A virtual private network (VPN) is a service that provides a secure internet connection by creating an encrypted “tunnel” for your data, protecting your online identity by hiding your IP address and allowing you to use public Wi-Fi safely.

People use VPNs when using public Wi-Fi regularly, if they want to access home content when out and about or simply if they want to remain safe online. By encrypting your internet traffic and disguising online identities it makes it difficult for cybercriminals to track activity or steal any information.

How do virtual private networks (VPNs) work?

The VPN hides IP addresses as the network redirects through specially configured remote servers run by the VPN host. This then makes the VPN your server. ISPs and other parties cannot see websites you have visited, or data sent or received online due to all of this information being encrypted.

Types of VPN

Remote access VPN

This allows users to connect to a remote network usually by using special software. This is common when logging in to your work networks.

Personal VPN

This is a consumer grade VPN. These are similar to remote access VPNs but instead are connected to proprietary restricted networks such as your office when you need to connect to the VPN provider’s server for protection and privacy.

Site to site VPN

This type of VPN is mostly used by large multilocation businesses. Users in selected locations can access each other’s networks securely helping the organization to connect offices.

Benefits of a virtual private network (VPN)

  • Secure encryption – an encryption key is needed to read or access the data
  • Disguising whereabouts – this is done through proxies on the internet. Demographic location data comes from a server in another country and your actual location cannot be identified. No logs or activities are stored.
  • Access to regional content – regional content is not always accessible from everywhere and some specifically not available outside certain countries. VPN location spoofing allows you to switch to servers to another country and “change” your location.
  • Secure data transfer – this is beneficial if you are working remotely. You can connect to private servers and use encryption to transfer without the risk of data leakage.

Functions in a good VPN

  • Encryption of IP address – you can receive online info without a risk to anyone
  • Encryption of protocols – encryption of cookies prevent 3rd parties from gaining access to confidential information
  • Kill switch – If the VPN is intertupted then the secure network will be shut down. Downtime of a device usually results in a VPN terminating preselected programs which decreases the likelihood of data becoming compromised.
  • Two factor authentication (2FA) – A good VPN will check everyone who logs in with the requirement of a password and then another level of security such as a code sent to a mobile device.