Beginner VPN Guide – What Is a Virtual Private Network & How It Works

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In this age of changing security landscape, everyone wants robust online protection. The netizens are always looking for online privacy, security, and freedom. Users have to face lots of restrictions while they browse the web. Most of the time, it is because of the limitation imposed by their country’s law enforcement body. It is frustrating for a user that they can’t enjoy a free with reliable protection. But, now, netizens have found a way out of this situation. They start using VPNs to browse the internet freely and securely. But what is a VPN?

If you’re a beginner, then I’m sure you have not much knowledge about this term. But if you’re a technical person who uses such tools for online security, you should be well aware of what VPNs are.

After several days of thorough research, I’m finally able to come up with this detailed guide about:

  • What is a VPN?
  • How does it work?
  • Why do we need one?

So, let’s get started with it.

What is a VPN?

A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is an online software designed to safeguard your online security. It hides your real IP address and anonymizes your internet traffic and location. With a VPN, no one can ever detect you or your activities. It means that a VPN protects you from all snooping eyes, including your ISPs and other malicious agents. Are you thinking how?

The security boosting software makes a connection between your device and the web. By this connection, you are sending your data to an external server through encryption. And from the external server, your data goes to the internet. A VPN makes encrypted and secure connections to boost your online security.

Besides providing online privacy, you can also use a VPN for the following purposes:

  • Accessing blocked streaming sites
  • Playing online games
  • Torrenting
  • Shopping and much more

How Does a VPN Work?

A VPN encrypts your internet data and makes it difficult for any spying eyes or hackers to intercept it. 

When you connect to a VPN, it first undergoes encryption and routes the traffic to a Wi-Fi network. The VPN creates a data tunnel between the local network and the VPN server. Because of encryption, your data becomes unreadable. 

A VPN server is miles away from the local network in some other location. The long-distance gives the impression that you are present in that particular location. In this way, you gain the freedom to access the internet according to your wish.

During the entire course, your original IP address remains hidden. The VPN service provider assigns you a new IP address and replaces it with the ISP one. 

The IP address assigned by the ISP is traceable. If you’re doing something against your ISP’s terms, then they can catch you. By using a different IP address, your ISP can’t track your activities. And you can surf the web anonymously.

Why Do We Need a VPN?

The internet is full of spying eyes and hackers. Either you are surfing the web, using a public Wi-Fi network, or making transactions; you’re always monitored. It leads to exposing your browsing history and identity. To prevent such things, using a VPN is always a reliable and safest solution. 

Anyone worried about their online safety and privacy should use a VPN. It provides an excellent level of anonymity and encryption to the users. There are numerous reasons for using a VPN. It is helpful while sending emails, doing shopping, paying bills, and much more. 

Below are some of the fundamental reasons why we need a VPN while using the internet. Let’s have a look.

1- Hides Your IP Address and Location

Your ISP assigns you an IP address. By tracking your IP address, they can access your browsing activities. They are the ones who know what you are searching for and from you are performing all these activities. A VPN proves very handy here. It masks your IP address and keeps your activities anonymous.

When you connect to a VPN, you’re using an IP address that your VPN assigns you. The one provided by the VPN replaces your original IP address. You appear invisible to your ISP, and your internet traffic is also unreadable. In this way, your browsing activities remain protected, and your ISP won’t ever know where you are using the internet.

 2- VPN Encrypts Your Data 

One of the primary ideas of a VPN is that it encrypts your internet traffic. Encryption is a process of preventing hackers and your ISPs from intercepting your online experiences. It converts your readable data packets to unreadable form. As a result, any prying eyes won’t see your sensitive information, including your passwords and browsing history. To read the data packets, one needs to decrypt them first, which is not easy.

When VPN encrypts your data so, the ISP won’t know about your activities. Thus, they won’t throttle your internet speed even if you are torrenting or streaming on Netflix. Data encryption is of great importance, especially when you are on a public Wi-Fi network. The hackers on such networks are looking for new targets. But if you are using a VPN, then there is no need to worry because a VPN covers all your essential data with encryption.

3- Device Protection

Another reason to use a VPN is for device protection. Your devices are most vulnerable and can become a target of cybercriminals. Sometimes it is because of using weak passwords and free Wi-Fi networks. 

