Short for “Virtual Private Network”, VPN creates a secure connection between you and the Internet. This gives you an extra layer of privacy and anonymity so you can:
Hide your internet activity and location so that you cannot be tracked (especially on public WIFI networks)
Bypass online censorship and surf the internet freely
Download torrents safely and anonymously without losing speed
Unblock streaming platforms like Netflix, Disney + and others
This may sound daunting, but you definitely don't need to be a technical expert to use a VPN.
A VPN is an essential tool for keeping you safe and private online. Without a VPN, your internet activity can easily be monitored and intercepted by other people . This includes your browsing history, downloaded files, online banking data, and passwords.
Moreover, you can be tracked by the IP (Internet Protocol) of your device. Your IP address can reveal your real location and can be used to find you in real life. It's the same as sending postcards in the mail - everyone can read your message and find out your name and address.
However, when you connect to a VPN, your internet activity is encrypted and your IP address is masked. At the same time, no one will be able to find out who you are, what you are doing on the Internet: neither the Internet provider, nor hackers, nor government agencies.
Now, instead of postcards, you send an ultra-secure private message that only your recipient can read. The sender's address or name will not be listed anywhere. If anyone tries to find out this information, they will only see a set of encrypted data.
At a Glance: This Is How VPN Works
You start the VPN and connect to the server
Your internet traffic is encrypted by a VPN: no one can now monitor your online activity - not governments, not advertisers, not hackers.
Your encrypted traffic is sent to the VPN server you are connected to.
Now it seems like the starting point of your traffic is the VPN server . By and large, this is how you hide your real location information, replacing it with the location information of the VPN service. This helps you avoid surveillance and bypass internet censorship and firewalls in your home country.
Nobody will know that you are using a VPN. The encryption provided by the VPN protects your personal data so you can surf the Internet freely and anonymously.
VPN Pros: Benefits of Using a VPN
Now that you have an idea of what a VPN does and how it works, let's take a look at how it can help you.
Unblock Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video and more
If you were to travel to a country that doesn't have access to your favorite shows, you would still want to watch them, right? In some countries, access to platforms such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer and YouTube is blocked. This means that when you try to access the above platforms, the only thing you'll see is annoying error messages.
But a VPN can help you bypass geo-blocking and watch what you love from anywhere in the world . Some services (like Netflix) have learned about these tricks and have developed advanced VPN detection software to block VPN access. But it doesn't matter either! All you need to do is choose a VPN that can bypass any blockages .
The ability to play games with geo-restricted access from anywhere in the world
Has it ever happened to you that you want to play an online game, but find that access to it is blocked? You are not alone: this is a nuisance that many gamers around the world have encountered. However, with a VPN, you can change your location and play any games from anywhere in the world .
Torrenting can be risky because you cannot always be sure what the files you are downloading contain. Moreover, you run the risk of getting into trouble with the authorities if you download or upload files that you shouldn't.
A VPN can protect you by hiding your identity. VPN will also prevent your ISP from knowing what you are doing and limit your bandwidth. Some VPNs even have dedicated torrenting servers and additional anti-malware features.
Greater privacy and anonymity online
Have you ever sent your bank details to friends over the Internet? How often do you use public Wi-Fi networks? If so, you may have left a door wide open for hackers to your personal data. Especially if you were sending confidential information using a public Wi-Fi hotspot.
A good VPN uses the most advanced encryption to protect your data. A good VPN also ensures that the sites that process your data don't see where it came from, giving you the highest degree of anonymity.
In dozens of countries around the world, Internet content is censored for inconsistency with certain political or religious beliefs. If you're planning to travel to a country with strict internet censorship (like China), you'll need a VPN to bypass the restrictions . Without it, doing things as simple as searching Google or updating your Facebook status would be nearly impossible. A VPN will help you access Google or Facebook and protect your data from prying eyes.
In addition, you can use a VPN to bypass firewalls commonly found in office and educational networks.
Improving internet connection and speed
At times, your ISP can intentionally slow down the speed of your internet connection . Why? Perhaps because you discovered that you are torrenting, or because you have exceeded a certain data limit. Some ISPs use this strategy to force you to buy a more expensive subscription plan. This practice is known as bandwidth throttling.
With a VPN, everything you do is private , so even your ISP cannot see what you are doing. This means that it will not be able to limit the bandwidth of your Internet connection, so you may even notice an increase in speed.
