What is a VPN? How to choose right one!

As much as the Internet has been designed to provide us with information, solutions, entertainment, and valuable connections on demand, it is not perfect. There are flaws therein that put your privacy at risk.

Yes, the internet is still a haven where hackers and other snoopers can easily display their unhealthy, iron-fisted strategies in order to control what people can access. The public network space is hardly safe anymore, as such, it is best to avoid the mucking around therein. A VPN is an invaluable alternative you can make use of.

What is a VPN?

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a service that allows users enjoy secure access to private and public networks and remotely share data through these networks. A VPN acts like a computer firewall that provides protection for your data, but this protection is now online.

VPNs are popular among big corporations as a means of providing security for sensitive data when remote data centers are connected. However, it is increasingly becoming a data security method of choice even among individuals. Since VPNs make use of a combination of encryption protocols and dedicated connections to provide private security to users, it would be impossible for snoopers and hackers to gain access to the encryption account even if they were able to steal some transmitted data during virtual peer-to-peer connections.

What’s more, a VPN increases the privacy of a subscriber, allowing them to hide their original physical location – the original IP address of the subscriber is replaced by the VPN so a user can skip past content filters. For instance, while you may live in Texas, you can appear to live in San Francisco, Tehran, or a number of other cities of your choice.

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How does a VPN Work?

A VPN protects your privacy by establishing a secure connection between you and the destination of your internet. This connection is established in a few ways. First, your device – smartphone, tablet, or PC is authenticated with a VPN server. This VPN server then makes use of a variety of encryption protocols to ensure that everything in your “connection” that passes between you and the Internet cannot be traced. The connection is encrypted, which protects it from any other snoopy eyes out there until it is decrypted or opened.

VPN service providers run several VPN servers on tunnels or virtual machines. This allows them to provide VPN services to several thousands of subscribers from their data centers at a low cost. Since different VPN software comes along with specific encryption protocols, you can decide to select the VPN that offers one or more of the secure encryption protocols that you need for your online experience.

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Types of protocols

(PPTP) Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol 

PPTP is the most common VPN protocol as it provides security of a VPN network through a variety of conventions. They allow authorized subscribers to connect to the VPN network through their internet connection and make use of a password authentication to gain access to the VPN. PPTP does not require any hardware and it is often available as an inexpensive option to users.

In summary, two actions are executed by PTPP in order to ensure network security – the protocol is projected to create a tunnel between two networks and the data-driven from the created tunnel is encrypted and authenticated. With the encryption and authentication of data, Point-to-Point protocol ensures data is protected under a secure tunnel or channel. Although PTPP has a fast and secure encryption method, a downside is that Point-to-Point protocol is relied upon for security.

(IKEv2) Internet Key Exchange, Version 2 

IKEv2 is an IPsec-based VPN protocol developed by Cisco and Microsoft. It’s an improvement from the previous collaborations that were designed specifically for Windows 7+ devices. IKEv2 is a much more secure, state-of-the-art VPN protocol that offers unique stability as well as an ability to adapt to connections. For instance, the IKEv2 protocol can automatically move from your cell network to a Wi-Fi connection without losing or even dropping the already existing secure connection.

(L2TP) Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol 

L2TP is a VPN protocol that is usually used in association with another protocol such as IPSec in order to create a very secure connection. This is because using it alone does not ensure data integrity by using the encryption and authentication of data. When combined with IPSec, L2TP creates a secure channel between two disburse networks while IPSec controls the authentication and encryption of data. Its mode of operation is similar to PTPP as it depends upon a PPP protocol for the exchange of data packets between two channels or peers.

(SSTP) Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol 

SSTP is another VPN protocol developed by Microsoft. It makes use of the same encryption protocol as that of SSL/TLS. The SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TSL (Transport Layer Security) are basically the same cryptographic protocols that ensure communications over a network are secure. This cryptography has been crucial in the encryption of messages in times past, with telling examples in Sparta and Ancient Greece. In modern times, the underlying security layer of SSL/TLS has been used to create secure network connections between your browser and your device when you input sensitive information into these websites.

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the recommended VPN protocol of choice by top VPN service providers. It is an open source VPN protocol, as such, it undergoes regular maintenance and updates by the VPN security community. OpenVPN makes use of two authentication modes – the TLS and static key. This protocol uses a Point-to-Point and pre-shared static key for the sending cryptographic data from the “tunnel”. On the other hand, TLS ensures end to end security is in place between the VPN server and the internet browser.

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How do the encryption and anonymity help you?

VPN service will encrypt your data and increase your online anonimity

Encryption basically involves the encoding information and incoming messages. Tech enthusiasts often regard encryption as the safest and most effective channel to achieve security of private information and data. How does it help you?

In addition to protecting your personal data, encryption protects sensitive financial information. You may have probably noticed “https” and a small green lock sign just before the web address of your bank. This is an indicator that the web address is encrypted – secure for browsing and the exchange of sensitive data online.

