A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is the creation of a secure connection over an unsecure network.  Secure in this case means encrypted and authenticated using passwords or similar identification means.

VPNs were created to allow satellite offices of a corporation to access their main systems safely across the Internet, but is more commonly used nowadays to allow people to hide their IP address and location.

When you use a VPN service, your data is encrypted and effe3ctively travels as if in a secure tunnel across the Internet.

Benefits of Using a VPN

A VPN provides privacy and security:

·         The destination site sees the VPN server as the traffic origin, not you.

·         No one can (easily) identify you or your computer as the source of the data, nor which websites you’re visiting, what data you’re transferring, etc.  The website owners can still track numbers but not identify your IP address.

·         Your data is encrypted, so even if someone does look at what you’re sending, they only see encrypted data not the content.

·         Only authorised users can access the VPN.

 

How Does a VPN Work?

You connect using the VPN client software to VPN servers and then browse or use whatever software you wish. The website sees your connection as being from the VPN location not your own location.

The VPN client software encrypts your data, even before your Internet Service Provider or the coffee shop WiFi provider sees it. The data then goes to the VPN, and from the VPN server to your online destination.

When you connect to the web without a VPN, here’s how your connection looks:

VPN Protocols

There are various VPN protocols and the level of security provided can vary from one to another, depending on how the technology has been implemented and the most common are PPTP, L2TP, SSTP, IKEV2, and OpenVPN.

They each have their own advantages, but all can do the job well and many VPNs allow you to select the protocol to use.

However, not all devices will allow you to use all of these protocols. Most of them were built by Microsoft and you’ll be able to use them on all Windows PCs but e.g. for APPLE devices, the range is more limited.  

Legal Constraints

VPN companies are subject to the law in the jurisdiction of the country where they are based and this can affect the service they can provide.

Some websites do not like people accessing their sites using a VPN and may take steps to block such access but that is difficult to do and the vast majority of websites make no attempt to block VPN.s

In some countries, people may use VPNs to circumvent geo-restrictions or censorship, or to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet.

Conclusion

Use of a VPN can make accessing systems and services more secure.

There is a comparison of the most popular VPN software at https://thebestvpn.com/

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