What is a VPN? Why one should need a VPN?

Importance of a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

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This Topic Covers the Answers to the Following Questions
  1. What does a VPN mean?
  2. How does a VPN work?
  3. What are the benefits of using a VPN?
  4. Why there is a need for a VPN?

What is a VPN and Why one should need a VPN

 

Definition of a VPN

In simple words, a VPN is a ‘Virtual Private Network‘ which connects you to the internet through a private unknown network. Normally, computers can be accessed over the internet using IP addresses, a VPN is also an IP address but the only difference is it is private and unknown to the public. The VPN’s IP address interconnects your IP address with the computer’s IP address which you are going to access.

An example for a VPN: 2 persons are moving towards each other in a tunnel. Here, in this example, the tunnel is a VPN, and 1 among the 2 persons is your computer and the other person is another computer or website which you are surfing in the browser. Nobody from outside the tunnel can watch these people who are inside the tunnel.

In a simple sense, a VPN is a network that connects your PC, Laptop, Mobile, or Tablet to another Computer over the internet through a Private network or server or we can say an IP address.

Anyone can create their own VPN servers or they can simply signup the VPN service providers to access the public internet with more security.

Features and Benefits of a VPN

The usage of VPN gradually increased when compared to the past, and nowadays VPNs are popular and are used regularly. The concept of VPN was introduced for businesses in the past for accessing their computers (i.e., information) remotely and privately. Businesses usually don’t want the leaking of their information to anyone on the internet, so VPNs were created.

However, VPNs become more popular today, even normal people are using VPNs for managing the security and privacy of their data.

Anyhow, let’s have a discussion on the features and benefits of using a VPN service –

  • Access any website from anywhere without any restrictions
  • Hide your Identity and exact Location
  • Privacy and Safety of your Data
  • Protection from Malware and Computer Viruses
  • Prevents the DNS queries logging by ISPs
  • Protection from Malicious ads which inject malware into PCs upon clicks
  • Safety over free Public Wi-Fi or Internet
  • Discounted price booking of hotel rooms and flights

Access any website from anywhere without any restriction

Hope you are familiar with the term ‘Geo-Restriction’. Let me tell you about it in simple words, restricting content based on the user’s location is Geo-Restriction.

Geo-Restriction is legal and may be due to the following reasons –

  • Licensing issues of the content
  • Government permission issues
  • Data Protection Laws
  • Content issues (for adults or for all)

Countries restrict content as per their ruling government guidelines. This will be an issue for the normal public because they will be unable to access the worthy information available on the internet. This geo-restriction can be overcome with VPN technology.

Whether the websites are blocked by the Government or by the ISPs, VPNs help you in connecting to those websites through their private network i.e., IP address. Thus, you can access any content by sitting at any place in the world. VPNs just bypass your local network provided by the local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and help you in achieving what you need.

Hide your Identity and Exact Location

Everyone knows that computers are interconnected over the internet with the help of a public IP address. Do you know that, with the help of this public IP address, one can get your identity and your exact location?. If you don’t know that then listen carefully, anyone can use your IP address to track your location and your daily activities over the internet.

VPNs, in general, hide the IP address and prevent tracking. VPN helps you in connecting to the internet with the other computer (VPN server) internet connection. . VPN makes you feel that you are accessing the internet from some other location thereby hiding the original location and identity.

VPN funnels all the incoming and outgoing traffic through the VPN encrypted network. If someone tries to pry on you then they will see the IP address of the VPN server instead of the user’s IP address. Thus, in this way VPNs help you in hiding your identity and exact location.

Privacy and Safety of your Data

VPNs generally use encryption technology to encrypt the data sent and received over the VPN network. Most of the VPN servers use AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard) technology to encrypt the data. This technology is used by the government and the banks to protect the data from being stolen.

Hackers always try to steal the confidential information sent over the internet, however, if VPN is used to send the data, it becomes almost impossible for hackers to crack it. Only you and the VPN service can only be able to decrypt the data. Hackers will see scrambled words when they try to access the data sent over the VPN network due to encryption.

Any type of confidential data can be sent or received using VPN services with no risk of data being stolen. Thus, the data remains private and secure. VPNs help in the protection of your data from prying eyes.

Protection from Malware and Computer Viruses

VPN services that are offered by good companies have inbuilt antimalware and antivirus programs. VPNs usually block websites that are affected by malware and computer viruses. VPNs filter the incoming traffic and allow only safe web pages, free from exploits, for access.

Thus, VPNs make your surfing safe, protect your computer, laptop, or mobile from malicious scripts, malware, and viruses. The database of the malware and viruses is updated regularly and the signatures of new malware and viruses are detected during data transfer through VPN.

Prevent the DNS queries logging by ISPs

In general, VPNs have a ‘no-logging’ policy. This no-logging policy means not tracking or storing any kind of information, however, logs are registered as it is a default to the software. Except for government authorities upon requests, no VPN service provider will share any kind of information with anyone.

