In this digital age, data travels through networks easily and at an increasing rate that is difficult to measure. Most people do not worry or think about the safety of their data or who might be seeing it and opt for convenient, cheap, or even free networks.
This, however, poses a huge risk for cyber criminals and attackers who are looking to harvest or compromise your data. It is common knowledge that even data kept by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and providers of products and services you use are being marketed and sold for commercial gain. This makes it necessary to protect data from such harm.
A virtual private network, popularly referred to as a VPN, is now an essential for everyone who is aware and conscious of the dangers of cyberspace. It is becoming increasingly common and is no longer a luxury or a tool best left for experts. All Internet users should have and use this tool, even if not on a regular basis, but for sensitive digital activities.
What is a VPN?
A VPN is a tool which enables Internet users send and receive data without compromising their security or while significantly reducing the risk of doing so as it allows such users remain anonymous, thereby protecting their activities online from potential hackers, trackers and harvesters.
VPNs are tools used to ensure an added layer of security or extra protection when using the Internet as it can hide user information such as IP addresses, location, kind and content of your digital activities. It basically ensures the security of your digital footprints.
A Virtual Private Network creates a secure tunnel, connection or indeed network, between the device(s) and the internet. It is via this connection that it can protect your online traffic from various methods of interference.
What is a Protocol?
To put it simply, a protocol is a standard method of accessing or exchanging data over devices or a network. It is the means through which computers and other such technological devices communicate with each other and send information back and forth. Protocols are a set of rules and instructions through which the devices can communicate such as with human languages. Different protocols have their methods, rules and instructions on how data is handled and exchanged.
How Does a VPN Work?
A virtual private network is a tool, platform or protocol that helps you create a secure connection when using a public or less-secure network. It helps when you have worries about the safety of your data.
It is a secure connection between your device and a server run by the VPN service through which you can safely access the Internet.
All data sent over a VPN appears to go through the network of the VPN provider as all your online activities are transferred over a secure connection to the VPN.
Regardless of the user’s current location, a VPN allows the user connect to the Internet from the location of the VPN’s server. The device will contact the website or activity being visited through an encrypted VPN connection. The VPN forwards the request and the response between the website and the user through a secure connection.
Why Do You Need A VPN?
A VPN is a tool that is easy to use. Most users think it’s complicated before trying it but they are effective and useful tools when faced with privacy or security concerns.
VPNs are extremely useful and simple tools as they can do a number of things. They are available on various devices including a computer, smartphone, tablet or router and the various operating systems. Some VPNs even let you connect to multiple devices.
Using VPNs do not require any tech skills as most are as easy as signing up, purchasing, installing and connecting. VPNs work for WI FI, cellular or wired connections. They give you control over your online activities and appearance.
Benefits of a VPN
There are several benefits to using a VPN, including:
- It guarantees the security and privacy of devices connected with it.
- It is a tool that can mask IP addresses. This guarantees better privacy and security online. Every device on the Internet has an IP address which can be tracked and monitored, used to reveal your identity, location and activities online. Using a VPN ensures that all of this information stays hidden and gives you a greater, unfettered access to the Internet. This is sure to guarantee a better surfing experience online. A VPN also hides and replaces original IP addresses.
- A VPN ensures anonymity online by acting as a proxy for you. Many people for various reasons, both good and bad, need to stay anonymous online. This could be as a human rights defender, journalist, government official, or any position in which you handle sensitive material and as such need to stay unidentified online. A VPN guarantees such protection. It ensures that no one knows who you are, where you connect from and what you do online even while seeing your online activities.
- A VPN allows you change your location online.
- It encrypts communications and activities as not even your Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or any others can read the data or monitor your activity logs even when traffic is detected.
- It is an effective tool against censorship and surveillance. It grants you unblocked, unfettered, and unrestricted access to services and sites that might otherwise be censored or blocked in your location.
- VPNs also help circumvent restrictions and block malicious content as they ensure sites are safe and run thorough checks
Types of VPN Protocols
There are different methods through which devices connect to a VPN server. The most popular are those known as remote access VPNs and site-to-site VPNs.
The first category, remote access VPNs, is those which connect devices to a network. They use public infrastructure such as the Internet to provide its remote users i.e. users using it from a distant place with secure access to the network.
The other category, site-to-site VPNs connect two networks using gateway devices to connect from the network in one location to another network in different locations.
These categories of VPNs are further broken down into different protocols which have their pros and cons. VPNs are categorized according to the protocols they use to create secure connections for online activities, the location point, the type of connection, the security level and the number of simultaneous connection involved.
- The Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) is known to have many security issues and as a result, it is becoming obsolete. It does not have viable authentication and encryption features.
- The Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) is a standards-based security protocol which is usually used with the Internet Protocol version 4 (IPv4) and the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP). It meets most security needs as it ensures there are authentication, confidentiality, encryption and integrity of data.
- OpenVPN creates secure point-to-point or site-to-site connections using custom security protocol that utilizes key exchange for authentication. It allows peers authenticate each other using secret passwords, keys or certificates.
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) provides a mechanism for sending traffic with security through key negotiation, integrity checks, authentication, and encryption.
When using a VPN in which it is available, you can let it select a protocol automatically as it can choose which is best suited to your network.
How to Choose a VPN Protocol
There are a wide range of VPN Providers offering various services ranging from free to commercial. It is important to know why you need a VPN and what information you seek to protect in order to find and use the VPN Protocol which is best for you.
Free VPN services have limits which need to be noted and considered when choosing platforms. They can also be exploitative of data and share them with others. It is important to choose providers who are aware of the privacy and security issues involved.
In choosing VPNs, there are a number of factors to be considered including number of servers and server locations, reputation and reviews, client software, performance, number of dedicated and dynamic IP addresses, bandwidth caps, type of encryption or protocol, security and privacy capability, logging, number of simultaneous sessions allowed, ease and customer support, cost, reliability and other features important to you.
Read through the services your VPN offers and note that there might be fake VPNs offering minimal protection while gaining access to your data.
In conclusion, your security and privacy should be of utmost importance to you in this digital age. It is therefore important to use tools such as VPNs to protect you from dangerous cyber criminals and activities and thereby ensure your personal safety.
Make sure to secure yourself, your devices and your information.