A VPN is an exceptional tool to protect your devices. Now, VPNs are compatible with major devices and platforms. Some of these include Android, Windows, iOS, and macOS. Thus, installing the VPN on your device protects both the incoming and outgoing data from your devices. In this way, you remain safe from the clutches of cybercriminals.

Enjoy Internet Freedom With Privacy

Free internet is a right of every netizen. Every user should be given access to the internet. But, in reality, things are not like this. Countries have their internet laws according to which users access the internet. Many countries like China, Iran, Russia, Turkey, and the UAE have strict censorship. You have limited or don’t have complete access to the web. 

To bypass internet censorship, VPNs are the best possible solution. They allow you to browse the web anonymously by hiding your real identity. There’s no chance of you getting caught by the government surveillance agencies or by the ISPs. Make sure; in this case, you choose a VPN that doesn’t collect any activity logs that can expose your identity.

Protection Against Irrelevant, Malware, and Trackers

The most irritating thing while you surf the web is irrelevant pop-up ads. These ads are malicious, and one-click can lead to disastrous results. If you click these ads by mistake, your device gets infected with malware and trackers, and you don’t know about it. Thus, to get rid of this stuff, you should use a VPN.

Most of the VPNs have built-in ad-blockers that protect against malware and trackers. With this VPN feature, you won’t see any unwanted pop-up ads that infect your device. It is useful when you stream on YouTube; thus, use a VPN while surfing and streaming the web.

Unblock Streaming Channels

A VPN allows you to stream various sites, including Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO, and Hulu. You have limited access to these sites, and when you do so, ISP throttles your connection. Moreover, if you are traveling, then definitely, these services won’t be available. 

The good news is that with a VPN, it is possible to access the blocked streaming sites. You need to connect to a VPN server and can enjoy unlimited streaming. A VPN assigns you a different IP address and gives you access to stream any service without throttling your connection speed. 

Things to Consider While Choosing a VPN?

After you know what a VPN is and how it works, you start for a VPN. But, you can’t go and buy any VPN. There are some critical guidelines that you should look at a VPN. All these things have a purpose, and if your VPN has all these features, you’re completely safe on the web.

Here are some essential considerations that you should in a VPN:

  • AES 256-bit encryption: Always choose a VPN that offers 256-bit encryption. It is the highest encryption standard that is unbreakable and safeguards your browsing activities.
  • OpenVPN Protocol: There are six different protocols that a VPN uses. Among all the most secure is the OpenVPN protocol. It is the industry’s leading protocol. Make sure the VPN you’re selecting should have at least OpenVPN.
  • Kill Switch: The function of a kill switch is to conceal the IP address and browsing activities when the connection drops. Most of the VPNs have a built-in automatic kill switch. Do check if your VPN has one or not.
  • DNS and IPv6 Protection: A reliable VPN disables the IPv6 and protects you from leaks. So, check this feature. You can also run a leak test to verify their claims. 
  • WebRTC Leak Protection: Browsers use WebRTC technology to communicate with each other. For this purpose, they need to have each other’s IP addresses. It is an advanced technology through which the ISP or any third-party can detect your IP address. While choosing a VPN, make sure that your VPN by default disabled WebRTC to safeguard your IP address.
  • Dedicated Servers for Streaming and Torrenting: These servers are useful while accessing the blocked sites and torrenting
  • Speed: It is another aspect that needs your consideration. To stream Netflix or surf the web, you need fast speeds. Ensure that the VPN you’re choosing offers fast speeds without any connection lag.
  • No-Log Policy: Your VPN should follow a strict no-log policy. It shouldn’t store users’ activity logs, IP addresses, or timestamp connections that can expose them. If the VPN claims a no-log policy, check out their verified log audit report too.
  • Extensive Server Network: Choose a VPN that has a vast server network. A server that is spread globally allows you to access the geo-blocked content and sites. Also, it ensures that if you are traveling and using so, you have enough VPN servers in your surroundings.
  • Simultaneous Connections: Another important consideration is of simultaneous connections that your VPN offers. If you want a VPN for your family or business purposes, then it should allow simultaneous connections. It means that with a single VPN account, you can log in to multiple devices. 

