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What is a VPN?

VPN stands for “virtual private network” — a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. It creates an encrypted tunnel for your data, protects your online identity by hiding your IP address, and allows you to use public Wi-Fi hotspots safely.

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Virtual Private Network defined in the video

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Why do you need a VPN?

No one likes to be watched or tracked — even if they have nothing to hide. That’s why it’s important you step up your privacy game. When you’re browsing through a VPN, your traffic is encrypted so no one can see what you do online. Here are a few more reasons why you need a VPN:

VPN used for a secure and private network connection through the public internet

You use public Wi-Fi regularly

VPN is used to secure your connection on public Wi-Fi, so you can browse in full privacy. Hackers have many methods to steal your data on public hotspots, but with a VPN your online traffic is invisible to them.

Worldwide VPN connection coverage

You want to access your content

One of the most popular things a VPN is used for is accessing content. If you want to access your content from anywhere in the world, a VPN can help. Travel with NordVPN on your device and never miss a friend’s post on social media.

Virtual Private Network creates a secure connection that protects you when shopping online

You want to stay safe online

Government agencies, marketers, internet service providers would all love to track and collect your browsing history, messages, and other private data. Best way to hide it? Using a VPN to encrypt your traffic, hide your IP and cover your tracks online. Use it at home, at work, and on the go to enjoy non-stop protection.

Fast connection with full VPN protection and security

You’re an avid gamer

People who like gaming online unfortunately have to deal with DDoS attacks and bandwidth throttling as well. Luckily, you can forget about all of these problems with NordVPN. If you’re serious about gaming and want to enjoy a stable and safe connection, you should use a VPN.

What does a VPN do?

Typically, when you try to access a website, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) receives the request and redirects you to your destination. But when you connect to a VPN, it redirects your internet traffic through a VPN server first, before sending it over to your destination. Here’s what happens when you connect to a VPN:

VPN allows users to select the server anywhere in the world where a VPN service has servers

VPN changes your IP and masks your location

People working in countries with limited freedom of speech rely on private internet connection for their work. Sometimes, their lives might depend on it. Someone who lives under an authoritarian regime should use a VPN to hide their IP address and ensure extra security for their sensitive messages.

VPN encrypts connection over the Internet from a device to a network

VPN encrypts your data

Using a VPN is a good idea even when browsing from your home. VPN encryption is important when you want to protect your internet traffic and minimize your online footprint. This way, your internet service provider won’t be able to sell your entire browsing history to the highest bidder.

The additional VPN protection defends against threats that may be encountered while browsing the internet

Protects your devices

NordVPN’s special CyberSec feature will make sure you don’t accidentally land on a malicious website. It will also block malware, trackers, and ads before they can harm your device. Turn it on, and it will guard your device 24/7 – even when you’re not connected to a VPN server.

How does a VPN work?

There are many different VPN types, but we’ll focus on consumer VPN here — that’s the one NordVPN offers. When you download client-based VPN software to your device, it does most of the work for you — you only need to log in and connect.

VPN purpose explained in the diagram
However, it's helpful to know how a VPN works to understand the service better. Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes:
  1. When you connect to a virtual private network service, it authenticates your client with a VPN server.
  2. The server then applies an encryption protocol to all the data you send and receive.
  3. The VPN service creates an encrypted “tunnel” over the internet. This secures the data traveling between you and your destination.
  4. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through encapsulation. This is the core element of the VPN tunnel, keeping the data safe during transfer.
  5. When the data arrives at the server, the outer packet is removed through a decryption process.

How does VPN tunneling work?

The VPN 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.

How do VPN servers operate?

After the VPN tunnel is established, your device sends out encrypted information (like the website you want to visit) to the VPN server. It decrypts it and forwards the information to the designated web server. It also hides your real IP address before sending the data out. Instead, you will appear to have the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to.

When the web server responds, the VPN server encrypts the data and sends it to you through your ISP. Your VPN client will decrypt the data once it reaches your device.

Types of VPN

All VPN types can be divided into two main categories.

A remote access VPN connects remote users from any location to the office network

Remote access VPN

A remote-access VPN allows users to connect to a remote network, usually by using special software. NordVPN falls into this category. If you ever needed to log on to your office network, you most likely used a remote access VPN as well. It makes working away from the office safer and easier, as employees can access data and resources from anywhere.

Site-to-site VPN connects individual networks to each other

Site-to-site VPN

Site-to-site VPNs are mostly used by businesses — large corporations in particular. They allow users in selected locations to access each other’s networks securely. It’s a great way to connect all offices and enable different branches to safely share resources and information.