Sometimes a VPN can help you save money. How? Many ecommerce platforms show users different prices based on their location. By connecting to a server in another country, you may see lower prices. For example, if the cost of booking a flight from the United States to the United Kingdom seems too high for you, try connecting to an Indian server, which is likely to help you find a better deal.
Remember this if you travel often or like to relax abroad. With a VPN, you can save a lot on airline tickets, car rental, home reservations, and online purchases.
Cons of VPN: Cons of using a VPN
They can slow down your internet connection a little. Your data must be encrypted and redirected through a VPN server that may be located at a significant distance from you. This inevitably leads to a loss in speed, but you can significantly reduce this loss by choosing a super-fast service
Some sites block VPN. Some sites (like Netflix) are very good at detecting situations when you are using a VPN and block you for doing so. However, the best VPNs on the market are quickly replacing blocked servers.
The best services cost money. Free VPNs do exist, but using them means putting up with limited features and security threats.
VPNs are illegal in some countries . You may get in trouble with the authorities if you use VPN in countries where VPN is illegal. These countries include China, Turkey and Iraq.
You will be sharing the IP address with other users. Many users connect to each VPN server, so your IP address is the same as that of other people. This can become a problem if someone who is connected to the same server as you behaves inappropriately: the IP address you are using may be blocked by some sites. Basically, you can be punished for the other person's misconduct. However, this can be avoided by choosing a VPN service that offers dedicated IP addresses.
VPNs are not available for all devices. It can be difficult to find apps for legacy devices or devices with uncommon operating systems.
What to look for when choosing a VPN
If you are considering subscribing to a VPN, make sure that the service you choose provides the following:
Strong encryption and high quality security protocols
The ability to access geo-blocked content
Compatibility with various devices and platforms
Excellent user experience
Reliable support team
Good value for money
Using a VPN can slow down your internet connection due to encryption and redirection of your data through the VPN server. With some VPNs, the difference in speed is subtle, while others can cause significant speed drops. In the latter case, a VPN will be of little use, so choose a service with unlimited bandwidth and a lot of fast servers .
Strong encryption and high quality security protocols
One of the main reasons to use a VPN is to make your internet connection as secure as possible, so don't overlook security issues. Look for a service that provides industry-standard AES-256 encryption and uses ultra-secure protocols like OpenVPN and IKEv2.
Ability to Access Geo-Blocked Content
A big plus with VPNs is that they allow you to bypass censorship and geographic restrictions. But not all VPNs are equal in this regard. If you want to use a VPN to access a specific site, such as Netflix , or to bypass the firewall of a specific country, do your research and make sure the VPN provider you choose provides the functionality you want before subscribing. You can also take advantage of the free trial or money-back guarantee to test a particular VPN service.
Simultaneous connection of multiple devices and cross-platform compatibility
You probably want to protect all of your devices, so look for a VPN provider that provides the ability to connect multiple devices at the same time . And don't forget to check if the VPN you choose is compatible with all of your devices.
Excellent user experience
Don't waste money on a slow, unreliable service with an incomprehensible interface. Before making your final choice, do your research and make sure that the VPN provider you choose has been highly rated by other users. A great way to do this is to read reviews.
Reliable customer support
You need to be sure that in case of any difficulties, you can quickly deal with them. Look for a VPN provider that provides 24/7 live chat and email support. It will be a plus if you can call support in case of a problem.
Good value for money
When you pay for any service, you need to be sure that it is worth the money. This does not mean at all that you need to choose the cheapest option. Look for a service that provides all of the above features at a reasonable cost.
How to Pick a Good VPN
So how do you choose the best VPN? The answer depends on the purpose for which you need a VPN. Take a look at the points below and choose which one best suits your needs.
Access to geo-blocked content
Ensuring confidentiality and anonymity (especially when using public networks)
If you want to know if a VPN service offers a specific feature, such as a kill switch or an app for your Smart TV, visit the VPN provider you are interested in. Typically, every VPN service has a section listing all the available features and a section listing all the available applications.
Access to geo-blocked content
If you want to access content that is blocked in your country (Netflix broadcasts, for example), you'll need a VPN to hide your actual location.
Speed: You can read reviews to find out the average speeds of various VPNs, or simply test a VPN with the (confirmed) highest speeds to see if it's right for you.
