A virtual private network or VPN provides a secure internet connection and grants anonymity to a user’s web traffic. A VPN functions to establish a secure connection between a user’s device and a remote location by creating a tunnel from the device in use to the network of the VPN service provider. The internet traffic routes through this tunnel to the VPN server. From the server, the traffic flows to the desired website or internet service. The origin of the traffic is hidden by making it appear to originate from the network of the VPN service provider. All traffic is encrypted, thus veiling the actual IP address. Only the service provider is privy to the activity.
Most service providers allow users to choose the server location to which the VPN tunnel is connected. Traffic routes from the country of the server chosen for the connection to the user’s VPN.
Safe connection in public networks
When connecting to a Wi-Fi network, it is never possible to know if the connection is safe. The VPN encrypts the data in the connection, making web traffic interception by a hacker significantly harder. Joining unsafe networks becomes much less risky. Leisure and business travelers find the encryption feature to be of use since traveling often requires connecting to unsafe networks. Many countries engage in strict internet censorship and surveillance, and a particular internet destination might be blocked or illegal.
IP address hidden by VPN
Accurate web tracking requires many factors, and the IP address is only one way to trace a device. Concealing the IP address complicates the process of connecting web traffic to a specific individual. The user is not entirely unable to be traced on the internet, but tracking is more difficult.
Hiding the IP address prohibits the user’s internet service provider from seeing what a user is doing on the internet. The service provider cannot store personal or company data, sell it to advertisers, or relinquish it to authorities. A measure of anonymity is important because many governments do not respect internet privacy.
Virtual location changed to another country
With a VPN, a user is able to change the virtual location so that web traffic goes through another country. VPNs are useful to bypass limitations in countries where access to the internet and some internet services is more highly restricted. The same feature also enables accessing geo-blocked material, such as videos. Websites can detect VPNs and block such traffic if so desired.
The downsides of a VPN
VPN may slow the internet connection to some degree. The user may not notice any fluctuation or the speed may plummet. The use of a VPN can also decrease battery life on mobile devices and laptops.
Another downside is related to the VPN service provider. All web traffic goes through the service provider when a VPN is in use. Since the VPN service provider is in control of all the web traffic data, users must trust the VPN service provider to handle their data properly.
Free VPN services
If the desire is to access geo-blocked material or to reduce lag for gaming, then a free VPN service may be sufficient. If the VPN service is free, do not be surprised to discover that important personal data is being sold to third parties. Many free VPN providers are scams intended to spy on user data. Free VPNs may also run slower than paid options. If privacy is a priority, connect with a paid VPN.
Some VPN service providers also log user activity. Users should know if activity logs are being kept of their activity and for what purpose. The solution is to use a VPN service provider that can be trusted.
The physical location of the VPN service provider is an essential piece of information to know. The laws of the host country prevail in matters of privacy. These laws can require the VPN providers to relinquish data to authorities upon request, thus potentially eliminating any privacy gained with the use of a VPN. Some VPN service providers issue a warrant canary to inform their users of any request to provide data to the authorities.
The VPN is a useful tool in the IT management toolbox that further enhances security and privacy. VPN is not a panacea. The technology and its applications have limitations. Consulting with a managed IT solutions provider can yield a strategy that meets the growing and changing needs of small businesses, such as dental practices and veterinary clinics.
For more detailed information about a VPN and its application in a specific setting, visit the Mobile Computer Services website at www.ncmobilecomputerservices.com/locations/wake-forest. Contact the office by phone at (919) 230-2900.