Other advantages of encryption and anonymity include:

  • It helps you bypass censorship  -just change your IP address to a country (Amsterdam) where there is no censorship.
  • Provides access to geo-restricted content abroad like Netflix and BBC iPlayer – in order to watch some of the USA Netflix shows and BBC iPlayer, you must have an IP address in those countries.
  • You can enjoy discounts on games and reservations -For example; simply change your IP address from USA to Turkey to get better game deals.
  • Provides secure torrent download – As the data you are downloading is being encrypted, your ISP cannot track you.
  • Allows you play games in dorms
  • Blocks search engine and social media cookies. It also gets rid of targeted, annoying ads.
  • Since it provides security for public networks as well, you can enjoy browsing from a public Wi-Fi connection while remaining anonymous.
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What makes a good VPN?

Have you just started a new business? This is good news. Interestingly, today’s technology allows you work from anywhere since you can easily enjoy network access from Wi-Fi connections in restaurants, hotels, and airports. However, there is a problem. The Wi-Fi connection can be intercepted. Since you already know you need a VPN for your security, are there good (or bad) VPNs? Of course! What makes a good VPN?

Privacy

Although VPNs generally protect your privacy from hackers and snoopers while allowing you access the web anonymously, not all VPNs provide absolute privacy and security of your data. A good VPN must have a great log policy.

Log Policy

The logging policy of VPNs is a major determinant of its level of privacy and anonymity. A VPN can keep a variety of logs including IP addresses, user activity, devices, timestamps showing time of connection/disconnection, and payment logs if you are making use of a paid VPN. Since your IP address can be connected to your browsing session, your anonymity level may be a little less than you have imagined. Generally, the fewer the traffic logs kept by a VPN, the better your level of security and privacy – in fact, finding a VPN that keeps none is invaluable.

Anti-Malware and Ad-Blockers

Using a VPN is not an automatic guarantee that you are safe no matter what you do. It is important to ensure you use an HTTPS web address whenever possible. You must still be careful about what you download from the internet. A quality VPN would provide anti-malware scanners and ad-blockers to alert you when a website has potential viruses and to block targeted ads to ensure you have a smooth browsing experience.

Data Capacity

The success of your business depends upon your ability to provide consumers with uninterrupted services whenever they stop by. Hence, it would do your business no good if your VPN provider cuts you off only because you have exceeded the data cap. To avoid this, go through the terms of service of the provider so you are sure about the data cap. To determine its capacity you can run the VPN network on a big public cloud to access its level of efficiency.

Mobile Apps

Most of the top VPN providers allow you download mobile apps compatible with iOS or Android devices. However, while this makes privacy easier for you to achieve, you must be careful about using free VPN app services. VPN service providers need funds for their business, hence, if you make use of a free service, you can rest assured that your private data may just be sold out to someone else.

Pricing

As little as $3 to $5 per month can get you a quality VPN, so it hardly costs a fortune to be protected. Although some may cost around $10 and above, they are not really common – and they are not really important too. Yes, since you can get quality at a very fair price, there is no need to subscribe to an expensive VPN service.

In addition, most VPN providers give big discounts to users who subscribe for as long as a year or two at a go rather than monthly. So, instead of subscribing to a VPN service at $5 to $6 monthly, you can enjoy a year plan from $35 to $45. This is a huge discount averaging around $3 per month.

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Top VPN providers

ExpressVPN

This is a top VPN service provider with up to 145 strong server locations in 94 countries. The encryption and security they provide is industry standard and they come along with mobile apps that are compatible with all devices. ExpressVPN also offers users unlimited switching of servers, which allows a subscriber “jump” from one location to another without any hassle.

Interestingly, up to three devices can enjoy the security and privacy from ExpressVPN. What is more, they have a zero log policy, which ensures the security and privacy of subscribers are well taken care of. From $8.25 monthly, you can subscribe to ExpressVPN.

CyberGhost

CyberGhost is another top VPN provider that allows you enjoy anonymous surfing – protected from the tactics employed by snoopers and hackers. It allows you connect up to 5 different devices at a time and it is compatible with different operating systems – whether you use a macOS, Android, iOS, or Windows. At $2.75 monthly, CyberGhost is an inexpensive, top quality option.

NordVPN

This is a popular provider with server locations in 58 countries and a large network base of 765 around the world. Its mobile apps are easy to handle and it allows you hop between locations while keeping your identity anonymous. NordVPN allows you connect up to 6 devices – and you can use different locations and servers for all 6. They also make use of top quality double layer encryption – industry standard technology – for improved security. As such, NordVPN is a top choice for subscribers who make use of a public Wi-Fi network to browse. You can enjoy NordVPN services from $5.75 monthly.

Summing up

A VPN is an invaluable option to ensure your security wherever you may be. With a quality Virtual Private Network, you can enjoy not just secure browsing sessions, but secure downloads without the fear of someone spying on your privacy. The reliable VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, PPTP, Ikev2 will encrypt your data and make sure it travels safely through its destination. 

A VPN will not only encrypt your data for further privacy but also help you bypass censorship, watch geo-restricted tv shows, bypass filters in dorms or working environment and, download any files securely.

What is more, with the knowledge you already have at your fingertips, now is the time to get a quality VPN provider and ensure complete security of your internet sessions. 

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