How does a VPN work?
When Eric Arthur Blair, also known as George Orwell, wrote Nineteen Eighty-Four after the Second World War, he probably couldn’t even imagine the level of sophistication the future surveillance society will have and don’t get us wrong; we do live in a surveillance society. While today we are not at as big of a risk from being sent to a black site by secret police, we have multiple corporations, groups, individuals, as well as certain parts of numerous governments after our private information and browsing data.
The attempts to peek into your privacy in the effort to provide you with tailored adds, or even more sinister reasons, have produced several ways to protect your information. Anything from having good cybersecurity, being mindful about your passwords and access keys, not giving out parts of your data to strangers, but also using a VPN combined with good anti-virus and anti-spyware software.
A VPN is a genius invention, and most of that genius comes from the simplicity of the original product. A VPN is nothing more than a remote server that you connect to as to piggyback on its IP address. There are obviously vast differences between a free VPN that is little more than a proxy server in someone’s basement and a professional VPN provider like Le VPN, and while in some occasions you don’t really care which one you use, for any prolonged use it is crucial to use premium VPN providers. The best way to find the best VPN provider on the market is to know how does a VPN work?
How were Virtual Private Networks Created?
As most brilliant technology, virtual private networks were created out of necessity, primarily by the same giant corporations and government institutions we use VPNs to shield against now. A VPN allows for remote access to various networks, and at the beginning, the VPN server was used to verify devices with appropriate credentials and to allow them access to private information. In this way, the user could have stored sensitive company information across the country, and still be able to access it, as long as they have an internet connection.
First VPN type to be developed was VLAN, or virtual local area network, where all the computers in the same room were connecting to the internet over one server, for matters of protection, stability, surveillance, but also cost efficiency. A current comparison to that system would be your home Wi-Fi connection, where all of your devices connect through the same modem, giving all the phones, laptops, tablets, and other devices the same IP address.
If you are using a personal VPN service, you are connecting to the servers remotely, using your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to reach the VPN server, and then the rest of the internet. If you are using a premium VPN provider, this connection will not only allow you access to sites that are blocked by your ISP but will also grant you added security and stability, as any malicious entity must first crack open the server, before even seeing your devices. This breach of security is very unlikely as reputable VPN providers employ throngs of professional developers, coders, and cybersecurity experts, making sure that their business, and by that extent your connection, are safe.
What is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network in a modern sense is a dedicated server, placed somewhere in the world, to which your computer connects as to use that servers IP address, but also security, stability, and more and more often it’s used to access regional networks for unique content.
In the simplest of terms, a VPN connection has four parts in the line between you and the content you want to see online. The first part is your device, that has an installed VPN application on it. This device could be anything from a desktop to a smartwatch, and you could even be using a public Wi-Fi connection on your phone that has the VPN app installed and still be able to use the VPN as if you were in the comfort of your own home.
The second part is the tunnel that connects you with the VPN server. This is a secure and encrypted connection that cannot be breached even by persons who have access to the local router and the ISP, as all information is only visible to your device and the server.
The third component is the VPN service provider’s server itself. This is usually a beefy set of computers that are used to connect multiple users at the same time, providing them all with security and access to whatever content the IP of that server has.
The last part is the hosting computer of the content that you want to reach. In most cases it will be the same content that you would have without a VPN connection, but now that hosting computer will not be able to store your home IP address and rather only save the address of the VPN server that you are connecting through.
There is also a lot of technical information about protocols, PPTP, tunneling, and layers of protection, but that explanation would need a quite a bit of time, and a probably a couple of master’s degrees on both sides of the conversation.
Advantages of a VPN
While the primary benefit of a VPN connection is anonymity, it is far from being the only one, especially when you are using a premium VPN service. The other two main advantages are access and security. Using a remote-access VPN can give you all the advantages of being in the place where the server is, alongside the benefits of having professionally made cybersecurity, without anyone being able to snoop on your browsing history.
You can’t hit what you can’t see, right? While anonymity is currently given a bad name by the media who dislike that most people on the internet opt not to give out their name and location when sharing information, this is (and should be) the prime aspect of the internet. Anonymity may, for some, mean the lack of responsibility for the things you say and do online, but it is also the great equalizer, as it doesn’t matter which age, race, gender, creed, or sexuality you are, only what can come from your fingers hitting the keyboard or touchscreen.
Being anonymous on the internet doesn’t only mean not giving out your name and personal information to other people, but also to have your IP address, that is usually connected to your internet bill, that does have your name, hidden from both people and software that want to know who you are for whichever reason. A good VPN software will prevent any such snooping into your privacy and give you as much anonymity as you wish. This obviously doesn’t mean that you should be sharing your private information on social media if you have a VPN, as both people and machines can still read English.
– Content Access
Content access provided by a VPN can usually be divided into two reasons: first is that the ISP where you are is denying access to websites due to legislation and policy, and the second is that some content is unavailable due to intellectual property rights.