What should I look for when choosing a VPN?

Virtual private networks differ in terms of cost, privacy, server speed and security

Speed, security, and privacy

People turn to VPNs for different reasons, and whatever yours is, you need to ask three questions before choosing a provider. How fast is it? Will it keep my data safe? And will it respect my privacy? Of course, you want your connections to be safe and your data to stay private. But to have all that without losing any speed? That’s the trick. So when you choose a VPN service, make sure they don’t make any compromises – there’s no point in having unbreakable encryption if every website takes ages to load.

Evaluating different VPN qualities

Paid vs. free

Price is always one of the most important factors, no matter the product. And if a free option comes up, people are interested. But when it comes to free VPNs, it’s better to stay away. You’re looking for speed, security, and privacy, and with free VPNs, you’re unlikely to get any of it. These providers usually don’t invest in their server network, so their VPN connections might be unstable and leaking users’ IP addresses. They also must make money somehow — usually by selling their users’ data. So instead of looking for the cheapest option, try to find a VPN provider you can trust.

Setting up a VPN connection

Join the VPN protection trend, set up your NordVPN account, and have an encrypted VPN connection wherever you go. There are a few different ways you can do it:

Enabled VPN connection through NordVPN app on the mobile phone

Use VPN apps

NordVPN offers apps for all major platforms. It doesn’t matter if you use a Mac, an Android tablet, or a Windows laptop. We strongly believe that people shouldn’t struggle to protect their home network and mobile devices, so our apps are extremely user-friendly.

VPN technology allows for instant set-up and manual configuration

Configure it yourself

If you know what you’re doing, setting up your VPN just the way you want it is also an option. Bear in mind — manual setup will take more time, and mistakes are more likely to happen. Don’t worry — if you need some help, you’ll find detailed tutorials in our Help Center.

An option to set up the VPN connection on the router

Install it on your router

Install NordVPN on your Wi-Fi router, and every device connected to it will be protected by bulletproof encryption. The process might seem a bit too complicated for novice users, but once you’re done, you can enjoy a safe internet connection without interruptions.

VPN encryption protocols

What is VPN without encryption? Just a surefire way to slow your connection down. When people use a VPN, privacy and speed are their main concerns. That’s why we offer several different VPN protocols — you can choose one that’s best for your particular needs.

OpenVPN encryption protocol

If you wonder which protocol your VPN connections are using, the most likely answer is OpenVPN. It is the most popular encryption standard, currently used by the majority of VPN providers in the world.


One of OpenVPN’s biggest strengths is that it is highly configurable. It also offers a nice balance between speed and security, as you can use it on both TCP and UDP ports. While the TCP port is a more secure option, UDP is faster, and many users prefer it for a seamless experience with online gaming or video watching.

IKEv2/IPSec tunneling protocol

IKEv2 is a tunneling protocol, which is usually paired with IPSec for encryption. It has many advantages, such as the capacity to restore a secure connection after the internet drops. It also adapts well to changing networks. That makes it a great choice for phone users who often switch between home Wi-Fi and mobile connections or move between hotspots.

NordLynx VPN technology

If you're looking for both privacy and speed, NordLynx is the way to go. It’s our newest technology built around WireGuard — the fastest tunneling protocol out there. What makes WireGuard so fast? The secret lies in its code — all 4000 lines of it. Compare that to the tens of thousands of lines in other VPN protocols, and you’ll see why it’s so mind-blowingly quick.


To make it as secure as possible, we combined WireGuard with our custom double NAT system. It allows users to enjoy fast internet connection without compromising their security.

Encryption protocols for VPN connections

L2TP/IPSec. Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP) is a method for transmitting data from one device to another. As L2TP doesn’t offer any kind of encryption, it almost always comes together with Internet Protocol Security (IPSec), which negotiates the cryptographic keys to create a VPN-like environment. It’s a highly secure protocol but can be very slow because it encapsulates data twice.


PPTP. It is the most commonly used protocol that supports thousands of operating systems and devices. It’s also easy to set up, without the need to install additional software. However, PPTP is decades-old and not as secure as other protocols available today.


SSTP. Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol is a suitable alternative to standard protocols in areas where VPNs are restricted because it can bypass most firewalls. SSTP is similar to OpenVPN but it is owned by Microsoft, which means it is not available for independent auditing.

Frequently asked questions

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