What Is VPN? – The Truth About What A VPN Can And Can’t Do
There is an army of shills online pumping out endless content claiming that a VPN is this magic box. Click one button and you'll be completely anonymous online. All your internet security woes are solved just like that.
The problem with these tall claims is that they are exaggerated at best and just plain wrong at worst.
Of course, there are reasons to use a VPN, but the majority of the claims online are deceptive and advertisements have been removed for promoting what a VPN is and how it works. Recently, there's even been lawsuits.
Providers in the UK were taken to court for overselling, and for leaking customer data.
Enter this article. An attempt to explain what a VPN really is. What one can do, and the real reasons you’d bother to pay for, install, and use one in 2022, knowing that most of what people say about them is a pack of lies.
If that’s something you’re interested in, read on. At the worst, you'll have a nuanced opinion to shove down your holier-than-thou pseudo-cybersecurity friend's throats, the next time they think they are a leet hacker for turning on a VPN.
What is a VPN?
A VPN encrypts your data and secretly hides your online activities from spying on third parties.
You can see a certain amount of data about you and your computer when you visit a website through your computer's connection to the server where the website is hosted. When you connect to a VPN, your data is scrambled, making it more difficult for others to track what you're doing on the internet.
Consumer VPNs are mostly used for secure browsing. It is also possible for small business owners to use VPNs to provide remote access to their networks, and they can even use them at home, allowing them to connect to their computers and access files from anywhere online.
A VPN, no matter what its purpose, channels your internet traffic through a private network. This means accessing files over the internet without running the risk of losing them. Before launching onto the open internet, public users connect to a private network of secure servers.
It's because a VPN changes your IP address that it can accomplish so many things. Whenever you connect to the internet, your computer gets an IP address, which tells other computers where you are in the world. You can actually choose the false location with most VPN services.
Will A VPN Protect You On Public WiFi?
Sort of. Sometimes. It depends.
The problem with this public WiFi claim is that most of the internet is already encrypted, and it has been for a long time. Because it's not 2006 anymore, almost every time you access a website you’ll see a padlock in the URL bar.
This padlock means that all your traffic is encrypted with HTTPS. This encryption happens before it leaves the computer. There's a chance that someone has beaten HTTPS, with a complex man in the middle attack, but it's very unlikely.
If you see the padlock before the URL chances are you’re safe.
When you're on a http:// website watch out! Everything you send to an HTTP website is clear text. Anyone sharing the network, at your local coffee shop, library, or share house can read all the passwords you enter, see all the photos you upload because it's all cleartext.
Why Use A VPN Then?
The main reason people use VPNs is to watch tv shows, movies, and access sites that are blocked in their region of the world.
Sure there are autocratic governments in the UAE, China, Vietnam, and other countries that block access to websites. But most people just want to view US Netflix or get on The Pirate Bay. Hulu, Skysports, and other geo-restricted content can all be accessed with a VPN.
A virtual private network (VPN) is a way to conceal which page you're visiting from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Even with HTTPS, they can see youtube.com/the-name-of-the-video or amazon.com/the-item-you-looked at as well as the name of the video you're watching.
Your ISP will not be able to see this, either. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) will conceal your browsing history from your school or employer.
You may not want the system administrator at a conservative institution to know which sites you're visiting if you're studying there. ISPs in some nations are permitted to sell this data to marketers, restrict traffic to specific websites, or build a profile on you.
Torrenting and Cease and Desist Notices
Most ISPs don’t care if you torrent.
Some ISPs in the 3rd world are throttling torrenting traffic because it's congesting their networks. Quora says it’s common practice in South Asia, but ISPs with enough bandwidth in competitive regions aren't concerned by this.
They wouldn’t risk the customer base. If your ISP throttles your torrent traffic, just change providers.
In reality, the greatest danger while torrenting is that your IP address will be revealed on the tracker. There are several organizations that do this and get your IP address, perform a reverse look-up, and send you a DCMA complaint through your ISP.
Your ISP will have to cross-reference the IP address to see whether it belongs to a customer; if so, he or she will be sent a Cease and Desist Notice.
If you respond to these content rights owners, they may threaten you with legal action or attempt to persuade you to pay for the material in other ways.
You can use a VPN to protect your identity. There's nothing linking back to you because the VPN's IP address is used for downloading.
Let’s Wrap This Up
A VPN will hide what you do online from your ISP and allow you to view material from other countries. A VPN is also a great way to stay safe while torrenting, as rights holders may be unable to see your public IP address if they cannot detect it.
If rights owners are unable to view your public IP address, they will be unable to follow up or send you an intimidating letter. Do you still have unanswered questions? Click here to learn more.
November 2, 2022
October 23, 2022