VPN stands for “virtual private network” – a service that encrypts your Internet traffic and protects your online identity.
VPN redirects your connection to the Internet through a remote server run by a VPN provider, meaning that the server becomes a secure launching pad before you access various websites.
The VPN definition also includes the corporate solution that allows employees to access their company’s network securely while located outside the office. However, we focus on commercial VPN services designed for individual use here.
Typically, when you try to access a website on the Internet, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) receives the request and redirects you to your destination. As your Internet traffic passes through your ISP, they can see everything you do online. What’s more, they can track your behavior and sometimes even hand your browsing history over to advertisers, government agencies and other third parties.
Here’s where a VPN comes into play. It redirects your Internet traffic through a specially configured VPN server, hiding your IP address and encrypting all the data that is sent or received. The encrypted data is essentially gibberish to anyone who intercepts it, making it impossible to read.
Consider a public Wi-Fi network, perhaps at a coffee shop or airport. Usually, you would connect without a second thought, but do you know who might be keeping tabs on the network traffic? Can you even be confident the hotspot is legitimate, or might it be operated by a criminal who's hunting for your personal data? Think about the passwords, banking details, credit card numbers, and just any private information that you send every time you go online.
With a VPN enabled, all the data you send and receive travels through an encrypted tunnel so that no one can get their hands on your private information. That means even if a cybercriminal does somehow manage to intercept your data, they won’t be able to decipher it.
Without a VPN, your connection is fully open. Your ISP, employer, the Wi-Fi router in the coffee shop mentioned above, any server along the way, or a person with the right tools can look at your data, log it and use it in ways you can’t control. Government agencies can monitor your online activity and share the retained metadata with each other, including across country borders through intelligence alliances such as “14 Eyes.” Based on your IP address, which depends on your geographic location, third-party sites and services may charge different prices or display intrusive targeted advertising.
With a VPN, you can have peace of mind knowing that your data is encrypted and IP address protected. Your ISP can no longer see which websites you visit because all your activity is routed through the VPN server. As a result, they cannot collect your Internet metadata nor log your browsing history.
Various countries around the world restrict access to one type of online content or another. Social networks, games, chat apps – even Google itself is not beyond the reach of censorship. In addition, many academic institutions and workplaces enable firewalls to limit access to websites for various reasons. These range from seeking to increase productivity to restricting inappropriate content.
Websites and services are blocked by denying users’ access based on their IP address. When you connect to the Internet, your IP shows the country you are currently in, which means that any restrictions valid there are applied to you as well.
Using a VPN allows you to connect to remote VPN servers, making your IP address look like you are physically located somewhere else. This IP swap helps you access restricted websites and keeps your private information safe at the same time.
Although the answer to this question could be remarkably complex, the main reasons why one needs a VPN are security and privacy. You should strongly consider using a VPN if:
When you're using a public Wi-Fi network, even a password-protected one, a VPN is your best friend. That’s because using public hotspots can be rife with hazards. From man-in-the-middle attacks to Wi-Fi sniffing, there are many different hacking methods that snoopers use to intercept your Internet traffic and steal your social media or banking passwords, files and photos.
The good news is that a VPN allows you to check your email and social media accounts, make banking transactions and shop without the worry of falling into the nightmare of data loss or identity theft.
If you're traveling to a foreign country, a VPN can help you access services that may not be available in that country – say, China, where the government blocks sites like Facebook. Even if you just cross a border into a neighboring country, you will most likely lose access to some streaming content to which you subscribe.
Not being able to enjoy something you’ve paid for is frustrating, and here’s where a VPN can help. It changes your IP address, making it look as if you’re browsing from a different location. In fact, if you connect to a VPN server in your home country, you will be able to access all your favorite content securely.
Even when browsing online in the comfort of your own home, using a VPN is a pretty good idea. For instance, you may want to buy your little nephew a birthday gift online without being bombarded with toy truck ads for next six months. Or perhaps you need to do a quick research of health clinics without attracting your employer’s attention. If you live in the US, you may simply want to know that your ISP will not be able to sell your entire browsing history to the highest bidder.
A VPN encrypts your Internet traffic and replaces your IP address, making it extremely hard to link it to you. It keeps you from leaving footprints on the web that can otherwise be tracked by your ISP and other third-party snoopers.
Then there’s the widespread surveillance by local and foreign governments. Through the Snowden leaks and years of follow-up reporting, we know that the worldwide surveillance structure is vast in scope and reach. While it would be illegal for police officers to search your home without a warrant, your browsing activity, messages, social media content, and other online information can be monitored, retained and shared among various government agencies, including across country borders.
