What is VPN? How does VPN work?

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VPN is the abbreviation for Virtual Private Network. It is a technology that allows you to create an encrypted tunnel between the user’s device and the network, so that it can secure transmitted data and protect your privacy. By using VPN, the user connects to the Internet through a special proxy server. In this text we will explain exactly what a VPN is, how VPN works, what applications it has and what it can be used for.

What is VPN?

VPN is a service that is increasingly used not only by people from the IT industry and employees of large corporations, but also by ordinary Internet users. People who are looking for information on the security of the network and ways to protect privacy sooner or later go to the concept of VPN appearing in various places.

VPN literally means Virtual Private Network, virtuality in this concept refers to the fact that it is a network that does not exist physically. It functions only as a contractual linking of two objects that communicate with each other via a public network. Private – because only certain people who have been authenticated have access to it, and external entities are not able to access it.

The content of data exchanged through a VPN is protected from third-party access. If you want to answer the question of what is a VPN, you can enter the simplest definition of VPN – it is an encrypted tunnel that connects two points in the network. Thanks to these VPN properties, we get the ability to transfer data in such a way that devices connected via VPN are also physically connected with the help of an ordinary network.

How does VPN work? What is a VPN server?

What is VPN? How does VPN work?
What is VPN? How does VPN work?

In connection with the Internet via a VPN, a special proxy server is involved, which is defined as a VPN server and is necessary for the operation of such a network. It is between this server and the user device that an encrypted tunnel is created, to which data is safely transmitted. This VPN property, which allows you to create a secure, encrypted tunnel coming out of our computer and connecting us with a special proxy server, secures our communication in the network against access by third parties. Only the outgoing connection from the VPN server is decrypted. In this way, the VPN server protects its users from theft of data by cybercriminals, eavesdropping or analysis of traffic from third parties, and allows to hide the location and IP in the network – but more on this later in this text.

Connection to VPN can be configured not only on the computer, but also on the Android phone, iPhone, tablet or router. The latter option is particularly useful, because it allows you to secure the entire home network – all connections will go through the VPN server before they reach the Internet.

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By connecting to the Internet using VPN, our real IP address is hidden. We are visible in the network by means of a new IP address, which is assigned to us by the VPN server with which we are currently connected. All websites on the Internet will identify us based on its IP address and physical location – online forums, social networks or VOD services. Explaining this more vividly – if we connect to the German VPN server, we will obtain a German IP address, and all services on the Internet will think that we are physically in Germany. Our real IP address will be invisible and inaccessible.

The VPN server is a specially configured server in the network that deals with the service of connections and operates based on a dedicated server or VPS. The user logs on to the server using the appropriate login and password and after authentication can connect through it to the network. If we do not want to purchase a VPN service from a commercial vendor, we can choose to configure it yourself, but a ready-made VPN is in many cases a much better solution.

Configuration and operation of a VPN server can be based on several different VPN protocols. They differ in speed, the degree of encryption, the level of security provided and the technical solutions used. The most commonly used and popular VPN protocols include:

  • PPTP
  • L2TP/IPSec
  • IKEv2
  • SSTP
  • OpenVPN
  • SoftEther

Currently, the open source OpenVPN protocol is considered the best protocol in terms of security and privacy.

The role of the VPN server is to decrypt data sent through the tunnel by the user and then forward them to the global network. The same applies to data coming from the Internet. The server encrypts them and then sends them to the user.

Proven VPN providers

Knowing what a VPN is, we come to the moment of answering the question – where to get such a service? There are many commercial providers of paid VPN services on the market. Here you can find a list of the best VPN networks available on the market.

Network security

Using VPN increases our security while using the network. By connecting to the Internet via VPN, we encrypt and thus hide all our online activity from outsiders. Thanks to this, cybercriminals are not able to capture our data, passwords or confidential information that we send. The Internet or service provider will not be able to eavesdrop on, analyze and monitor what content we view or what we do on the web. People who would like to get to know our activity in the network will only see a string of encrypted, meaningless data, which with the current computing capabilities can not be broken.

Our network activity, websites visited and data sent will be protected. No one will be able to monitor what we do, write and what we are interested in. We should think seriously about using VPN when using public WiFi networks – when using them, what we do on the network can be easily overheard and captured – encryption provided by VPN protects against this. Without encryption, all our activity, passwords, message content or files sent may fall into the hands of unauthorized persons and be used for malicious purposes. While if we use WiFi at home or work, where only authorized people have access to the network, we can feel quite safe (unless someone breaks into our network) in the case of public networks, everyone with the appropriate knowledge and tools, can capture content sent by other users.

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VPN also has its application in business. Small and medium-sized companies and large corporations commonly use it to provide their employees with secure access to corporate network resources from anywhere in the world where they will work. Thanks to this, remote work from home, during a delegation to another country or directly from the customer’s seat can be done without any obstacles. All you need is an Internet connection, thanks to which you can establish a secure connection with the company’s network via the VPN server.

Privacy protection using VPN

From the point of view of protecting the privacy of the network, the use of VPN allows you to hide the IP address. Thanks to the intermediary server, our real IP address remains hidden from the network services that we use at the moment. In the network, we are only visible using the IP address assigned to the VPN server, with which we can connect at a given moment. Thanks to this, we can preserve privacy and not reveal our real location – for example on internet forums, on social networks or when using P2P and torrents. If someone wants to track us, it only reaches the VPN server, which is used by hundreds of other users in addition to us.

Change the location of an IP address thanks to VPN

VPN is also a simple and convenient way to change the IP address. In this situation, the services we can buy from the supplier have a huge advantage, as opposed to the independent configuration of the VPN server. Companies offering this type of services have in their offer a very large number of servers located in different countries. Thanks to this, we can freely change the country through which we will connect (eg to the USA, Great Britain, France, Russia). The best providers usually offer more than 50 available countries in which they have more than 2,000 servers.

In the case of the VPN configuration itself, obtaining a large range of IP addresses that we can use is more problematic and expensive, because the price does not spread to a large number of users who use a given server.

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