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VPN for dummies: a guide for beginners

A VPN lets you claim back your online privacy. With the growing popularity of VPNs, you might have wondered if you need one too. This article offers a detailed explanation of what a VPN is and how to use it without profound computer knowledge.

Karolis Bareckas Karolis Bareckas

Karolis Bareckas

VPN for dummies: a guide for beginners

Definition of a VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. NordVPN keeps you private and secure online, by hiding your IP address, and routing your internet traffic through an encrypted connection to a privately owned VPN server. (As opposed to the unencrypted servers owned by your ISP). All you have to do is tap 'Quick Connect' in the app to secure yourself online. You can get the NordVPN app for Windows, macOS, Linux, iOS, Android, and Android TV.

VPN for beginners

VPN for dummies

The internet is not safe by default. Hackers are always looking for ways to get into your system and steal your money. This is in addition to governments spying on their citizens and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) selling your browsing data to marketers.

When you turn on a VPN (Virtual Private Network) on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, it protects your data by routing it through a secure connection and encrypted servers. When you use a VPN, it helps prevent third-parties from spying on your activity, which gives you an extra layer of security.

Imagine the subway in New York or London. The trains have windows so anyone can see who’s inside and what they’re doing. They also have signs so everyone knows where they’re headed. Now imagine a special train with no windows or signs. The people inside know what they’re doing and where they’re going, but nobody observing the train has any clue.

When you turn on a virtual private network on your device, it turns into that special train. ISPs and snoopers can see that you’re connected to the internet, but they can’t see your sensitive information and use it to harm you.

PRO TIP: Keep your VPN switched on continually to make sure your data stays inside the train, even when using high-risk public Wi-fi networks.

A VPN tunnel enhances your privacy by encrypting data (in other words, converting it into a code) and making it unreadable for snoopers.

What exactly does a VPN do?

uses of a VPN

The NordVPN app hides your IP address and online activity from monitoring by routing your traffic through encrypted VPN servers. This means that your online activity is kept secure and private from third-parties, and anyone who might want to monitor what you're doing online.

Here are a couple of scenarios where it might be best to use a VPN connection, or use VPN services:

  • Securely connecting to public Wi-Fi. Hackers often set up fake public hotspots to steal your credit card details, passwords, and sensitive information. A VPN secures your traffic on public Wi-Fi, keeping you safe from hackers.
  • Saving money when shopping online. Some sites offer different prices to customers from different countries. With VPN, you can hide your location and hop around to look for the best price.
  • Keeping your data private. A VPN helps keep your online activity and data private and secure, which is what internet freedom is all about.

Are VPNs legal?

VPNs are legal in most countries. However, certain countries, such as China, Iran, and Russia, regulate or ban the use of VPNs. We have prepared a list of countries where VPNs are illegal, which we update regularly.

What’s the difference between a VPN and a proxy?

Proxy is another tech term you can often hear in the context of cybersecurity. Just like virtual private networks, proxies mask your IP address by rerouting your traffic through a proxy server. It's great if you only wish to change your IP address without the full benefits a fully-fledged VPN service can offer.

However, unlike a VPN, a proxy doesn’t encrypt your traffic, leaving it accessible to hackers, governments, and ISPs.

All the traffic going through a proxy server is also visible to the owner of the proxy server. NordVPN, on the other hand, uses powerful VPN protocols to encrypt your traffic. It also offers a strict no-logs policy — whatever you do online is your business and your VPN provider won't see it.

What are the differences between a VPN app and a VPN extension?

VPN for dummies

A VPN extension only protects data in your browser, while other programs and services on your device such as Netflix, Dropbox, or Skype use regular unencrypted internet connection.

Unlike an extension, a secure VPN app protects all the traffic leaving your device. If a VPN client is enabled on your computer, it will not only secure the data in your browser, but also other tools connected to the internet. With a premium VPN like NordVPN, you can get strong security and privacy, while also enjoy internet speeds that NordVPN alternatives just can't match.

How to start using a VPN

The NordVPN app is easy to use and will take only a few minutes to set up. Just follow this tutorial:

  1. Download and install the NordVPN app.VPN for dummies
  2. Sign up to create a new account or log in if you already have one.
  3. VPN for dummies
  4. Click the Quick Connect button, which will automatically select the most suitable server for you.
  5. VPN for dummies
  6. Enjoy a secure internet.

You can also check out our ‘What is a VPN?’ section, where we explain VPNs in greater detail and you can decide whether NordVPN is the best VPN for you.

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Karolis Bareckas
Karolis Bareckas Karolis Bareckas
success Verified author
Karolis is a tech geek who writes about cybersecurity, online privacy, and the latest gadgets. When not rattling his keyboard, he’s always eager to try a new burrito recipe or explore a new camping spot.