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What is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN runs in the background while you are using the internet, keeping you safe and protecting your privacy. It's like having a digital bodyguard who's always on duty, whether you're at home, at work, or on public Wi-Fi.

When you use a VPN, it encrypts all of your data from the moment it leaves your device. Your information passes through a safe intermediate stage, known as a VPN server. This server can hide your private information. It can also pretend that you are logging on from elsewhere globally, which allows you to access geo-locked services. 

It's easy to use a VPN on your devices, whether you browse on a phone, tablet, laptop or a PC. Once you've configured the VPN, it will run in the background, protecting you 24/7. That's why it's an important part of a total online security solution. 

What are the benefits of a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network creates a safer, more dynamic internet experience. When you use a VPN, you enjoy benefits such as:

  • Secure connection from anywhere: VPNs give secure access to the internet, no matter where you are. Even if you're using public Wi-Fi, all of your outgoing and incoming traffic is secure and anonymous
  • Extra layer against hackers: Cybercriminals will try to intercept traffic and steal your data using techniques such as man-in-the-middle attacks. By using a VPN, you safeguard yourself from this kind of hack.
  • Anonymous browsing:  VPNs most of your information from the outside world. Nobody can snoop or spy on your digital activity. Even the websites you visit won't be able to log your IP address.
  • Geographic freedom: Sick of seeing messages saying, "This content is not available in your region"? VPNs can hide your actual location, making it appear that you're in another country and giving you access to localized content.

So, why doesn't everyone use a VPN? There are some downsides to browsing via VPN, such as:

  • VPN is not free: A VPN is a private service. If you want a reliable, unlimited service, you'll have to pay a regular fee. 
  • VPN can slow your connection: Usually, VPN is completely invisible. But if your VPN servers are busy, you might notice some lag in your connection. 
  • Your VPN provider may view your data: If you go with a disreputable VPN provider, they might log your data as it passes through their servers. 

You can avoid most of these issues by choosing the right VPN service. 

How to choose a VPN

There are thousands of VPN service providers on the market, each offering a different price structure and level of security. To choose the best one, you'll need to consider a few details, such as: 

  • Price: Most services offer an annual or monthly subscription model. Your subscription will allow you to use a certain number of devices, so make sure you choose the appropriate plan. 
  • Data allowance: Some VPNs will cap your data usage, especially on free or basic plans. If you're going to stream a movie or listen to music, you might need to look at a premium tier. 
  • Reputation: Your VPN provider has full access to all of your data, so make sure you choose a well-known brand. If in doubt, check online reviews to see how other customers have rated the service.
  • Servers: VPN providers have a network of servers across the world. The better the servers, the faster your connection. Check the provider's technical specs before you sign up. 
  • Locations: You can use a VPN to pretend you're in another country, but only if the VPN host has a server in that country. Check that your host offers a wide range of locations.
  • Privacy policy: Your VPN potentially has access to all of your data. Check their privacy policy before signing up, and make sure that they don't log or monitor your sensitive information. 

There is a lot of choice out there, so keep looking until you find an affordable, reliable VPN. 

How to set up a VPN

Installing a VPN is usually quite painless, although the process varies between service providers. Generally, you'll need to go through the following steps: 

Choose a VPN provider

This is often the hardest part of the process. Consider the steps above when choosing the best option. Remember, you'll need to ask questions like: 

  • What's my budget?
  • How much data do I use per month?
  • Which geographical locations do I need to access?
  • Is this service trustworthy?

Don't rush this decision. Spend some time reviewing the options and find the right VPN provider for your needs. 

Install the VPN client

Each VPN provider goes about things in different ways. Some will ask you to change device settings or update your router. Others will require you to install browser add-ons. 

Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection is one example of an easy-to-use Virtual Private Network. With this kind of approach, you simply install a one-click app on each of your devices: 

You install each of these apps in the usual way for each platform. After installation, you log in with your username and password.

Browse safely

Once you've set up your VPN, you don't need to do anything else. It runs in the background on your device, protecting all of your traffic.

