Think of the Internet, not like a maze, even though it is just as complicated, but more like trillions of lines. A line begins at your computer and goes to the server at which the site you want to visit, resides. This line sends a lot of data from your computer to the server when you send a request to visit a site, this data passes through your Internet Service Provider (ISP). A hacker can potentially hack into this connection and see your data. This is the main reason why VPNs exist, to protect sensitive data by encrypting them from end to end before sending it to the site you are connecting to.
By no means am I saying that VPN makes it impossible to hack your data, I am saying that it makes it very difficult. (For more secure network, we have options like TOR, but that is a topic for another article entirely.) Basically, a VPN will take your data, encrypt it and send it as if you are sitting at their server, thus the website doesn’t know who is viewing their site and your ISP doesn’t know what site is being accessed.
So let’s look at the reasons why someone might be using a VPN?
Protection against Tracking
The sites that you visit usually track you and the content that you consume, with a VPN, your identity is hidden from the sites making tracking by these means, not possible. But cookies can still be left behind and that has to be cleaned separately.
Privacy from Big Brother
The identity is not only hidden from the sites that you visit but also your Government and that is a very important feature if you are an activist, but a Govt. can force a VPN provider to release the logs of a particular client, and VPNs are known to comply with this. VPNs do claim zero-log policies, but there is always a workaround. This is where TOR network comes into play, it’s far more secure but it’s not needed for an average Joe.
Protection @ Public Network
When you are using a Public Network like the one at your favourite coffee shop, you are at risk of being snooped around by a hacker trying to steal your passwords and bank details or other sensitive information. VPN is a very good workaround in this scenario, in fact, this is one case where I strongly recommend using a VPN.
Location Specific Content
There is a lot of content that is blocked throughout the world, some because of simple ‘not released in your country’ issue, there are also times when prices of certain products vary depending on from where you buy them. The best way to get past these scenarios is a VPN.
Accessing Blocked Content
The most serious version of blocked content is Govt. censorship, and you guessed it, VPN works around this too. Also, another version of blocked content is websites being blocked by your admin or college or whose ever internet you are using, VPN is a handy tool for this too.
If it is so great, then why isn’t everyone using one?
- The simple answer is, not everyone needs it, most of the people are leading a vanilla life and in that such measures are not needed.
- Also, VPN is not enough, so some people just use TOR.
- And from a common Techy’s perspective, VPN is expensive and slow.
But if you want to use one, which one should you use?
Nord VPN is the most commonly used VPN service, but my recommendation goes to Proton VPN. Proton is based out of Switzerland, and Switzerland has one of the best privacy laws in the world, also Proton is famous for its Internet Rights position. Proton also has a free service which you can use in emergency scenarios when you need to access something sensitive, but don’t trust the free service for streaming videos.
This is all that you need to know about VPNs as a beginner.