What is a VPN? How is it used? Why is it needed now more than ever before? Read on.
Do you want to protect your online identity, stay safe on public wifi or bypass censorship on the internet? Then this article is for you.
First a little background on how the internet world works: Your public IP address is discoverable by browsers, websites, service providers, and other devices. This opens the door for your privacy to be compromised. It can also mean that sensitive information falls into malicious hands. When using a VPN, instead of your public IP address being displayed, it uses the address of the VPN server that all of your internet activity is routed through. This VPN server could be located anywhere in the world, which makes it impossible for those interested to find out your true location, let alone any personal information.
Moreover, VPNs have lists of countries, after you select one, you appear to be using the internet not from your actual location, but from the location of the virtual server. VPNs secure and protect your online identity. Most of the trusted VPN service providers use the latest encryption keys to hide your data from anyone trying to spy on your digital lifestyle. If servers are not obfuscated, however, your ISP can see if you are using a VPN, but it cannot decipher the contents of your internet traffic. It means your ISP cannot see anything you do while you are connected.
The Virtual Private Network (VPN) Market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 6.39% to reach US$50.153 billion by 2024, from US$34.591 billion in 2018.
The demand for VPNs will grow on account of the increasing cybercrime issues, as VPNs provide a secure and private network for individuals to access. In addition to this, many online services are acquiring VPN service providers to provide their own VPN services to users. However, since VPNs carry data to a different server before taking the user to the desired webpage, they witness some performance and speed issues, which restrains the demand for these services during the forecasted period.
Here is a look at three VPN use cases you should know about.
- By Pass Geo Restriction
Geo-restriction or geo-blocking is a method to restrict or limit access of specified content based on the user’s geographic location. Average internet users usually encounter geo-restrictions on a daily basis while trying to access streaming platforms as they allow different content for different countries. Additionally, governments implement geo-restriction technologies to block sites or specific online services.
How does geo-blocking work? All of your devices on the internet have their unique series of numbers called an Internet Protocol address (known as ‘IP address’). Your laptop, phone, and each device connected to the internet have IPs, which are provided by your internet service provider (ISP). Therefore, your ISP knows your IP address. When you visit a website, the IP address of your network is sent to the server so it knows where it has to send the content.
Although your IP address is not significant on its own, using specialized software, it is possible to track your online behavior effortlessly, monitor which websites you visit and when. Also, to some extent, it is possible to know the geographical location of your device. This is how a site ‘knows’ from which country you are accessing. Then, website administrators apply geo-blocking based on this information. Moreover, geo-blocking applies when traveling. Meaning, if you are an American visiting France, you will only access the content available in France.
Is bypassing geo-blocking legal? The legality of getting around geo-restrictions is unclear and varies by country. In the European Union, some forms of geo-blocking are illegal. Companies are not allowed to discriminate against consumers based on their location for online sales of specific services.
However, streaming platforms, such as Netflix, claim that bypassing geo-blocking can be considered as a violation of copyright and licensing regulations, they also justify the use of methods to detected and block various anonymizer services, like VPNs.
There are tools to get around geo-restrictions, VPNs are the most common and, usually, easy to use for a less tech-savvy audience. While using a VPN service, you can quickly change your location and have unrestricted and fast access to any website. You can choose your desired location, or let us offer an optimal choice for you.
Local VPN servers represent a private, controlled network. It creates a virtual tunnel, where your data is encrypted so that no one can track or monitor your online activities.
VPN masks your actual IP address and allocates you with one from your chosen country. For instance, if you are in the USA, you can quickly select a remote VPN server in Japan, the website will think you are accessing it from Japan.
VPNs also help to bypass government-induced censorship. In this case, VPNs not only help to achieve internet freedom but also – to fully secure your data from the prying eyes of snoopers.
2. Avoid Government Censorship
Internet censorship is a process of blocking, limiting, filtering or manipulating internet content in any way. It is a method of suppression used by the governments which control what can be accessed, published or viewed online. Although censorship might seem like something done by oppressive governments, the scope of it has been increasing alarmingly in many democratic countries. More than 60 countries engage in some form of state-sponsored censorship.
Restrictions and manipulations vary from limiting access to digital content (such as movies, series or music), blocking certain websites or services (Skype, Telegram, WhatsApp, Youtube, Netflix, etc.) or filtering information perceived as unwanted (for instance, opposing the government in any way)
Who is usually affected by internet censorship? Various attempts to tighten internet control and crack down online freedom have a harmful impact on journalists, human rights activists, marginalized communities, as well as ordinary internet users, who want to access information or services online. Why do governments engage in various forms of internet censorship? The intents vary. In can be done to spread the government’s views, particular agendas, and to stop government critics and various opposing views. There are a few methods to surf the internet without borders. A VPN (a virtual private network) is a robust tool to access free information online. Also, it is safe, because it hides your online activities from the censors.
3. Stay Safe on Public Wi-fi
Public WiFi can be a goldmine for dangerous lurkers posing security threats. It’s convenient, yet, dangerous to use while traveling or dining out in the city.
All the traffic within a public WiFi network is usually unsecured, meaning it does not use proper encryption to protect your internet data. Your sensitive information sent via an unsecured WiFi network (such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages) becomes an easy target for hackers.
When it comes to stealing your data, hackers get quite creative. One of the ways they attack is called man-in-the-middle (MITM). Cybercriminals will create their fake public network. In most cases, the name will be similar to the name of the place with access to a public network (like a restaurant or hotel) nearby. Then, hackers will snoop on your private information and target data on your devices.
On top of that, hackers can install packet sniffing software. It is particularly dangerous because it records massive amounts of data which later can be processed on their demand.
Be aware that there are many other ways to undermine your privacy while you’re connected to a public WiFi. The internet is full of video tutorials and step-by-step guides on how to hack someone’s computer over a WiFi network.
All of the WiFi networks are vulnerable to hacking. If you are not alone using the network, chances are someone is spying on your online activities. At best it is your ISP, at worst – scammers lurking for your passwords, bank account details or other sensitive information.
In 2017 Belgian researchers discovered that WPA2 protocol used by the vast majority of WiFi networks is unsafe.
According to the report, the WPA2 protocol can be broken using novel attacks potentially exposing personal data.
The vulnerability can affect a broad range of operating systems and devices – including Android, Apple, Windows, Linux, OpenBSD, MediaTek, etc. Basically, if you have a device that connects to WiFi, it can be affected. The situation is a little different in the European Union since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect. ISPs processing Europeans’ data must be compliant to the GDPR. They have to make sure they store personal data only with the consent and when it’s not linkable to an individual.
What can you do to protect your online identity? It is the best option to shield your private information from cybercriminals. If you are connected to a VPN, your connection is secure even if you’re on a public WiFi hotspot.