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What Is a VPN?

Beginners’ Guide to Virtual Private Networks

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What Is a VPN Connection?

vpn tunnel

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) redirects your connection to the Internet via a remote server run by a VPN provider. This way, the VPN server becomes secure launching pad for you before you access various websites.

All the network traffic between your device and the VPN server is directed through a secure virtual tunnel. Besides, all of the data sent and received is encrypted. Best of all, your device appears to have the IP address of the VPN server, masking your true identity. As far as websites are concerned, you’re browsing from the server’s geographical location, not your computer’s location.

Due to this setup, a VPN is primarily used for these purposes:

  • Protection against cyber criminals when using low-security networks, such as a public WiFi hotspot.

  • Enhanced privacy achieved by hiding user’s online activities from their Internet Service Provider (ISP). This way, the ISP cannot pass user’s private information to third parties, such as advertisers or government.

  • Access to geographically restricted content and services, which is enabled by hiding the user’s IP address and providing a different virtual location.

  • Bypassing Internet censorship set up by a school, workplace, ISP or government.

  • Using P2P sharing services safely.

How Does It Work?

Usually, when you connect to the Internet, you start by connecting to your ISP, which then redirects you to any websites or applications that you wish to visit. All your Internet traffic can be viewed by your ISP as it passes through their servers.

If you have VPN enabled, you first connect to a server run by your VPN provider through an encrypted connection, which is also called a VPN tunnel. All data traveling between your device and the VPN server is encrypted so that only you and the server can see it.

What Happens When You Connect to a VPN?

Your ISP no longer knows what you do on the Internet

  • They cannot see which websites you visit because all your activity is routed through the VPN server. This means they cannot collect your Internet metadata nor log your browsing history.

  • They cannot see your data because it is encrypted.

  • They only know the fact that you have connected to the VPN server.

Your IP address is replaced with the IP of the VPN server

  • Anyone trying to monitor your Internet activity can only trace it back to the VPN server. Your real IP address stays hidden unless the VPN provider hands over your details – that’s why it’s essential to use a reliable VPN service with a serious approach to privacy, including a no-logs policy.

  • If the remote server is based in a different country to you, you also appear to be connecting from there. This gives you full access to services and content available in that country, allowing to bypass geo-restrictions and censorship.

Your Internet traffic is safe on public WiFi hotspots

  • The Internet connection between your device and the VPN server is encrypted.

  • Even if a hacker can somehow intercept your data, they cannot decipher it.

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