What is a VPN?
VPN stands for “virtual private network” — a service that protects your internet connection and privacy online. It creates an encrypted tunnel for your data, protects your online identity by hiding your IP address, and allows you to use public Wi-Fi hotspots safely.
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Why do you need a VPN?
No one likes to be watched or tracked — even if they have nothing to hide. That’s why it’s important you step up your privacy game. When you’re browsing through a VPN, your traffic is encrypted so no one can see what you do online. Here are a few more reasons why you need a VPN:
What does a VPN do?
Typically, when you try to access a website, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) receives the request and redirects you to your destination. But when you connect to a VPN, it redirects your internet traffic through a VPN server first, before sending it over to your destination. Here’s what happens when you connect to a VPN:
How does a VPN work?
There are many different VPN types, but we’ll focus on consumer VPN here — that’s the one NordVPN offers. When you download client-based VPN software to your device, it does most of the work for you — you only need to log in and connect.
However, it’s helpful to know how a VPN works to understand the service better. Here’s what’s going on behind the scenes:
- When you connect to a virtual private network service, it authenticates your client with a VPN server.
- The server then applies an encryption protocol to all the data you send and receive.
- The VPN service creates an encrypted “tunnel” over the internet. This secures the data traveling between you and your destination.
- To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through encapsulation. This is the core element of the VPN tunnel, keeping the data safe during transfer.
- When the data arrives at the server, the outer packet is removed through a decryption process.
How does VPN tunneling work?
The VPN tunnel is created by first authenticating your client — a computer, smartphone, or tablet — with a VPN server. The server then uses one of several encryption protocols to make sure that no one can monitor the information traveling between you and your online destination.
Here you should remember that before being sent and received over the internet, any data needs to first be split into packets. To ensure each data packet stays secure, a VPN service wraps it in an outer packet, which is then encrypted through a process called encapsulation.
This exterior packet keeps the data secure during the transfer, and it is the core element of the VPN tunnel. When the data arrives at the VPN server, the outer packet is removed to access the data within, which requires a decryption process.
How do VPN servers operate?
After the VPN tunnel is established, your device sends out encrypted information (like the website you want to visit) to the VPN server. It decrypts it and forwards the information to the designated web server. It also hides your real IP address before sending the data out. Instead, you will appear to have the IP address of the VPN server you’re connected to.
When the web server responds, the VPN server encrypts the data and sends it to you through your ISP. Your VPN client will decrypt the data once it reaches your device.
Types of VPN
The vast majority of VPNs fall into three main categories.
Remote access VPN
A remote-access VPN allows users to connect to a remote network, usually by using special software. If you ever needed to log on to your office network, you most likely used a remote access VPN as well. It makes working away from the office safer and easier, as employees can access data and resources from anywhere.
What should I look for when choosing a VPN?
Setting up a VPN connection
Join the VPN protection trend, set up your NordVPN account, and have an encrypted VPN connection wherever you go. There are a few different ways you can do it:
VPN encryption protocols
What is VPN without encryption? Just a surefire way to slow your connection down. When people use a VPN, privacy and speed are their main concerns. That’s why we offer several different VPN protocols — you can choose one that’s best for your particular needs.
OpenVPN is the most popular encryption protocol, currently used by the majority of VPN providers in the world.
One of OpenVPN’s biggest strengths is that it is highly configurable. It also offers a nice balance between speed and security, as you can use it on both TCP and UDP ports. While the TCP port is a more secure option, UDP is faster, and many users prefer it for a seamless experience with online gaming or video watching.
Frequently asked questions
VPN gives you a new IP address and encrypts the connection between your device and the internet, so no one can see what data you send and receive. But it won’t make you anonymous — there are other ways someone could track your actions online. Hackers could install malware (keyloggers, spyware, etc.) on your device. Or if you overshare online and use the same username everywhere, anyone with decent googling skills can gather a wealth of information about you.
A VPN is not an all-in-one solution, but rather an extra layer of security that protects your internet traffic.
VPNs are legal in many countries, but some have banned VPNs altogether or heavily regulate their usage. It’s possible to use a VPN connection to bypass government censorship and gain internet access in countries like these. If you decide to do it, make sure to download the app and get your subscription before traveling there.
ou can use other software that offers similar features to a VPN, but nothing can replace the all-round security and privacy a VPN offers. A Smart DNS will not encrypt your traffic. If you use Tor, it will protect your privacy, but many websites will block your access.
So if you want a service that protects your privacy, gives you new IP addresses, and encrypts your data at the same time, opt for a reliable VPN provider.
If you choose a trustworthy VPN service provider, using it is absolutely safe.
What is a VPN provider you can’t trust? The one that says it’s free. It will track your online activity, what websites you visit, the content you interact with, and sell it to the highest bidder. Why? Because they must maintain hundreds of servers in different countries and hire people to take care of the infrastructure. A service that big has to make money somehow, so you end up paying for it in some way. Besides, a free VPN won’t encrypt your connection properly; they are also prone to IP and DNS leaks and might even contain malware or spy on your entire local network.
All of this means that if you do your research and choose the best VPN provider out there, using a VPN isn’t dangerous.
Yes, you should keep your virtual private network on all the time — with a few exceptions. It’s the only way to be sure that your real location and IP address are hidden, online data encrypted, and browsing history invisible to your internet service provider and other third parties.
Most VPNs cost as little as a few dollars a month. You might think that since there are many free VPNs available, there’s no reason for you to buy a subscription. However, you get what you pay for. And in the case of free VPNs, it’s not much. They are often very slow, unstable, the servers are overloaded and can crash at the worst moments. Furthermore, free VPNs usually have no respect for your data and will sell it to make money off of you.
So why risk it? Get a reliable paid VPN service that will work when you need it to, and only for a few bucks per month. The longer the commitment – the better the price. Find how much NordVPN costs on our pricing page.
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