It is undeniable that most internet users do not know what VPN is nor what it is used for. Be that as it may, they are very important for people who value their privacy. That is why I will explaining everything there is to know about it and the best VPN services to use.
What is a VPN?
A VPN, short for virtual private network is a service that allows you to access and surf the web privately by passing your connection through a server and making your online actions.
How does a VPN work
The function a VPN performs is somewhat simple once you get the basic idea of it. Here’s how it works. Once you have activated the VPN software, it encrypts your data even before your Internet Service Provider(ISP) or your Wi-Fi provider can access it. This data then moves to the VPN before arriving at your online destination(i.e target website). Anything from your banking website, to social media to a search engine undergoes this process. However this layer of protection is not available when you decide to surf the net without the software. In that scenario all your data is exposed and left out in the open. Of course this might be no cause for alarm when you’re just on a fun website but when it comes to sensitive things like business mails and online banking, one has to be cautious and opt for extra security-Thus the need for VPN services.
When you use a VPN service, your data is encrypted and moved in its encrypted state from your ISP to the VPN server. Visualise the VPN server as an errand boy that you send to give or fetch information to and from a website in place of you. The use of VPN solves the problem of privacy and security in three main ways:
- The destination site(i.e site you wish to access) views the VPN server as the origin of the traffic and not you.
- Your data is encrypted so even in the event that someone manages to gain access to what you are sending, all they will see is encrypted information instead of the raw data you inputted.
- No-one can easily establish or ID you as the origin of data nor what you’re doing. This is definitely safer than using the Web the usual way.
How Secure is VPN?
A VPN’s security is essentially only limited to two things: The law(Legal and policy limitations) and The limitation of the type of VPN technology used by the provider. Let us explore these two factors.
- Legal and Policy limitations
- Every good and credible VPN provider seeks to protect your data and privacy at all costs. But even they are still subject to the law and the jurisdictions they are in and this can affect their ability to perform their duties. Depending on the laws where these providers are based, a court order can force VPN providers to share whatsoever information they have on you.
- VPN Technology/Protocols: These define how a VPN service handles data transmission over a Virtual private network. There are various protocols some of which I have ranked from the least secure to the most.
- Point-to-Point Tunneling protocol(PPTP)
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol(L2TP)
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol(SSTP)
- Internet Key Exchange version 2(IKEV2)
- Open VPN
What this implies is that the safety of your data is dependent on the protocol applied by your provider.
Is using VPN Illegal?
The legality of a VPN is determined by where you are using it. They are legal in most of Western Europe but places like Iraq, North Korea and the United Arab Emirates consider them to be illegal. To know more about the legal status of VPN in your location, look up for any laws in your location that prohibit the usage of it or click the highlighted text Are VPNs legal in my country? -Revised list
Are VPN services free?
Definitely there are free VPN services but there are also paid ones. It is often said that nothing good comes cheap so it is advisable to get the paid versions. However if funds are not available, there are reasonable good free alternatives of paid ones to choose from.
Top five(5) VPNs
Now that you have a pretty good understanding of VPNs and all there is to know about them, it is time to look at the best and those that offer the most privacy out there. I have shortlisted five of the best VPN services for you below.
- Nord VPN(5600+ servers, 60 countries)
- CyberGhost(4500+ servers, 60 countries)
- Private Internet Access(3335+ servers, 33 countries)
- Express VPN(3000+ servers, 94 countries)
- Tor Guard(3000+ servers, 55 countries)
Hopefully this post has raised awareness on data security and your privacy. Endeavour to use a VPN when handling sensitive data and information on the web.