ISPs (Internet Service Providers) generally log the queries of DNS when the allotted IP address is used for accessing the internet. VPNs overcome this habit of ISPs by providing their own DNS servers linked to the VPN’s IP address. Thus the queries made to DNS aren’t logged, and in this way, your privacy is considered.

Protection from Malicious Ads that injects Malware into computers upon Clicks

An interesting fact that I want to share with you is, most of the branded VPN services have an inbuilt adblocker that blocks almost all types of ads and makes the internet accessing ad-free. There are many websites on the internet that are stuffed with malicious ad codes, which can enter into your laptop, PC, or mobile upon click.

The main intention of such malicious websites is to inject malware everywhere and to hack the website content. Luckily we have VPNs to prevent these cruel doings. VPNs with the help of adblocker filter the incoming ad traffic and allow only pure data without ads. If the website is completely malicious then the VPN simply blocks it for access.

VPNs not only help us in filtering the ad traffic but also in saving bandwidth. VPNs also make your surfing faster as it prevents unnecessary script loading like ads etc.

Safety over free Public Wi-Fi or Internet

Is there any person who will ignore using the internet, if it is freely available without any restriction or password? The answer is no, however, there are some people who will ignore if security and privacy are much concerned. We will find a lot of free public Wi-Fi hotspots at many places like railway stations, bus stations, libraries, cafes, etc. Some people use the internet from such hotspots blindly, and the others think about the security ‘Are the free public Wi-Fi hotspots secure?’, ‘Is the Internet we receive from Wifi spots is secure?’.

In many cases, Hackers make use of these publicly available free Wifi hotspots to exploit the things which get connected such as mobile, laptops, etc. These free Wifi spots may also become a reason for a malware and virus attack as these are used by many at a time.

The only solution for this issue is either turning off your wifi or internet or using a standard VPN offered by a reputed company. VPN disguises your identity and location on the internet, making things appear as you are working from somewhere else. Your data will get encrypted as soon as you started VPN, no can easily steal it. Malware and viruses are going to be filtered out, so no possibility of exploitation.

Thus, VPNs provide more security and safety across public Wi-Fi or Internet hotspots.

Discounted Price Booking of Hotel Rooms and Flights

Many e-commerce sites offer special prices or discounted prices for the customers arriving from the special regions. Anyone can make use of this opportunity by disguising their own identity using a VPN and browsing the offers provided by the eCommerce websites.

In the very same way, one can book the hotel room by disguising themselves through a VPN and making use of all the benefits provided by the hotel management for customers from that special region.

In this way, VPN also helps in saving some bucks.

 

Working Mechanism of a VPN

How does a VPN works

A VPN normally reroute your entire internet traffic through its own server. VPN acts as an intermediary between you and your internet web. In other words, a VPN acts as a bridge between your computer and your internet service provider (ISP).

All the requests made by you that may be online searches, files upload or download, etc., first passes through the VPN server then reaches the internet, and in the same way, the response (to your request) from the internet first reaches the VPN server, and then your computer where you can view the results. For the internet, it appears that the requests are received from the VPN server (i.e., VPN IP address), not from your IP, and thereby your identity and location remain hidden.

VPNs not only reroute the traffic through the VPN servers but also add encryption to it. In a simple sense, encryption means converting human-readable text to unreadable scrambled words. A key or decryptor is required to reconvert the encrypted form to a normal readable one. Due to this encryption, no government, ISPs, and hackers can able to spy on you and your internet activities. Your privacy will be respected with VPNs.

VPNs act like a sieve that filters out the unnecessary matter and allow only the fine matter to pass through. VPNs filter out malicious scripts, unnecessary ads, malware, trojans, etc., and allow pure web content to the VPN user.

The most widely used VPNs are of 2 types. They are –

  • A Remote-Access VPN
  • A Site-to-Site VPN

Remote-Access VPN

  • Can also be called SSL-VPN or Client-to-Server VPN.
  • It is the most widely used VPN among all the VPN types.
  • A VPN Client is required for connecting to the VPN server.
  • With the help of a VPN client, you can connect to any network or you can connect to your own company’s internal network.
  • Can be accessed from anywhere provided that you should have a VPN client and a valid internet connection.

A Site-to-Site VPN

A Site-to-Site VPN

  • Can also be called Router-to-Router VPN.
  • This VPN is mainly deployed for corporate users i.e., for companies that have many headquarters and branches.
  • It is a little bit tough to completely set up this type of VPN.
  • Data and activities from all the branches including headquarters are connected to each other through the company’s internal network and VPN. This phenomenon of a company’s internal network is generally known as Intranet.
  • No outsiders or hackers can able to access the company’s information.

The methods of security or we can say protocols that are most commonly deployed by VPN services are as follows –

  • PPTP – Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol – Oldest method of security but still followed today
  • IKEv2 – Internet Key Exchange version 2
  • L2TP/IPSec – Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol/IP Security
  • SSL – Secure Socket Layer
  • TLS – Transport Layer Security
  • SSH – Secure Shell Protocol
  • OpenVPN – Open Virtual Private Network – It is an open-source protocol and considered as most standard among all the other protocols.

We will learn about all these protocols in our next articles.

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