In its simplest form, virtual private networks allow internet users to establish a protected connection when using public or at-home fibre internet. What virtual private networks do is encrypt internet traffic and mask online identities. This masking makes it difficult for third parties to track a user’s activity while connected and prevents data theft.
The mechanics of a VPN
A virtual private network hides an IP address whereby it gets redirected through specially configured remote servers run by a VPN host. When browsing online with a VPN, the VPN server is the source of a user’s data. Consequently fibre Internet Service Providers (ISP) and other websites and apps cannot record which website a user visits or what data gets sent and received. A VPN filters data, turning it into non-sensical information. It would be useless if someone got their hands on VPN data.
What are the benefits of virtual private networks?
A VPN connection protects data from external access. Subsequently, unencrypted data gets viewed by anyone with network access and a desire to see it. However, with a VPN, hackers and cyber criminals can’t decode this data.
Online activities are hidden on public networks when using a virtual private network. An encryption key is needed to read a user’s data. Without an encryption key, it would take millions of years for a computer to decipher the code using a brute force attack.
2. Hidden location
Data comes from a virtual private network server hosted in another country and so no one can determine the actual location of an internet user.
3. Accessing overseas content
Content streaming services like Netflix or Disney+ is not always accessible from all locations. Standard connections use local, in-country servers to determine a user’s location. With VPN location spoofing, users can switch to overseas servers and effectively “change” location, thereby accessing otherwise restricted content.
4. Secure data transfer
Employers may need access to essential files on a company’s network when working remotely. Accessing this information requires a secure connection, and a VPN gets used. Virtual private network services connect to remote servers using encryption methods that reduce data leakage risk.
When choosing a virtual private network
1. Encrypt IP addresses
The primary role of a VPN is to hide IP addresses from ISPs and other third parties. As a result users can send and receive information with minimal risk of data compromise.
2. Encryption of protocols
A virtual private network should prevent users from leaving digital breadcrumbs like internet history, search history and cookies. Cookie encryption is vital as it prevents third parties from accessing confidential information like financial data.
3. Kill switch
If a VPN connection gets interrupted, its security will be interrupted. Look for a VPN that can detect and terminate preselected programs, reducing the possibility of data leakage.
4. Two-factor authentication
A solid virtual private network checks all users trying to log in. Two-factor authentication makes it difficult for unknown parties to access a secure connection.
Important to know
Use virtual private networks coupled with an anti-virus product for maximum security. VPNs don’t operate as anti-virus software. VPNs protect IP addresses and encrypt internet history but do not protect computers from outside intrusions like Trojans, viruses, bots or other malware.
Choose a virtual network provider that is trusted. A VPN provider can see a user’s internet traffic and if they get compromised, so do their customers. Therefore, choose a trusted VPN provider to ensure the concealment of internet activity and the highest level of security.
Some trusted VPNs
According to rankings on internet security.org, these are the top three VPNs at the moment:
1. Express VPN
This no-logs, virtual private network service is the best performing VPN worldwide. They have 3000 servers across 94 countries.
Trusted with good speeds and customer support, Cyberghost has a range of security settings with servers in 91 countries.
3. Private Internet Access
Private Internet Access is a no-logs VPN that boasts the most impressive server park in the VPN industry.
Virtual private networks establish secure connections between web users and the internet. As a result, all data traffic gets routed via encrypted virtual tunnels—this rerouting of data masks IP addresses, concealing their location. For this reason, a VPN is secure against external attacks; only you can access your data as no other person will have the encryption key. Lastly, and most importantly, virtual private networks allow access to location-restricted content like your favourite streaming service. Therefore, choose a VPN service you can trust and browse safe.