A virtual private network is a user’s first line of defense when it comes to protecting your privacy on the internet. Without a reliable VPN service, a user is not just sharing excessive personal information online but also becoming a victim of government censorship and surveillance.

You need a VPN- now!

For an average user, a VPN service is a tool to ensure online privacy. While using a VPN service, even your ISP remains unaware of the websites you visit, especially useful if you are torrenting etc. Instead of servers based in their local country, users can select remote servers based in foreign countries. It helps in avoiding government censorship of different websites — several journalists, activists, and whistleblowers use a VPN in conjunction with Tor for enhanced privacy and security.

Downloading and using a VPN service like NordVPN is easy. It is one of the most popular and reasonably priced VPN services on the market today. One account will help you protect up to six devices simultaneously. The service is connected to over 5,000 servers based in 60 countries that can route your internet traffic from virtually anywhere in the world.

How does a VPN work?

A VPN client installed on your computer connects you to a virtual network of servers based in different locations across the world. Users from China, where internet censorship is commonplace, can connect to a server based in Europe using a VPN. They can get access to websites, apps, streaming services, forums and social media networks that are restricted in their home country.

Recently, social media website Twitter shut down the accounts of over one hundred dissidents from China right before the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square. While Twitter is banned in China, the website’s filters worked overtime to crush the voice of dissidence emerging from the country. Using a reliable VPN service (combined with Tor) could, therefore, be a cornerstone of political dissidence.

An average user finds a VPN service useful in accessing websites/streaming services unavailable or restricted in their country. Streaming services like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, and Netflix can be accessed easily by using a VPN. A user based in India can connect to a US-based VPN server and enjoy access to the US-version of Netflix.

In its most basic use-case, a VPN is a tool to hide a user’s internet activity by routing it through a remote server based in a different geographical location. Some VPN services also come with in-built adblockers to stop interest-based ads from following you around the internet.

Here are some intrinsic concepts/implications of a VPN that will help you understand it better.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)

While PPTP has existed since the 1990s, it is still one of the most important components of encryption. Interestingly, PPTP isn’t an encryption technology in itself. PPTP helps in tunneling data packets, which then use the GRE protocol for encapsulation. Though it is an easy implementation, it isn’t one of the most secure ways to connect to the internet.

IPSec

It is a much better implementation than PPTP as it packs in several different protocols and tech for encryption. Instead of PPTP’s GRE, IPSec uses the ESP protocol for packet encapsulation. The encryption suite of IPSec includes AES-GCM, HMAC-SHA1/SHA2, 3des-CBC, and AES-CBC.

Layer 2 Tunnelnig Protocol

Layer 2 tunneling protocol builds upon IPSec and brings you an additional layer of security. Because of this, L2TP creates a highly secure implementation of its VPN protocols. Note that L2TP doesn’t encrypt the data but creates a secure tunnel through which the IPSec encrypted data passes through.

Secure Shell

Known more popularly as SSH, it can be used for both tunneling and encryption on a VPN network. It helps in routing data from remote fileservers via an encrypted channel. While the data is not encrypted, the path that it follows is. Data moves from a local port to a remote server.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS)

SSL and TLS together make the gold standard of security for online service providers. It depends on the handshake method where every web URL starts with https:// instead of http://. It begins an SSL session which produces cryptographic parameters for the session, adding more security for the users.

Can you use a VPN everywhere?

Yes, you can. VPN services like NordVPN are designed to work with every device you can think of- from Windows, Mac and Linux based desktop computers to Android and iOS-based mobile devices. You can use the app with your home WIFI, data connection or even with an unsecure and unreliable public hotspot. It is vital for securing your privacy online and preventing your internet activity from being seen by prying eyes- a VPN will help you solve all these problems. All you need to do is download and install a reliable service.