VPN; Things You Need To Know
What is a VPN?
Virtual Private Network is a service that gives you a layer of privacy and security when you are connected to the internet. It protects your data while it’s being transmitted and masks your IP address by routing the traffic coming from your computer to one of their servers. VPNs are usually utilized by businesses that often need remote access such as those that are located world-wide and those that offer work from home set-ups. This is for the security of their company data and information, however, users these days are also using VPN so they can avoid geo-blocking specially when watching contents, videos, or movies.
How does VPN work?
When the VPN is on, any outgoing traffic from your computer/device is encrypted. It is sent first to one of the VPN provider’s many servers, gets decrypted then sent to your intended destination such as a web or an email server. The answer will then be sent back to the VPN where it gets encrypted again before it’s transmitted to your device. See image below
Your IP address also gets hidden because it will appear that the traffic is coming from the VPN server’s location instead of the real location of your device.
Do you really need VPN?
Well, it depends on how you are using the internet. If we are talking about ordinary daily browsing and there is no threat against you, you may not really need a VPN. Let’s take a look at the things that a VPN can and cannot do.
What a VPN can do
1. Gives you security when browsing in a public wifi. These are the ones that we connect to in public places such as restaurants, coffee shops, and malls. Some of us are aware that public WiFi can be harmful, but we still tend to forget and input important information that hackers find interesting. If you use a VPN, the traffic coming from your device will be encrypted so hackers will not be able to see it specially when doing online transactions and logging in to your email or social media accounts.
2. Lets you access geo-restricted sites. If you want to watch a movie/video but it isn’t available in your location or you badly need to access a certain website for work related or other important reasons, you can use a VPN to appear like you are located where the VPN server is, therefore, bypassing the restriction.
3. Protect your company and personal data for remote workers. As work-from-home set up is already becoming the new normal, employees need to access their company’s network securely. VPN can give you that security.
What a VPN cannot do
1. Provide total anonymity. VPN provides privacy, security, and a certain degree of anonymity but if hackers really want to find you, then there are ways that they can track you even if you are using a VPN, one can be through your digital footprints.
2. Protect your device from malware. There is a misconception that VPNs can secure devices from malware attacks. This is not what VPNs are designed to do, it hides your IP address and conceals the data going in and out of your device but it does not regulate what you download, the sites that you visit and the emails you open which is where one commonly gets malware or ransomware. Although some VPN providers offer malware protection as an added feature, it is still necessary to be cautious and probably use anti-virus software even when using a VPN.
3. Increase your speed. This is another very common misconception. Many believe that VPN can make their internet connection faster. In some circumstances, it may, but will not exceed the bandwidth that you are subscribed to. Most often, VPN makes your internet slower because it has to connect to the VPN server first instead of communicating directly to the website you want to access and vice versa, so that adds extra steps. Other times, the server that you are connected to maybe congested.
On the other hand, VPN can help you when your ISP is with bandwidth throttling. ISPs may throttle based on contents, for instance, your ISP may have been paid by a service provider to be prioritized, however, if you are using a VPN, your ISP will not be able to see what you are doing and they might not be interested with meddling with your bandwidth.
In this regard, VPN may or may not be worth the buck depending on what you want to happen when you connect to the internet.