In 2020 over 150 million people were affected by data breaches. It was a slow year for stolen data, but this is still a shocking number. The point is this: protecting your personal data needs to be your priority. You can do this by investing in a VPN.
So, what is a VPN? A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a private tunnel to access the public internet. A VPN protects your information from internet service providers, criminals, and the government.
Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about VPNs to make an informed decision. Is a VPN right for you? Find out the answer to this question below.
A VPN helps you out by doing the following:
A VPN gives you a new IP address. Typically, the network locations and servers you connect to are nearby (or overseas) places. Where you want your connection is up to you.
The new IP address you have shows the “fake” location to whoever is trying to access your data. So a VPN masks your current IP address and replaces it with a new one.
This IP concealment, combined with data encryption, protects most forms of data from escaping. While this won’t help you if you have a Google account logged in or an active Facebook profile, it will protect other forms of data.
You need a VPN to defend yourself from those who use your information without your permission. For example, selling your information to third-party entities so that they might send you spam emails.
Data packets travel back and forth between you (the client) and the server (website, game, torrent connection, etc.) anytime you do anything with the internet. Typically, those packets contain information that enables third-party entities to use your information against you.
The most common use of these is programmatic advertising, a directly targeted form of advertising based on data. For example, shopping for new boots on Amazon is typically followed by advertisements on the same (and similar) boots on other sites.
You might not like them using this information, which is where a VPN comes in.
Protecting this data can be incredibly helpful when using public, unencrypted networks. For example, you might want to access your local wi-fi at Starbucks, but you have no idea who might be watching this data.
The alternative use of VPNs is to circumvent government sponsorship. Countries like China are well known for hiding “unwelcome ideas.” If you don’t believe in government censorship, VPNs are one way to get around it.
The Five Eyes (FVEY) alliance allows countries to take your data for government tracking, even in the US. If you don’t feel that government entities and ISPs have a right to your data, a VPN is one way to protect yourself.
The first VPN was made by Gurdeep Singh-Pall, who started development on the first VPN protocol: the Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol (PPTP). You can trace it back to Microsoft in 1996, where these tunneling protocols were a method of encrypting a single connection between computers.
The early days only had the small-scale peer-to-peer VPN, one of the earliest forms. This peer-to-peer system is primarily useful when protecting corporate internets with simple LAN server connections. We will go through other VPN forms later in this article.
By 2000, the specification for this system was widespread, enabling anyone to use VPNs on their home computer. However, it didn’t reach peak popularity until after 2013, where Edward Snowden released numerous classified NSA documents related to the FVEY and monitoring efforts.
The exposure was related to several ethical concerns about government monitoring and those behind these activities. Eventually, it led to a much higher emphasis on protecting personal data from government watchdogs and third-party groups.
Here is a quick roundup of the benefits of using a VPN connection:
There are numerous reasons to set up a secure connection with a VPN. Provided you don’t expect this security to apply when logged in on Facebook or Google; you are working with the right expectations.
A VPN works by following this multi-step process:
A good VPN service can offer online security, anonymity, and freedom to access previously restricted information through this. A VPN securely connects through multiple VPN protocols, which we will discuss later.
There are two forms of setting up a VPN:
In most cases, you’ll find that downloading VPN programs is your safest option. This download process is typical because these include a variety of location-based services hiding your IP address.
Windows is not built with hiding your information in mind. Microsoft is another large, data-driven company.
Regardless, we will go through both options below:
Under both Windows 10 and 11, you can follow these steps to establish a VPN connection:
Of course, this assumes that you are accessing an off-site server. Typically, this means your company has an internal VPN to encrypt all outgoing and incoming data.
The alternative option is to have a server located somewhere in the country to house this software. Because this isn’t everyday use, you’ll need to install a third-party application like FastVPN.
Below are the steps you can follow for establishing this connection on your computer.
To get started using almost any VPN connection, you can follow these four steps:
The connect button will select a server based on the fastest available by default. This typically means the closest, so you should be able to scroll through various server location options (depending on your app).
Whether you install your app on Android or iOS, the process is the same. The difference is that you will want to start your exploration at your application storefront.
FastVPN has both apps for Android phones and iOS.
