Online privacy is a hot-button issue at present. While just a few years ago cybersecurity in general was only of interest to the most dedicated nerds, it is something that lots of people want to try and understand better today. We’ve all seen the news reports over the last few years detailing massive data breaches that can impact millions of people at once. In fact, there is an increasingly good chance that our data has found its way out into the world through one of these breaches.
Of course, it’s all very well telling one another to be careful with our personal data and to never give out any information that we aren’t comfortable with other people knowing. However, not only is this becoming more difficult, but businesses and entities who we have traditionally trusted with our information – credit rating agencies for example – are now showing themselves to have a worryingly cavalier attitude towards our privacy.
A VPN, or virtual private network, won’t prevent your data being exposed in breaches. However, it will go a long way in preventing you from inadvertently giving away data and information that you don’t want to while you are browsing the internet.
What is a VPN?
A VPN consists of two components – the client application and the VPN server. The client application is the software or app that sits on the device using the VPN. This software does two things – it sets up an encrypted communications channel between the device and the VPN server, and encrypts and decrypts any data that flows through the communications tunnel.
The VPN server is a server that is set up to receive encrypted communications from clients and to send back encrypted results to client requests.
How Does It Work?
When you usually connect to a website or online service, your device connects directly to the server that hosts the service or files in question. In doing so, devices need to hand over information about themselves, notably their IP address. Any device that connects to the internet needs to be assigned an IP address. This IP address can be traced back to a physical address and device, so you can understand why many users are eager to keep their IP address hidden.
When you connect via a VPN, your device will first connect to the VPN server. It will then tell the VPN server what it wants to do online, such as load a particular website or stream a song. The VPN server then contacts the server on the user’s behalf and passes on their request. The website server returns a result, which the VPN server encrypts and sends back to the user.
Using a VPN means that anyone who tries to snoop on you will only find encrypted communications. Anyone who tries to log and track your IP address will only find the location of the VPN server that you connected through. A side-bonus of this is that you can connect to a VPN server anywhere in the world and access the wider internet as if you were located in that country yourself.
A VPN is a perfect solution for anyone who is looking for an easy way of improving their online privacy and security. The best part is that you don’t need to be a tech-whizz to take advantage of a VPN.