your profile and target you with unwanted ads. Moreover, they do not target you with ads and sell your data to other websites or third parties. A VPN encrypts all your data and makes it impossible for them to collect any information about you. Some VPNs have a built-in ad-blocker, so there is no need to worry. It will block all such trackers that aim to gather information about you.
Is VPN Legal?
Most people believe that a VPN may slow down their internet speed, so they avoid using it. Well, not really! There is a logic behind it, and people without understanding it conclude. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light. In the entire universe, only light has the fastest speed. Even a VPN is behind it.
A VPN unintentionally slows the internet speed as part of the connecting process. After connecting to a VPN, your local server redirects your traffic to the VPN server, and from here, the request is made. When the data passes through the encrypted tunnel for encryption, it takes time and is valid. Thus, you should not worry about it. But, if your VPN takes a long time, then it is a sign of worry. The best VPNs are the ones that make this connection speed drop unnoticeable.
It’s always recommended to use a VPN with fast and consistent speeds. Many VPNs claim to provide fast speeds, but they fail to do so. Run your VPN for a speed test and check other people’s reviews on it before you buy them. Some VPNs offer a free trial; you can avail of this trial and test it for speed. Use a VPN that doesn’t lag your connection because you might have problems while surfing the web if it does.
Free Vs. Paid VPNs
There are two types of VPN available in the market. One is a free VPN, and the other is a premium VPN. As the name suggests, a free VPN is free of cost. You don’t have to pay any charges for its usage. While premium VPNs charge a specific month every month or year as part of their policy. When it comes to using, premium VPNs are a better option to choose from. You might wonder why I am saying this when we’re getting something for free.
But, remember, nothing in this world is free, and the same goes for free VPNs. Although free VPNs don’t charge any penny, they do with significant limitations and vulnerabilities. With a free VPN, you can enjoy all the features and services that VPN promises. Almost all free VPNs have a specific data limit for every month. The limit is usually 10 GB to 500 MBs. You are not allowed to use more data than it. You have limited servers for torrenting and P2P file sharing and can’t unlock all the Netflix libraries. Furthermore, free VPNs are unsafe from a security point of view as well. The free services don’t care about users’ online safety and security.
They are somehow least bothered about protecting the users’ online data and privacy. Although they allow circumventing the restrictions and surfing the web according to our wish, the entire process doesn’t include strong encryption or security features that guarantee the utmost privacy. It is also possible that the service providers might steal your valuable information and sell it on the dark web or to any third party. Another issue with free VPNs is they have adware and malware in their source code. The VPN company monitors users’ activity and collects their logs.
Also, users experience unwanted pop-up ads that cause great annoyance. When you use a paid VPN, the support team is always there to assist you. There are various means by which you can contact the support team. But if you choose a free VPN, you won’t have such benefits. Thus, it is not recommended to use free VPNs.
Different VPN Protocols
A VPN uses different protocols to protect and safeguard the user’s data. The protocols exchange secure connections between the local and the VPN server. Below is a list of use a VPN protocols, along with their purpose.
It is the strongest and industry-standard VPN protocol. Being an open-source protocol, it uses the OpenSSL protocol. It is a by-default protocol in most VPNs that guarantees users a top-notch level of privacy. Also, it is compatible with all devices and platforms except iOS and macOS.
It combines with another protocol called IPSec to ensure a secure network. Without OpenVPN, the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is the best choice. Although it is not much fast, it doesn’t compromise security. With this protocol, you can circumvent censorship without the fear of getting caught.
Microsoft introduced the Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol. Instead of using HTTPS, it uses SSL for data encapsulation. Thus, it is most effective on Windows platforms. It is not recommended much because it is less compatible with other devices and causes connection lags.
Like the L2TP, the Internet Key Exchange Version 2 combines with IPSec to safeguard users’ online activities. It is easy to set up and use. It is much faster than OpenVPN, so if you experience slow speed, switch to IKEv2. The only drawback of using IKEv2 is that it is compatible with limited platforms.
The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol is the oldest VPN protocol. To install it, you don’t need any extra software. It is easy to use and supports all major platforms. Despite providing fast speeds, PPTP comes with some vulnerabilities. It doesn’t function in countries that follow strict censorship.
It is a newly launched protocol that is still in the development and testing stage. Experts believe that it will solve speed issues.
How to Install a VPN in Six Easy Steps
Installing a VPN is not at all problematic. If you are tech-savvy, you can do it within seconds. If not, don’t worry because you can do it yourself by following quick, easy steps. Below are six steps for installing a VPN on your device.
- Choose a VPN and subscribe to it.
- Please make an account on their website.
- Download and install the VPN app on your device.
- Log in to the VPN app.
- Select the use a VPN server either nearest to you or any other you want
- Turn on the VPN and start browsing the web anonymously.
A VPN is a widely used privacy tool that ensures robust online protection. It masks your real IP address, encrypts your data traffic, and allows you to surf the web with complete freedom. There are several reasons for using a VPN. Most of them are legitimate reasons. If we use a VPN on any legal basis, then use a VPN isn’t considered illegal. But, if we aim to indulge in some unlawful thing, then, of course, it is illegal.
If you are using a VPN for illegal purposes, be ready to bear the consequences. Maintaining a secure connection while using a VPN is our main motto, so you should avoid free VPNs. Nothing is more important than your online presence. You can save some bucks monthly and invest in or use a VPN premium plan. Always ensure that whichever VPN you use should fulfil the criteria mentioned above.