The term VPN stands for a virtual private network. It is a method of connecting to the internet that gives you added privacy and security when compared to public networks and even secured Wi-Fi. Unlike a firewall that protects data while on your computer, a VPN protects your data once it is on the web.
Essentially, a virtual private network serves as a tunnel to allow your data to flow directly to a secured network, regardless of what type of internet connection you are using. The data is encrypted when it enters the “tunnel” and can only be deciphered when it is decrypted at the final secure network address.
VPNs were initially used by businesses that wanted to allow employees to access secure company information while minimizing the risk of malware and public exposure. However, the technology can be easily applied to everyday personal use.
The VPN masks your IP address, making it impossible for your internet provider to collect your browser history and sell it to third-party marketers and advertisers. There are benefits for those who shop and pay bills online as well, as it ensures the safekeeping of personal information and banking details. In fact, if you store your credit card information on your cellphone and do not use a VPN, it is at risk of being compromised each time you connect to a Wi-Fi network.
How does it work?
So how does a VPN connection encrypt your data and maintain your privacy? The key is that all of your information and browsing history is contained within the VPN “tunnel”, and no data can get in or out without the proper authentication.
Before you start browsing the web, you start the VPN client. This changes your IP address by replacing it with one from the VPN and also starts the automatic data encryption process. The encryption process takes plain data and transforms it using a secret code, with the end result being information that is unreadable to anyone without the decryption key. This happens very quickly, so your data will be encrypted before the internet connection you are using even has a chance to see it.
The information will then flow through the VPN to your online destination, such as a bank website or search browser – but the destination will not appear to have come from you. The destination will only see the VPN server as the origin, so your personal IP address or physical location cannot be identified.
As a result, it is nearly impossible for a hacker to take your information while you are browsing the web. Even if they were able to take data out of the VPN tunnel, all they would see is unreadable information because they do not have the proper access to decipher it, and they would have no way to trace it back to you.
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