What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network or a VPN is a chain of connections that allows our devices to be connected with the internet over a private network. The main aim of using a VPN server is to keep our actual IP addresses and location hidden. Virtual Private Networks or VPNs help in establishing a secure and safe surfing option over the internet. The question which arises here is why does one need a VPN, to begin with?
A Need for VPN
Virtual Private Networks are needed because when we browse the internet, our online activity is generated in a plain and readable format. This means that our online activities and interactions can easily be tracked and watched by our Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Hackers, government agencies, and advertisers, etc. In order to protect our browsing information and our device’s ID from becoming easily available and kept track of, many people prefer using a secure connection established via a VPN.
In addition to the above-mentioned reason, our IP addresses and locations are used by our government agencies or businesses in different parts of the world to block certain content from being shown in our country’s online jurisdiction or stop us from accessing certain content.
What VPN Does?
However, if a user adopts a VPN connection and accesses the internet via this network, then their computer is attached to another server via an encrypted tunnel or chain of connections. This tunnel hides the user’s proxy, location, and IP address. In simple words, they hide the user’s identity online and grant them access via a remote private server to use the internet. The location which appears as the user’s device’s location is that of the main server’s they get attached to. For example, a computer, which is based in the US, gets linked to a private network server based in Germany via the VPN you used. In this case, your IP address will show that you are based in Germany and thus, you will be granted access to websites that have been blocked in your country and content which is not allowed to be viewed via your normal IP otherwise.
Common Reasons Why People Use VPN
Some of the most common reasons why people use VPNs include streaming movies online, using Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, downloading movies via the torrents and gaining access to such content otherwise blocked in the resident’s home country. Other uses of a VPN include the main reason why it was developed. These include catering to the needs of modern-day business, helping them in creating enterprise resource sharing structures. Simply put, these VPNs could be used by organizations to connect all of its employee’s computers to its server whether they were based in the office or were working from a location-based remotely. However, with the passage of time, people devised other uses of VPNs as well which have been mentioned above beforehand.
How Does A VPN Server Work?
Using a VPN not only hides our identity while surfing the internet and grants us access to the otherwise forbidden content but it also protects our privacy from being breached by advertisers and protects our identity from stealth. The question which remains here is ‘How does a VPN server work?’. The answer is simply explained below.
When you, as a user, choose to use your computer over a Virtual Private Network server, the first thing you do is connect it to a VPN server. There are a lot of websites that provide access to their VPN software and servers. Some of these include Surfshark, ExpressVPN, Nord VPN, ProtonVPN, and Tunnelbear, etc. Once you decide which website you choose to buy or use VPN services from, you proceed with the process.
After you gain access to a website’s VPN technology and connect your computer to it, the VPN server converts your device’s data into an encrypted code. Post encryption the VPN software passes it through a virtual VPN tunnel moving it towards the VPN server which then hides your data and device’s identity by generating a false IP address and Geolocation of its own.
Once done with that, it passes on your device’s signals to the internet server it gets connected to. Thus you are free to use the internet over your devices without hesitation or reluctance. You may access prohibited, restricted, geographically banned content and download it too.
The quality of a VPN server’s performance is directly dependent on the type of VPN protocol used to protect the user’s identity and establish a secure connection. A VPN protocol is a set of standards and technologies used by various VPN servers to accomplish their tasks. These include:
A Point-to-Point tunneling Protocol (PPTP):
This VPN protocol converts data into packets and then tunnels them while using another protocol called the ‘GRE protocol’ to do the encryption. The drawbacks of using this protocol, however, are that its implementation is quite insecure thus implying the fact that it is not a very good option to go for.
IPSec is a combination of various programs, protocols and technologies which help in tunneling, encapsulation, and encryption of the data. L2TP is actually a separate protocol used in conjunction with IPSec for tunneling the data with added security. This protocol is a much better option than the PPTP one.
The third VPN Protocol is called OpenVPN. It is one of the most trusted and authentic protocols to be used by any VPN provider. It is mainly acknowledged for its fast data speed and high-end data encryption. OpenVPN is open source software which can be improved by anyone around the globe who is a part of the internet security community.
IKEv2 is a short form of Internet Exchange Protocol version 2. This protocol has been developed by Microsoft and Cisco in collaboration with each other. It is the most recently updated and released VPN protocol with the ability to keep a stable VPN connection intact for longer periods of time. IKEv2 is often used in conjunction with IPSec and works best for mobile devices.
SSTP also is known as Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol:
This VPN protocol was also developed by Microsoft and consists of high-end security features. SSTP connects a computer to a VPN server in such a secure manner that only the two parties involved in this process can decrypt the data that has been sent and received.
Different VPN providers use different combinations of protocols to connect their users with a secure connection over the internet. Each protocol has its own list of benefits and drawbacks. However, using the latest and the most updated software is an easy way to avoid problems and security threats arising out of using them otherwise. Therefore, when deciding on which VPN provider you wish to choose as a user, remember you are also entrusting them to use the best protocol to protect your identity from theft and data from security threats.