The first is usually connected to repressive regimes like China or Saudi Arabia where most internet content is unavailable. In these countries, people use VPN connections to watch YouTube and chat online. This sometimes happens even in the US, as corporate ISPs try to promote their services while silencing their competitors, which is legal in the US since the fall of Net Neutrality.
The second is mostly connected with region-specific content databases, for example, Netflix, where VPN users will have a more extensive library available if they are connecting to a US-based server. Le VPN even has a dedicated Netflix server that can provide higher speeds for streaming video online.
– Cyber Security
This aspect is incredibly important and is becoming more important by the day. Aside from corporations trying to collect your data in the effort to sell you their products, there are much more sinister entities on the internet that are trying to steal both your data and your private information for all sorts of purposes. Your private information, such as your social security number, your name, address, bank account number, and similar are usually used to commit identity theft and to steal money from your bank accounts. Both can be a detriment to your life, and they can happen to anyone that is not mindful of their data safety.
Using a secure VPN would lower the chances of this happening as all of your browsing will be over the remote server. This remote connection means that any attack on you will target the VPN provider, which is a challenging target to take down. Premium servers have various VPN protocols and can defend themselves from all sorts of attacks. Even the ‘’man-in-the-middle attacks”, or MITMs that are tailored for VPNs will induce a kill switch and move you to a different server if the one you are connecting through is in any way compromised or under stress.
Free VPN vs. Premium VPN
As most people only see the front end of the connection, namely their device, the difference between a free VPN and a premium paid VPN are not obvious at first glance. They both provide with a link to a server, and they both use that servers IP address to access other internet content. This is probably where all similarities end.
A free VPN is made by an enthusiast in the best case and a hacker in the worst case. It is usually just one server computer, which is not so different than the PC desktop you may have at home. There is little to no security, little to no maintenance, and if that one server is compromised all of the users lose all of their security.
A premium VPN provider has a whole set of high-end servers, stationed around the world, that are made, supervised, and maintained by professional staff that can predict and prevent most, if not all, problems that may happen both with regular use and outside attacks. Each VPN protocol made is tested for stability and practicality, meaning that the end VPN client will always get a finished product. Additionally, a premium VPN will usually have excellent customer support and will introduce additional features to please their clients.
The reputability of a VPN provider is their bread and butter, and there is no chance that a provider who has gained a good reputation will ever compromise their name for anything.
Setting up a VPN
Setting up a VPN is actually quite easy, especially if we are talking about premium VPN services where you can use your computers or mobile devices to download the VPN app, connect, and with that setup VPN with just a couple of clicks. Once you get a paid subscription, you will be able to get the app for multiple platforms and select the server with which you wish to connect.
Experienced VPN providers like Le VPN have developed apps not only for all the usual suspects like Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux, and Android but they also have options for routers and other devices which you may find in a Raspberry Pi or other custom devices. This is very convenient as you will be able to connect to the same subscription VPN from all of your devices, ensuring that your data will be safe wherever you go, and however you wish to connect to the internet.
Once all of your devices are connected, you just need to select a country server from which you wish to connect. It is best for that server to be as close to your router as possible, as to lower ping, but if the VPN provider has a good app, the change between servers should only take a few seconds. Although premium VPN providers will always have a stable connection, for a VPN download you will want a higher speed to save time.
When using a free VPN the process is usually much trickier, and you will need to follow the instructions on the website of the free service that you want. The difficulty of setting up a VPN this way depends on the people who have built the server and the user interface, and while some enthusiasts can develop a very accessible VPN connection, others will task you with multiple steps, usually involving tampering with your settings.
Risks of using a VPN
Risks of using a VPN connection are usually connected with free VPN services, as well as simple proxy connections that are just named as VPNs but little more than remote routers.
Depending on where you are, there are two main risks associated with VPNs, the first being the legality of the connection, and the other being the security of the server itself. While there are no countries where a VPN connection is illegal (yet), there are some places where it is unlawful to access some sorts of content regardless of the type of connection that you are using. This is not the risk of a VPN itself, as much as it is a physical risk. Namely, if you have a good VPN, no one will know if you are accessing ‘’forbidden” knowledge using any high-tech means, but that still doesn’t mean that people can’t see your screen over your shoulder. You should stay vigilant.
The security of the server is a major issue, and the primary reason cited for using a paid service instead of a free one. MITM attacks are very prominent against amateur VPN servers, as they can collect tons of user data and personal information without the users even knowing. Using a premium service means that there will be a VPN protocol in place that will protect you in all cases, and switch you to another server if the one you are using needs to go offline for maintenance.
While coding, building, and maintain a good VPN service requires a lot of time and effort, using a VPN and being protected by it doesn’t.
If you are using a premium VPN service, such as Le VPN, you will be able to connect all of your devices at once, from multiple platforms, and to surf the web securely and quite quickly. In any case, you should always connect through a VPN, as there are little downsides with modern technology and the protection of your data is becoming crucial if you wish for you, your family, your identity, and your bank accounts to be safe.
*Article Updated On March 8th, 2019.*
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