What Is A VPN And Why Is It Used?

What Is A VPN And Why Is It Used?

VPNs are increasingly popular. This article goes some way to explaining what they are and how they are used.

What Is A VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Essentially, a VPN reroutes your connection to the internet to a private server hosted by the VPN provider. This means that instead of your personal IP address being associated with your browsing history, your VPN provider’s server IP will be associated with it. IP addresses are one of the primary ways for government organizations, cybercriminals and Internet Service Providers to track your movements online. They can be used to develop marketing datasets, steal private information and develop evidence to be used against you in court. Media streaming sites also use IP addresses to block certain content on a regional basis. Government agencies may do the same. For instance, if you have a Russian IP address you might struggle to access certain social media pages or news websites as the government cracks down on dissent. Virtual Private Networks create an encrypted ‘tunnel’ from your hardware to a remote server. Read more about VPN security measured here. Most VPN companies offer users the ability to switch servers at will. Here are a few of the most common reasons people and organisations use VPNs.

Accessing Regional Content

One of the most popular reasons for downloading a VPN is to access regional content. Media streaming and news sites tend to limit their content to IP addresses from certain areas of the world. This is known as geoblocking. There are several reasons for this. In some cases, content is restricted to adhere to licensing contracts signed with other media streaming companies from around the world. In other cases, it is simply a measure designed to keep content constantly being shifted. Netflix is a good example of a media streaming service that keeps content regional in order to keep content refreshment possible. This is all well and good, but what happens if you are watching a show and the media streaming service you are using suddenly blocks your program in your region. Using a VPN, you can choose the region you want to ‘browse’ from and find one where your chosen content is available.

Using Public Wi-Fi Safely

Public Wi-Fi is notoriously dangerous. When using public wireless internet unprotected a person can leave themselves completely open to malicious hackers seeking to steal data or install malware on their devices. Virtual Private Networks are handy for keeping safe on public wireless internet because they encrypt your data while it is in transit. Encryption entails the scrambling of data, which can only be unscrambled using a unique decryption key held by authorized software, hardware or a human being. Public Wi-Fi is slightly safer than it was a decade ago, but using a VPN while browsing in public is still highly recommended.

Secure Communication

The same encryption that makes using public Wi-Fi safer when using a VPN makes communication on the internet much more private. All good VPN service providers offer high level data encryption as standard, which means that your messages are far less easy to intercept. Plenty of sinister types have reason to try and intercept people’s messages and emails. Information is valuable, and the chances are high that you give away an awful lot of interesting information online.

Privacy From Government Snooping

Government agencies from all around the world treat the internet as a vast information gathering resource. One of the reasons why VPNs have seen such a surge of uptake in recent years is due to increased public awareness of just how pervasive government internet espionage can actually be. Amnesty International – a reputable human rights organisation – is taking the UK government to court over its continued use of large scale internet surveillance. The UK government is not the only one to blame. Almost every government with a budget for surveillance has invested money into domestic internet-based snooping. While Virtual Private Networks can’t stop a determined government snooping effort, they can prevent more mundane day to day observance. It is a good idea to use a VPN if you have any desire for relative privacy in the age of the internet.

Avoiding Data Throttling

If your internet is moving at a snail’s pace you may be on the receiving end of some data throttling. Data throttling is carried out by Internet Service Providers in order to accommodate usage surges and enforce data limits. Unfortunately, this means that they slow your internet down. A VPN can bypass this throttling.

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