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What is a VPN?

A VPN (virtual private network) is a service that encrypts your internet traffic and
protects your online identity.

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Security

VPN redirects your connection to the internet through a remote server run by a VPN provider. This way, the server becomes your secure launching pad for accessing various websites.

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Personal vs. corporate VPN

Here we focus on VPN services designed for personal use. However, the VPN definition also includes corporate solutions. Such business VPN allows employees to access their company’s network while working away from the office.

What does a VPN do?

Typically, when you try to access a website on the internet, you start by connecting to your internet service provider (ISP). They redirect you to any websites (or other online resources) that you wish to visit. All your internet traffic passes through your ISP’s servers, which means they can see and log everything you do online. They may 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 remote server. This way, the VPN hides your IP address and encrypts all the data you send or receive. The encrypted data looks like gibberish to anyone who intercepts it — it is impossible to read.

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Secure internet connection

Consider a public Wi-Fi network — perhaps at an airport or a coffee shop. 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 sure the hotspot is legitimate? Could it be set up by a criminal who's hunting for your personal data? Think about the passwords, banking details, credit card numbers, and any other private details you send every time you go online.

With a VPN enabled, all the data you send and receive travels through a strong 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.

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Complete online privacy

Without a VPN, your connection is fully open. A lot of random people or devices can look at your data, log it, and use it in ways you can’t control. That includes your ISP, employer, the Wi-Fi router in the coffee shop mentioned above, any server along the way, or any person with the right tools. Based on your IP address, which depends on your location, sites and services may charge different prices or show intrusive targeted ads.

Government agencies can track your online activity and share the retained metadata with each other. They also share intelligence across country borders through alliances such as “14 Eyes.”

With a VPN connection, you can have peace of mind knowing that your data is encrypted and IP address hidden. Your ISP can no longer see which websites you visit because all your activity is routed through the VPN server. As a result, they can’t collect your internet metadata nor log your browsing history. Best of all, they can't share it with anyone else.

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Safe content access

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. Many workplaces and academic institutions also use firewalls to limit access to websites. They do it for different reasons: from increasing productivity to restricting inappropriate content.

Websites and services are blocked by denying access based on your IP address. When you connect to the internet, your IP shows the country you are currently in. So any country-specific restrictions are applied to you as well.

Using a VPN allows you to connect to servers in different countries, making your IP address look like you are somewhere else. This IP swap helps you access restricted websites and keeps your private information safe at the same time.

Why do I need a VPN?

Even if you have nothing to hide, you probably don’t like the idea of being watched and tracked. So the main reason why internet users choose VPN services is online privacy and general security.

When you browse the internet using a VPN, your communications are encrypted, so your ISP, government, hackers and other third parties are not able to see which websites you visit and cannot interfere with your online activities.

Another great thing about using a VPN is that you can access the global internet wherever you are. A VPN allows you to connect to hundreds of remote servers in different locations, this way bypassing censorship.

Here are a few most common cases when you should strongly consider using a VPN:

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You use public Wi-Fi regularly

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. Hackers have many methods to intercept your internet traffic and steal your passwords, files, and photos.

The good news is that a VPN allows you to stop worrying about data loss or identity theft. With a VPN connection, you can check your email and social media accounts, make banking transactions and shop online in full security. Even on free Wi-Fi.

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You travel a lot

Going 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 the 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.

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You want to shield your browsing from third parties

Even when browsing the web 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 the 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 won’t 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 online footprints for your ISP and other third-party snoopers to track.

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You want to avoid government surveillance

Then there’s the widespread surveillance by local and foreign governments. The Snowden leaks and years of follow-up reporting have shown us the vast scope and reach of worldwide surveillance. It would be illegal for police officers to search your home without a warrant. Yet government agencies track and collect your browsing activity, messages, social posts, and other private data. They even share this information across country borders.

Using a reliable no-logs VPN service gives you a high degree of privacy. It protects you not only from ISP tracking but also from blanket government surveillance.

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You are a journalist or political activist

Some countries don't have the same protections for freedom of the press, speech, and expression that most democratic countries enjoy. In fact, some regimes resort to harsh measures to monitor and punish those whom 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 with sensitive data in their line of work. Some people may try very hard to intercept their communications.

Using a VPN provides extra security for such sensitive messages. Besides, changing the IP makes it look like they are being received or sent from a different location. That may be a great help in protecting your physical safety or information sources.

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You use file-sharing services

P2P (Peer-to-Peer) is one of the fastest and most effective methods to share large sets of data across a network. It is used to distribute open-source software, corporate and scientific data, and public domain videos.

But despite these legitimate uses, many ISPs try to discourage internet users from P2P file sharing. They do it by controlling access to file-sharing websites or setting bandwidth limits. That slows down their customers' internet speed and restricts their choices.

A VPN makes it much more difficult for your ISP to detect that you are sharing files and shape your internet connection. It covers your file downloads, uploads, and actual IP address so that you become unidentifiable.

How does a VPN work?

The short version: Accessing the internet with a VPN is like putting a package into a box and sending it to someone. Nobody can see what’s inside the box until it's opened, or in this case, decrypted.

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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.

VPN encryption protocols

A VPN protocol is a set of encryption standards and transmission protocols used to create a secure connection between two devices. Commercial VPN providers commonly support a number of such protocols. These two are the most notable ones:


How to get and use a VPN?

While 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, top VPN service providers design their apps to be intuitive and easy-to-use.

For example, with NordVPN, you can connect with just one click. Once you set up your NordVPN account and download an app for your device, all you have to do is:

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1. Open NordVPN

Launch the NordVPN app you have downloaded on your PC, Mac or smartphone.

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2. Log in

Use the same login credentials you used to sign up for the NordVPN service.

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3. Connect

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.


Highlight features of NordVPN

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Military-grade encryption

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.

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Strict no-logs policy

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.

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CyberSec

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.

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Double VPN

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.

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Secure streaming

NordVPN offers more than 5769 ultra fast servers in 60 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.

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Multiple platforms and devices

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, Linux, Android, and iOS. You can even set up NordVPN on your home router!

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