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What is a VPN server?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) allows you to connect to the internet via a secure server run by a secure VPN service provider. All data travelling between your computer, phone or tablet, and this “VPN server” is securely encrypted.
As a result of this setup, VPN Provide privacy by hiding your internet activity from your ISP (and government).
- Allow you to evade censorship (by the school, work, your ISP, and government).
- Allow you to “geo-spoof” your location in order to access services, unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location (or when you are on holiday).
- It protects from Hackers while using a public WiFi hotspot.
- Allows you to P2P download in safety.
How to setup a secure VPN server?
In order to use a VPN, you must first sign up for a VPN service, which typically cost between $5 and $10 a month (with reductions for buying six months or a year at a time). A contract with a VPN service provider is required to setup a VPN.
Note: There are several Free VPN servers but they are not enough to secure as the paid ones.
Commercial vs. corporate VPN
VPN technology was originally developed to allow remote workers to securely connect to corporate networks in order to access corporate resources when away from the office. Although VPN is still used in this way, the term now usually refers to commercial VPN services that allow customers to access the internet privately through their servers.
Also read: How to watch movies for free.
How does VPN work?
Normally, when you connect to the internet, you first connect to your internet service provider, which then connects you to any websites (or other internet resources) that you wish to visit. All your internet traffic passes through your ISP’s servers and can be viewed by your ISP.When using a VPN you connect to a server run by your VPN provider (a VPN server) via an encrypted connection (sometimes referred to as a “VPN tunnel”). This means that all data travelling between your computer and the VPN server is encrypted so that only you and the VPN server can see it.
VPN uses: What does a VPN do?
1. Your ISP cannot know what you get up to on the internet
- It cannot see your data because it is encrypted
- It cannot know which websites you visit because all internet activity is routed through the VPN server. Your ISP can only see that you are connected to the VPN server.
2. You appear to access the internet from the IP address of the VPN server
- If the VPN server is located in a different country to you, then as far as the internet is concerned you are located in that country too.
- Anyone monitoring your internet activity will only be able to trace it back to the VPN server, so unless the VPN provider hands over your details, your real IP address is hidden. This means that websites and so forth cannot see your true IP address.
3. It is safe to use public WiFi hotspots
Because the internet connection between your device and the VPN server is encrypted. Even if a hacker somehow manages to intercept your data, for example by tricking you into connecting to an “evil twin” hotspot or packet-sniffing your WiFi data, the data is safe because it is encrypted.
4. Your VPN provider can know what you get up to on the internet
- You are therefore shifting trust away from your ISP (which has no interest in, or commitment to, protecting your privacy) to your VPN provider, who usually promises to protect your privacy.
- More privacy-minded VPN services mitigate this issue by adopting various technical measures.
Also read: Lavabit — Encrypted Email Service.
5. Your internet will slow down
This is because encrypting and decrypting data requires processing power. This also means that, technically, the stronger the encryption used, the slower your internet access. However, given the power of modern computers, this issue is less considered.
Also read: Highly Effective Gmail Phishing Exploited.
Are VPN’s legal?
In most countries, citizens have a legal right to privacy. As far as I know simply using a VPN service is illegal pretty much nowhere.
More repressive countries such as China and Iran, which understandably do not like the unrestricted and largely unaccountable access to the internet that VPN allows, do ban VPN services from operating in their countries. They also attempt to block users from accessing overseas VPN services.
How to choose a best secure VPN server?
There are a huge number of VPN service providers competing for gain your attention. Unfortunately, not all VPN service providers are created equal. Before start using a VPN service, you should check out reviews and recommendations and compare various services online to choose the best choice for your need.
Things to consider while choosing a VPN service:
- Speed – VPN always entails some internet speed loss, as discussed earlier
- Privacy – all VPN providers promise privacy, but what does this actually mean? See “Does a VPN make me anonymous?” below for a discussion on this
- Security – how good are the technical measures used to prevent an adversary (hackers, the NSA, etc.) forcing access to your data? Again, see below for more details
- The number of servers/countries – if you need to connect to servers located all over the place, then the more the better. That way it is more likely that you will find a server where you need it
- The number of simultaneous connections – some providers will only let you connect one device to their service at a time, while others allow you connect your PC, laptop, phone, Xbox and girl/boyfriend’s tablet all at once. The more the merrier!
- Customer support – many VPN users are still learning the ropes, so customer support that a) actually answers your questions in a reasonable timeframe, and b) knows what it is talking about, can be invaluable
- Free trials and money back guarantees – perhaps the best way to decide if a service is for you is to try before you buy
- VPN Software – VPN clients should not only look good and be easy to use but add lots of funky features. The most useful of these are VPN kill switches and DNS leak protection
- Cross-platform support – a service is no use if it can’t run on your device/OS. Support can include detailed setup guides for different platforms, or dedicated apps (as is increasingly common for iOS and Android devices)
- Other bells and whistles – some providers offer “Stealth servers” for evading the Great Firewall of China, free SmartDNS or cloud storage, fancy security options (such as VPN through Tor), and more
Free VPN services do exist, but they offer fewer limited services. They also cannot be trusted not to sell your data. Running VPN services isn’t cheap, so you have to consider how a free service can afford to operate. As the saying goes, if you don’t pay for a product, then you are the product!
That said, some reputable free VPN services do exist, most notably CyberGhost’s free VPN offering. While limited, it is enough for many casual users and is transparently funded through its premium offerings. VPN Gate is another option and is run by volunteers.
Note: no free VPN will give you anywhere near the performance or privacy benefits of a good commercial service.
Does a VPN make me anonymous?
No, a VPN does not make you anonymous. The VPN provider can always* know who you are, and can see what you get up to on the internet. Privacy-oriented VPN services go to great lengths, however, to protect their customers’ privacy. This is why we say that VPN provides privacy (rather than anonymity). While many providers promise to protect users’ privacy, such promises are not worth the digital ink they are printed on if the provider keeps logs.
Can I Torrent Safely Using a VPN?
Yes, as long as you use a provider that permits it. Not all do, so check! Some providers, however, are happy to let customers P2P download and make a good business out of protecting their identities. Keeping no logs is always a good start here! If you want to download torrents safely, opt out for best VPN for torrents.
What VPN doesn’t do?
Using a VPN does meaningfully improve your privacy and security, but it is important to understand what it will not help with some things.
- VPN does not provide anonymity – as already discussed. If the NSA is after you, a VPN will not help, and we consider any VPN provider that says a VPN will make you “anonymous” to be highly irresponsible.
- A VPN does not prevent tracking by websites. Hiding your IP address with a VPN helps a bit, but most tracking performed by websites and by marketing and analytics companies is performed using tracking technologies such as cookies and worse (including browser fingerprinting), which a VPN will not help with. The best defence against this form of tracking is to use various browser add-ons and tweaks.
A VPN is a very versatile tool, and one that for a few bucks a month will greatly enhance your internet experience, decrease your chances of being hacked and prevent your government from watching everything you do online
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