Even if you do not consider yourself an expert when it comes to using the internet, a sure thing you may have heard of is a VPN. You may have already gotten a lot of recommendations for you to use it, especially since awareness and action of web users when it comes to protecting their privacy is at a high these days. I can still remember the last time people recommended me to install a VPN for my device, it was for Pokemon Go, where I was told to install a VPN so that I can catch monsters even outside my geographical area. So, I did without really understanding the whole affair.
Update: I got tired of playing Pokemon Go, so eventually I uninstalled the game from my smartphone but retained my VPN. Apparently, there were more benefits to having a VPN working for me aside from just me getting more exotic monsters. So, I did more reading on the benefits of having a VPN and, viola, indeed, a good VPN service does more than just change your location so you can enjoy more of the Internet. It also gets to hide some of your details. So, what do VPNs hide, actually? Why are they recommended as a great instrument for data privacy and security?
VPN Hides Your IP Address
A lot of us only hear about an IP address, casual web surfers that we are. We hear it a lot of times in passing, but we’re not really sure what it is. But as its name implies, our IP address is the unique address of our computer on the worldwide web. This means that everything you do online can be traced back to your IP address – every single activity from what you searched on a search engine to what websites you have visited, and even what you have been posting on social media, among others.
So, what does a VPN do in relation to your IP address VPNs claim to mask your real IP address, making all your online activities anonymous, so they cannot be traced back to you.
Instead of contacting a website’s servers directly, the VPN creates an encrypted tunnel between you and the VPN service’s server, which in turn connects to the public internet and retrieves the information you requested as normal. This passes back through the tunnel to your computer, ensuring that no one can intercept your web traffic, and that an observer will see the IP address of the VPN and not yours.
Hides Your Geographic Location
Just like my Pokemon Go example above, this is the VPN feature I was first exposed to. Instead of just keeping you in your real geographical location, a VPN provides you various gateway servers all over the world, so you will be allowed to change your IP address and consequently your geographic location. Because of this, you can have access to geo-restricted content like Netflix movies that are available elsewhere but not available in your home country or websites that are not available in your country (for example, web users in China use VPNs to access their social media accounts, since platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are blocked by the Chinese government). Also, as you can change your location, you can also shop for things that are cheaper in other places or at the very least, compare the prices of items in different countries. That’s a huge plus for web shoppers! Of all programs that function to mask your location, experts say using a VPN is one of the most effective.
A VPN, in addition to changing your location, also encrypts your traffic. A proxy only covers the traffic you send through your web browser. The other applications on your device aren’t covered by a proxy. For example, if you’re downloading a file using BitTorrent, that traffic will not be passed through the proxy server.
Hides Your Web Browsing
A VPN also promises to hide your web browsing activities. A lot of is do the best we to maybe hide some activities that we do on the web, such as making sure we scrub our browsing history and deleting cookies every time before we log off our devices and even using the incognito mode of our web browsers. But then, those efforts can only do so much because there are entities that can still track your activities such as your internet service provider, search engines, and marketing companies that employ stealth third-party programs to get your cookies. That’s all possible since as mentioned earlier, everything you do online can be linked back to your unique IP address. Depending on how good your VPN is, your activities will not leave any trace on your computer or ISP address, since that will be changed, and your VPN will also do something with your cookies.
A VPN should also prevent you from leaving a trail, for instance, in the form of internet history, search history and cookies. Encryption of cookies is especially important, as it stops third parties from seeing sensitive information such as personal details, financial information and any other content submitted to websites that you don’t want to be traced back to you.
Your VPN may be great in hiding several things, but what if you want to find or recover a document that has been deleted from your device? Your VPN may not be able to help you with that, but we most certainly can. Read more about our laptop data recovery services here.