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Posted on Apr 16, 2013 in Internet Safety Tutorials, Online Safety | 0 comments

What is a VPN?

It seems like every other week that online privacy issues are in the news, be it hackers breaking into big corporations or governments pushing for greater and more intrusive monitoring powers. Like many concerned netizens, you might have seen the many VPN services that are now available online. These services promise to improve your privacy, make you anonymous as you surf the net and help keep out hackers. Just how much of this is true and do you need to consider a VPN service for yourself? Let’s first consider how these VPN services work.

Tunnelling across the internet

VPN is an acronym for ‘Virtual Private Network’. The easiest way to understand a VPN is to think of it as a tunnel. Normally when you connect to the internet you make a direct connection to your internet service provider (ISP) and they then serve you pages and content through their servers. When you connect via a VPN, your ISP connects you to the VPN, which then makes a two way tunnel connection back and forth between your machine and the VPN provider. All the traffic that goes through this tunnel is encrypted, meaning your ISP or any eavesdroppers on the network cannot snoop on your traffic or know where you’re surfing to. For a more in depth look at how this works, see this article.

Packets

Who’s snooping on your packets? VPN services help protect your privacy online.

There are several potential benefits from this setup. Apart from limiting the amount of data your ISP can collect on you, it also helps to secure your connection against intruders who might be on your local network too. If you regularly use public or open Wi-Fi connections, or any network connection that you don’t trust, then surfing without a VPN connection is extremely dangerous. Another user on the same network, or who has a special kind of network card that can monitor communications, can easily intercept your traffic. If you’re planning a holiday or road trip, for instance, we strongly recommend using a VPN to protect your traffic at any Wi-Fi hotspots you might be tempted to use.

There are other, less obvious benefits too. If your government has censored certain types of content online, then many VPN’s will allow you to bypass this kind of filtering. Recently for instance, the UK government ordered that access was blocked to the notorious Pirate Bay website, despite the fact that much of the content on there was proven to be legal to access. Using a VPN helps you skirt round such restrictions if you need to, though of course if you abuse the service you may find yourself disconnected from your VPN or even land yourself in legal difficulties for more serious offences.

You have to trust someone

VPN technology is not magic. When you connect with a VPN, you’re effectively moving who you trust. When connecting directly to your ISP you’re trusting the connection they provide. By moving to a VPN, the operators of the VPN network could still be logging, spying or tampering with the traffic you receive. Many VPN service providers do not initially log traffic, for instance, but will turn on traffic logging if they suspect you of miss-using the network (e.g for copyright infringement). Some of the VPN providers may even keep more logs and records of your activities than your ISP does normally! If you decide to use a VPN service for any of the reasons discussed above, make sure you choose a service with a strong privacy policy. There’s little point signing up for a service that’s less trustworthy than the connection you get from your current ISP.

We investigated several VPN providers for our readers and found that iVPN had the best combination of excellent customer service, speed, privacy and anonymity. We’ve prepared several tutorials on how to use the service, and have no hesitation giving the company our tried and tested seal of approval. Use this link to find out more and get an account with a seven day money back guarantee.

iVPN VPN Gateway service Tried Tested Approved

Editors choice best VPN service 2012

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