Even if you're on a vulnerable public Wi-Fi connection, everything is passing safely through your VPN. You can relax, safe in the knowledge that nobody is accessing your data. 

Change location settings as desired

Location masking is one of the best features of a VPN. Say you're in Europe and you want to access a video streaming service in the States. Usually, when you try to view something, you get a message saying that the video is not available. 

With a VPN, you can simply change your location in your VPN app. Just set your location to the USA, and all of your traffic will pass through an American server. To the video streaming service, it appears that you're in the right location so that you can view your video.  

How does a VPN work?

A Virtual Private Network is an unbreakable tunnel between your device and the wider internet. Nobody can intercept your data while it's in transit, which is why it's such an important security measure. To understand how a VPN does this, let's examine the three terms in reverse: networks, privacy, and virtualization.  

Network

When you open your browser and visit a site such as wikipedia.com, your computer doesn't directly interact with Wikipedia's servers.

Instead, your request goes on a long journey through several other destinations. Imagine that you're in a coffee shop using public Wi-Fi. First, your computer connects to the coffee shop's router unless a nearby hacker is spoofing their network ID.

The coffee shop passes your request to their Internet Service Provider's (ISP) servers. The ISP will then use a Dynamic Name Server (DNS) to find Wikipedia's IP address. And when data is coming back to your device, it passes through the same journey, except in reverse. 

All of these systems represent your network. If this coffee shop doesn't use a secure network, people could intercept your data. This could allow cybercriminals to steal your login details, or marketing companies might try to spy on your activity. 

Private

So, how do you keep data secure? Most big companies safeguard their information by having a private network. This means that nobody from outside the organization can access data. 

On a traditional private network, data doesn't leave the building until it's securely encrypted. For example, imagine you're an employee in a big company with excellent security. If you access wikipedia.com from your desktop PC, your request is processed safely behind the company firewalls. When the network is ready, it will then access wikipedia.com on your behalf. Wikipedia send your results back to the company's secure servers, and they send data back to your desktop.

This process is seamless from your point of view. It feels like you're just looking at Wikipedia. But everything has passed through additional layers of security, which means you're safer on this private network than on your coffee shop's Wi-Fi.

Virtual

These days, most employees don't work in the office all the time. They work from home, on the road – and from coffee shops. How can they connect to the secure private network if they're not in the building? 

The solution is a Virtual Private Network. Imagine you're using your company laptop on public Wi-Fi. You're trying to access wikipedia.com, but now you're using a VPN. 

The VPN encrypts everything that leaves your laptop, so that anyone who intercepts it just sees a string of meaningless ones and zeros. Your computer doesn't try to access Wikipedia directly. Instead, your laptop is sending a secure request to your private network. 

The private network now goes off to fetch the page you want. It then encrypts the result and sends it back to you. Again, if anyone tries to intercept the data, they won't be able to crack the encryption. 

This is how VPN providers work. The app that you install on your device will encrypt all of your traffic. Your data then goes to the VPN servers, where they can decrypt and process it. Nobody can intercept your information while it's in transit. 

The Bottom Line

This has been a lot of information all at once, so let's review what you've read to make sure you've got the most important information. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are the key to establishing secure connections to networks over the internet. No matter if you're using them for work or for fun, they're one of the best ways to browse the internet safely, securely, and free from fear of anyone getting ahold of your personal information and documents.

Whether you've been hacked in the past or had your identity stolen before or simply want to be more cautious online, virtual private networks work like a shield between you and all the malicious intent you can encounter on the internet. In addition to being a great shield, VPNs are also great for bypassing geographical restrictions, using streaming services, and staying anonymous.

Kaspersky VPN Secure Connection is one essential element in a bulletproof digital security solution. Discover how Kaspersky tools can keep you safe online.

Further Reading

What is VPN? How It Works, Types of VPN

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN runs in the background while you are using the internet, keeping you safe and protecting your privacy.
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