Using a reliable no-logs VPN service provides a high degree of privacy, protecting you not only from ISP tracking but also from blanket government surveillance.
Some countries don't have the same protections for freedom of press, speech, and expression that most democratic countries have. In fact, some regimes resort to oppressive measures to monitor and take action against those they see as threats to the government. People who dare to stand up have to take extra precautions to protect their communications. Journalists and researchers also send messages containing data that some people may want to try very hard to intercept.
Using a VPN provides extra security for such sensitive messages and makes it look like they are being received or sent from a different location. That may be a great help in protecting one’s physical safety or information sources.
P2P (Peer-to-Peer) is one of the most effective methods to quickly share large sets of data across a network; it is excellent for distributing open-source software, corporate and scientific data, or public domain videos.
But despite these perfectly legitimate uses, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often try to discourage Internet users from P2P file sharing. They do it by controlling access to file-sharing websites or setting bandwidth limits that significantly slow down Internet connection speeds.
A VPN makes it much more difficult for your ISP to detect that you are sharing files and shape your Internet connection accordingly. It ciphers your file downloads, uploads, and actual IP address so that you become unidentifiable.
Typically, when you access the Internet, you first connect to your ISP, which then redirects you to any websites (or other online resources) that you wish to visit. All your Internet traffic passes through your ISP’s servers and can be viewed and logged by your ISP.
A VPN creates an encrypted "tunnel" over the Internet to protect the data traveling between you and your Internet destination — anything from your online banking account to a video sharing website to a search engine.
This tunnel is created by first authenticating your client — a computer, smartphone or tablet — with a VPN server. The server then uses one of several encryption protocols to make sure that no one can monitor the information traveling between you and your online destination.
Here you should remember that before being sent and received over the Internet, any data needs to first be split into packets. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN service wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through a process called encapsulation. This exterior packet keeps the data secure during the transfer, and it is the core element of the VPN tunnel. When the data arrives at the VPN server, the outer packet is removed to access the data within, which requires a decryption process.
So basically, accessing the Internet through a VPN tunnel is like putting a package into a box and then sending it to someone. Nobody can see what’s inside the box until it's opened, or in this case, decrypted.
Another thing to remember: When you're using a VPN, your packets reach the Internet with another IP address, supplied by your VPN provider. So if you keep connecting to different VPN servers, each time the Internet will see you as a different person. If you connect to a server in another country, you will appear to be browsing from that country.
A VPN protocol is a set of encryption standards and transmission protocols used to create a secure, encrypted connection between two devices. Commercial VPN services commonly support a number of such protocols. These are the most notable ones:
In spite of the fact that more and more Internet users join the VPN trend, many people still believe that using a VPN service is somewhat close to rocket science. While it’s true that some digital security tools can be confusing, best VPN service providers design their apps to be intuitive and easy-to-use.
Launch the NordVPN app you have downloaded on your PC, Mac or smartphone.
Use the same login credentials you used to sign up for the NordVPN service.
Click the Quick Connect button, which will automatically select the most suitable server for you.
That’s it – your Internet connection is fully encrypted now! To have more control over your VPN experience, you can explore the server map/list and the Settings section.
NordVPN protects your Internet traffic with cutting-edge security technologies, ensuring strong and reliable encryption between your device and a VPN server. By default, NordVPN apps use the OpenVPN and IKEv2/IPSec protocols to guarantee the ultimate protection of your sensitive data.
NordVPN is based away from the EU and US jurisdictions and is not required to collect your personal data and information. That means nothing is recorded, monitored, stored, logged or passed to third parties. We cannot provide any details about your Internet activity even if you request it yourself. Why? Because we have nothing to provide.
The CyberSec feature automatically blocks suspicious websites so that no malware or other cyber threats can infect your device. It also secures your device from participating in DDoS attacks even if malware has already infected it. In addition, CyberSec prevents intrusive online ads from loading and slowing down your browser.
If you need an extra high level of online security and privacy, use Double VPN to encrypt your Internet traffic not once but twice. It is especially relevant to journalists, political activists and bloggers working and living in countries with authoritarian governments along with high-level Internet censorship and surveillance.
NordVPN offers more than 4843 ultra fast servers in 62 countries so that you can enjoy your streaming experience on any device, at any place and any time. With NordVPN, you don’t have to choose between entertainment and online security – you can have both at the same time.
With a single NordVPN account, you can protect up to 6 devices at the same time without having to compromise the security and privacy of one device for another. What is more, NordVPN offers intuitive and easy-to-use apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. You can even set up NordVPN on your home router!