Here is a step-by-step on what VPN servers do with your data:
The encryption process is known as a cipher, which the algorithm uses to understand how to encrypt. Decryption is the process of applying that cipher to find out what the data translates to.
In the case of peer-to-peer connections (which aren’t VPN applications), the data encrypts using a program from the computer. Because this is an older form of communication, encryption is typically weak and easy to crack using the right programs.
The process of extending that private network (through servers of multiple computers/clients) is known as VPN tunneling.
So when thinking of a VPN, think of a very long tunnel. Nobody can drive through the tunnel wall because there are no intersections. However, you can move into the tunnel without worrying about another car. Another automobile might come crashing into yours and take some of your vehicle (data) with them without the tunnel.
There are many VPNs, with the two most popular being remote and site-to-site. However, there are more VPN types we will discuss below. We will start with the basics:
Remote-access VPNs are when you access a virtual private network via an application on your computer. Through installation as software on your computer, they work to encrypt all forms of data.
A client VPN can be beneficial if you access the internet through means beyond a browser (i.e., torrent sites, gaming, applications). Be sure that the application is on before you access any online material.
Another form of Client VPN is the mobile version associated with installing a smartphone application. These smartphone application VPNs are no different from any Client VPN but might have extra features if you look in the settings.
Site-to-site VPNs are unique connections set up between two clients. Typically, no server is involved, as it involves a direct connection between your computer and the next computer to secure data.
These VPNs are typically best with secure data that you should only access in limited scopes. You won’t see these at coffee shops or available through a hotspot.
Browser extension VPNs are another form of client VPN specifically associated with internet browsers. The most popular browsers you see this for are Google Chrome and Firefox.
In cases where you regularly access internet data from a browser, these can be incredibly helpful. However, activating your Client VPN and your browser-based VPN is redundant and will likely slow your computer down.
Also, some browser-based VPNs do not have any VPN features, acting more as a proxy server. Check the features of any application you download before relying on it.
Many VPN services enable you to download applications directly on your router. This software is efficient in cases where you want to encrypt data coming from your home network or company.
Router VPNs are less popular because they require technical knowledge to set up. However, installing it the right way the first time can secure your entire household efficiently.
Company VPNs involve a complete network of Client VPNs, Router VPNs, and Mobile VPNs. The only difference is that these encrypt data across all company devices.
Company VPNs might come with some warranty or guarantee regarding data protection. Otherwise, these are no different from being a small business and just having a VPN.
There are several major VPN Protocols worth talking about:
PPTP is the most basic form of a peer-to-peer connection made by Microsoft in 1996. It is not in use today due to numerous security issues
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN connection through OpenSSL or TLS for encryption. It is a widespread protocol that is quickly being overtaken by the next one:
WireGuard is another free, open-source protocol known for being incredibly fast. Like OpenVPN, it is under consistent support from developers with many applications.
The Internet Key Exchange (IKE) is widespread and works with IPSec due to the two coming from the same development. IKE is well-known for its use with Cisco networks and automatically restored connections, making for more consistency.
Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol comes with IPSec because it has no encryption features. However, IPSec is secure enough in its own right, making this more of a combo among multiple protocols.
When it comes to the top VPN providers, here is a list of prices you should expect:
One might ask why you would pay for something you can get for free? Below, we will get that question answered.
When choosing between paid VPNs and free options, which is better? Admittedly, there is a stigma with free VPNs due to some selling your data.
If someone tells you that free VPNs are unsafe, they are wrong. Unsafe VPNs are unsafe, so be picky with the VPN service you use and check the public reputation. Paid things aren’t automatically better.
The best VPN for you depends on your priorities. Here are some good things to look out for across all VPNs:
A VPN that keeps your connection logs and internet history won’t help you. “No logs” VPNs will know when you get into the server, and that’s it. Stick with VPN programs that protect your privacy and destroy your internet history.
A kill-switch feature protects you with an extra layer in case of a DNS leak. A DNS leak occurs when your VPN server suddenly shuts down, unencrypting your connection for a moment.
The kill switch disables your internet automatically, preventing you from getting exposed data.
Try and look for VPN servers in countries that appeal to you. If you plan on overcoming TV restrictions, you might look for those programs in other countries.
