A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a technology that protects your privacy when you use the Internet by routing your connection through a server that hides your IP address and encrypts your online communication.
How do VPNs Work?
A VPN consists of a network of servers, typically located in multiple countries around the world. When you use a VPN, information sent from your computer passes through one of the VPN provider’s servers before going to its online destination, such as your online banking account. Similarly, information sent to your computer from outside your network passes through the VPN server before reaching your device.
As a result, you’re able to send and receive data without giving up your online location. The online destination will only see traffic coming from the VPN server, not your device or true location. Additionally, messages sent from the server are encrypted, blocking unwanted access from third parties.
Using a VPN to protect your privacy has some big advantages over using an unprotected connection.
Full message encryption
VPNs encrypt all messages passing between their servers and your computer. This prevents anyone (such as your ISP) from spying on your connection and intercepting your data. This is especially important in countries with high levels of censorship, or when you’re sending particularly sensitive data.
Although your Internet traffic passes through the VPN’s encryption software and servers can slightly slow down your internet connection, it’s only by a small amount. For everyday use, you probably won’t notice the difference.
Easy to install and use
While the technology that makes a VPN work is complicated, most of them are easy to install and use. With just a few clicks, an installation wizard will install and configure the software. The wizard can set the VPN to start automatically when you start your computer so you are always protected.
Compatible with most devices
The top VPN services provide software that works on most popular devices. Computers with Windows or Mac or Linux operating systems? Check. Smartphones running Android or iOS? Check. Some services even provide software that can run on your home router or set-top box.