With the increase in the usage of digital platforms for work and important transactions, there is also a high risk of safeguarding our data from cybercriminals. And one such way to prevent our data from being captured is by using a VPN. In this article, we will understand what a VPN is and how it works.
Importance of Using a VPN
Imagine when you are at the airport and make a vital bank payment by connecting your laptop to the Public Wi-Fi. Everything goes well, and you complete your transaction. After a couple of days, you learn that your bank account was subjected to a cyber attack, and a hefty amount was wiped from your account.
After getting in touch with the bank authority, you learn that your account was hacked at the airport and that the Public Wi-Fi you used might have caused this trouble.
Bank officials advise you to use a VPN for future transactions, especially when connecting to an open or public network. Now, let's move on to understanding what is a VPN and how it works.
What Is a VPN?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a connection between a VPN server and a VPN client. It is a secure tunnel-like connection across the internet.
As seen in the figure above, the VPN client connects to the internet by interacting with the VPN server through an encrypted tunnel. Since the communication between the client and the server happens through this tunnel, attackers cannot hack the information.
Now that you know what a VPN is, let us move to the next topic, “How a VPN works?”
How Does a VPN Work?
To understand how a VPN works, let us consider two scenarios:
A Transaction Without Using a VPN:
- First, your computer connects to the Internet Service Provider - ISP, which provides access to the internet.
- You then send your bank details to the bank's server using your IP address. Internet Protocol address or IP address is a unique address that recognizes a particular device, be it a laptop or a smartphone on the internet.
- When these details pass through the public network, the hacker who passively watches the network traffic intercepts it. This is a passive cyber attack where the hacker collects your bank details without being detected. More often or not, in such an attack, payment information is likely to be stolen. The targeted data here are the victims' usernames, passwords, and other personal information.
- Such an unsecured connection exposes your IP address and bank details to the hacker when it passes through the public network. This way, your information gets stolen.
A Transaction Using a VPN:
Picture your bank transaction to be happening in a tunnel that is invisible to the hacker. In such a case, the hacker will not be able to spot your transaction. And that is precisely what a VPN does. A Virtual Private Network, more often known as VPN, creates a secure tunnel between your device and the internet.
- For using a VPN, your first step would be to install a software-based technology known as the VPN client on your laptop or smartphone that would let you establish a secure connection.
- The VPN client connects to the Wi-Fi and then to the ISP. Here, the VPN client encrypts your information using VPN protocols. Data is encrypted to make sure it is secure. Next, the VPN client establishes a VPN tunnel that connects to the VPN server within the public network.
- The VPN tunnel protects your information from being intercepted by the hacker. Your IP address and location are changed at the VPN server to enable a private and secure connection. Finally, the VPN server connects to your bank's server in the last step, where the encrypted message is decrypted.
- This way, your original IP address is hidden by the VPN, and the VPN tunnel protects your data from being hacked. This explains how VPN makes your data anonymous and secure when it passes through the public network and the difference between a regular connection and a VPN connection.
From the above working of a VPN, it is understood that online transactions are safer when a VPN is used.
Now, let's look at the different types of VPN available.
Types of VPN
There are primarily two types of VPN categories:
- Remote Access VPN: Remote Access VPN grants users the ability to connect their device to a private network and access all the services/ resources remotely. These devices are called endpoints and could be laptops, desktops, or smartphones. A secured and private connection between the user and the private network is established through the internet. An employee of a company on business travel can use a VPN to connect to the private network of their company and access files and resources on the private web remotely.
- Site-to-Site VPN: Big Companies and MNCs with offices in different locations use Site-to-Site VPN as distance makes it impossible to have direct network connections between the offices. So, they connect the network of one office area to the network at another office location.
- Intranet-based VPN: When multiple offices of the same company are connected using Site-to-Site VPN so that you can share the information and resources between each other, it is called an Intranet-based VPN.
- Extranet-based VPN: When companies connect to the office of another company, but without the possibility of one accessing the other directly, it is called an Extranet based VPN.
In the next section of this article on “What is a VPN”, we will discuss the various applications of VPN.
Let us now have a look at the applications of a VPN. Using a VPN is beneficial for many reasons.
- Firstly, if you work remotely or connect to public Wi-Fi, a VPN is the safest option.
- Secondly, in addition to providing a secure encrypted data transfer, VPNs are also used to disguise your whereabouts and give you access to regional web content. VPN servers act as proxies on the internet. VPN enables you to spoof your location, switch to a server to another country, and change your location. For example, VPN helps you hide your browsing activity from local networks and internet service providers.
- VPN connections can be used to download files from restricted websites.
- It is also used in a few countries to divert internet censorship.
How to Choose a VPN?
Deciding on which VPN to use depends on your needs. The finest VPNs should secure your internet connection with genuine encryption, connect you to VPN servers with supreme protocols, and provide great service.
Below are a few points that you need to consider while selecting a VPN:
- Ensure your VPN has an excellent encryption mechanism to hide your IP address from ISP and other third parties.
- Examine the server coverage. Make sure the VPN has worldwide VPN server coverage to reduce server load.
- Protocols are crucial to a VPN's security. Select a VPN that provides either OpenVPN or WireGuard for better encryption.
- Choose a VPN that offers an extra layer of protection via shared IP addresses.
- Go for a VPN provider that has multiple device coverage in one subscription.
- Ensure your VPN has a "Kill Switch" feature that shuts down your internet and terminates programs if the VPN service is interrupted.
- We recommend you get a free trial VPN to know if it serves your purpose and then become a premium subscriber.
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In today's article on what is a VPN, we learned about the importance of using a VPN, what is a VPN, how it works, and its applications. Do you have any queries regarding this topic? If yes, feel free to drop them in the comment section, and we will be happy to answer all your queries.