Otherwise, you might seek nearby server locations or more server locations just to be more secure. Often, VPNs will automatically connect to the fastest server. A nearby server can still be incredibly safe due to data encryption.
A cipher encrypts and decrypts the data sent between servers and clients. Look for mentions of encryption protocols like AES-256, SHA-256 3DES, and CAST-128.
Without getting too technical, those are all respected methods of encrypting data. You should also look for companies that perform regular updates.
Alongside VPNs, here are some alternatives you can use to enhance your security further. You can use these alternatives instead of VPNs, but they are best alongside VPNs for extra protection. :
Tor browsers are an alternative to standard browsers that go through the onion network. The onion network is similar to VPN servers due to passing through multiple encrypted servers. However, Tor Browers (or privacy browsers) do not apply to traffic outside of browsers, so they are ineffective for alternative uses.
You can use settings inside most non-privacy browsers to prevent tracking through immediate deletions. Combined with incognito mode, these settings can avoid a lot of tracking. However, not all websites will follow your request not to follow them, so a VPN is still a better alternative.
An onion router uses the same system as the Tor network, only applied to the router. Given that these are similar to VPNs, you might think them a good alternative. However great the Tor Project is, the servers are pretty slow. You can expect VPNs to be faster.
Zero Trust Networks apply to network settings where nobody is trusted. As a result, there are numerous restrictions, often slowing and bottlenecking features.
This, combined with VPNs on your computer, can result in an overall incredibly secure experience. However, you will need to keep your security settings up to date, and you won’t be able to enjoy online gaming.
In the world of online security, losing your credit card information or getting your identity stolen seems inevitable. However, a secure VPN tunnel can remove many of these common risks, adding a layer of security at home and on the go.
In this way, we invite you to try The Fast VPN, which emphasizes a secure experience that doesn’t sacrifice your speed.
We hope this article helps you out when understanding what a VPN does.
Provided you do not access online accounts like Facebook and Google, VPNs are the most secure option available. Providing your data for free eliminates some of the purposes of VPNs, so you will want to be careful where you give your data.
Yes. Even under strict network requirements, unencrypted data sent through browsers, servers, and other sites can be intercepted by government agencies, criminals, and your internet service provider.
Is a VPN legal?
We have a right to privacy, making VPNs 100% legal worldwide. China is the only exception to this rule.
Criminals may use data packets intercepted between you and an unsecured service to determine login times, giving them more significant opportunities to hijack your information. When encrypted, identity theft criminals do not have access to any information that proves they might be you, eliminating social manipulation tactics.
A VPN hides your location, IP address, connection logs, and most data sent between client-server interactions. VPNs will not conceal any account data you willingly provide via forms.
Each VPN service has a different number of devices based on their subscription plan. Fast VPN enables you to link up to five devices, including your phone, tablet, PC, and smart TV.
Some VPN browser extensions include blocking ads, but most VPNs do not include this service. However, VPNs do stop programmatic advertising based on location and connection logs.
Yes. A VPN will hide your IP address and replace it with the IP address of the server you connect to.
You should ideally leave your VPN on as much as possible. This ensures that you maintain constant security, blocking potential criminals who may be tracking you.
No. Your internet service provider will receive encrypted data that they cannot translate without accessing the server’s cipher.
Yes. A VPN is safe for banking.
You might have to disable the VPN with some banks, as they block any connection that comes from countries they do not operate in.
Much like banks, VPNs are fine with cryptocurrency. Given that crypto has numerous hackers, you should remain secure through hardware wallets, VPNs, and two-factor authentication.
Because VPNs travel through multiple servers, they will not make your internet faster.
A No-logging VPN does not keep track of your connection or traffic data.
Connection data refers to when you initially connect to any server (gaming, torrenting, websites). Traffic data is any communication between your server and the other server. A no-log VPN is a safe VPN.
A VPN bounces your data between multiple servers, meaning it is likely to cause your internet to slow down. Some VPNs are faster than others, so you might run a speed test between multiple VPNs to see the fastest.
VPNs are relatively low impact, so they will not excessively drain the battery of your smartphone or laptop. However, any additional running apps drains your battery, so these aren’t entirely without energy consumption.
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