Is VPNs Legal?

Every country follows its own rules and regulations about internet usage. Based on these rules, most countries do allow the use of VPNs. So, it means that it is legal to use a VPN there.

Some countries like China, North Korea, Russia, and the UAE have strict censorship laws. Using a VPN in these countries is banned and illegal, but it is legal in other states. 

There is nothing shady about using a VPN. We use VPN to boost our online security and privacy, which is the right of every netizen. Using a VPN is legal until you indulge in some illegal activities. If you do such stuff, then beware because you’re breaching the VPN’s policy. The company has the right to block your account forever if they catch you doing any illegal activity.

If we talk from a business perspective, then again, using VPNs are legal. If you own a business, it is your responsibility to protect the company’s and users’ data. 

In short, if you are using a VPN for protection purposes, then there is no harm in using a reliable VPN. 

What Are Different VPN Protocols?

VPN protocols are rules for exchanging secure connections between the local server and the VPN server. The prime function of these protocols is to safeguard your data. A VPN uses six different VPN protocols. These protocols include:

  • OpenVPN: It is the most secure and widely used VPN protocol. It uses an open-source protocol that’s based on OpenSSL protocol. Most VPNs have a built-in OpenVPN protocol for providing a high level of security. It is compatible with major platforms and devices, like Android, Windows, and Linux. But, if you have an iOS and macOS platform, then it doesn’t function.
  • L2TP/IPSec: The Layer 2 Tunneling protocol combines with IPSec for providing a secure connection. If OpenVPN isn’t available, then it is an excellent option to use. It can bypass strict censorship, but, as compared to others, is not much faster.
  • PPTP: The Point to Point Tunneling Protocol is easy to use and set up. You don’t need any extra software to install it. The best thing is that it is compatible with all major platforms and fast speed. But, it comes with some leaks. Also, you can get blocked if you use this protocol in high censorship countries. So, you should only use PPTP when you focus on speed more than security.
  • IKEv2/IPSec: The Internet Key Exchange Version 2 combines with IPSec to provide robust protection. It allows the user to switch among the network. It is less secure but faster than OpenVPN protocol. It is easy to set up but supports limited platforms, including iOS and macOS.
  • SSTP: The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is common among all Windows users. Microsoft introduced this protocol collaboration with NASA. It uses SSL and encapsulates data packets instead of HTTPS. So, it is safe to use it. But it isn’t compatible with other platforms and causes connection drops. Thus, I don’t recommend using it. 
  • WireGuard: It is a recently launched protocol. Despite gaining immense popularity remains in the testing phase. Many VPNs have introduced this protocol, and it’s likely to solve the speed issues. It means that it improves the connection speed. 

Do VPNs Slow Down the Internet Speed?

Many people believe that a VPN slows down the internet speed. For this reason, people avoid using a VPN. Well, in reality, a VPN does slow down the internet speed. It is true in some cases and not with all VPNs. 

A VPN redirects your connection to an unknown server. Your data takes time to travel from a local server to the VPN server. Also, it does take time to encrypt internet traffic. There is nothing to worry about if your connection drops. 

You should worry if your VPNs take a long time. The best VPNs aim to make your internet connection fast. Thus, the slow speed goes unnoticeable. Always use a VPN that offers fast speed because then you won’t experience any connection lag. 

How to Install a VPN?

By now, you must be curious about installing a VPN. Well! It is not difficult at all. By following some quick steps, you can install a VPN on your device. The steps are as follows:

  • Select and subscribe to a reliable VPN service provider.
  • Make an account on the VPN website.
  • Download the VPN app on your device.
  • Install it on your device.
  • Log in to the VPN software.
  • Choose the VPN server of your choice.
  • Turn on the VPN 

Wrapping Up

To sum up, VPNs are a great privacy tool. It encrypts your data traffic and makes you anonymous while you surf the web. They are the best tools one can ask for to increase their online security and privacy. It is safe and legal to use a VPN. There are various occasions when one desperately needs a VPN. 

But, you can’t use any VPN. There are some things that your VPN should have in it. All these points are mentioned above. Do keep them in mind while you choose a VPN.

Kenneth G Aranda

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