Geo-Blocked Content Accessibility: How do I know which streaming sites a VPN can provide access to? You can, for example, read reviews of the best VPNs for information on their ability to access popular content sites such as Netflix, and BBC iPlayer. Some top VPNs publish a list of sites they bypass geo-blocks right on their site page, so you can easily see if you can access your favorite content.
Server Locations: If you want to watch anime from the Japanese Netflix directory, you'll need a VPN service that has servers in Japan. And to access BBC iPlayer, you need a VPN with servers in the United Kingdom. Make sure the VPN service you choose has servers in all the locations you need. A list of server locations can usually be found on the VPN provider's website.
Device Compatibility: Check your VPN service of choice for all your devices, including smart TVs and streaming devices.
Ensuring confidentiality and anonymity (especially when using public networks)
Public Wi-Fi networks are notorious for being insecure, so it's best to always use a VPN to keep your data safe when connected. This section will also be useful to you if you want to always maintain the maximum degree of anonymity.
Ultra Strong Encryption: Your VPN should have military grade encryption - AES-256, the most secure in the industry. This will protect your information from hackers.
Reliable Protocols: Make sure the selected VPN service is using OpenVPN or IKEv2. These are the most reliable protocols available. Their use guarantees the confidentiality of your data.
DNS Leak Protection: At times, software issues cause your IP address to be visible even while using a VPN. This is not what you want when you connect to the public network! So what can you do?
Internet Knockout Feature: This feature disconnects you from the Internet if the VPN connection fails. This is important because it ensures that no one on the same network as you ever gains access to your data. Not all VPN services offer a kill switch, and this should be considered when choosing a provider.
Torrenting comes with risks: malware can gain access to your device, and you can get in trouble with the authorities if you download something that you shouldn't. A good VPN will protect you from both threats.
Ultra Strong Encryption: If you want your actions to be as private as possible, you need a VPN with military grade encryption - AES-256.
Speed: A fast connection is important for torrenting, so make sure your VPN provider's site lists "Unlimited Bandwidth" as an advantage. It also helps to read the reviews to find out how fast the servers of the selected VPN server are.
P2P Support: Some VPN providers will limit your bandwidth if they find you are torrenting. Because of this, you should always look on the website of VPN service providers for information on whether they support P2P. Some VPN providers don't mind torrenting and even offer dedicated P2P servers.
Anti-malware: Some VPNs offer additional features to keep you safe from malware.
Reliable Protocols: As mentioned above, it is worth making sure that the VPN service you choose is using OpenVPN or IKEv2. In this case, no one will know that you are working with torrents.
Internet Knockout Feature: This feature will disconnect you from the Internet in the event of a VPN connection failure, so your activities will never be made public. If you are worried about possible troubles with the authorities, this function is a must.
A VPN can help you bypass censorship at work, university, or even in countries where internet access is heavily restricted. VPN use is illegal in some countries. Remember this and do not risk your safety.
Ultra Strong Encryption: Your VPN must have military grade encryption - AES-256. This is especially important if you are in a country where it is illegal to use a VPN - you definitely don't want to get caught red-handed.
Ability to bypass censorship: For most services, it will not be difficult to bypass Internet access restrictions in your workplace. Bypassing the Great Firewall of China is another matter. If you are planning a trip to a highly censored country, choose services that are guaranteed to work there.
Reliable Protocols: Make sure the VPN service you choose uses the OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol. This is again most relevant for countries where you might get in trouble with a VPN.
Free VPN vs Paid VPN: Is It Worth The Money?
There are many free VPNs out there, and you may be tempted to use one due to financial constraints. Some of the free VPNs are quite reliable, have the ability to keep your data private, and are fine for regular web browsing.
However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to use free VPNs. First, free VPNs tend to have low speeds and data limits of 2GB per month. This means that you are unlikely to be able to use them for anything other than normal page browsing. If something goes wrong, you will not be able to contact customer service. Some free VPN providers use weak protocols (such as PPTP) with many security flaws.
And that is not all. Some free VPN services may use gray schemes to raise funds to provide their services. Free VPNs can constantly show you unwanted, annoying ads, trick you into downloading malware, or even collect and sell your data.
Getting Started: How to Set Up VPN on Different Devices (Step-by-Step Guides)
VPNs usually strive to make the process of setting up their applications as easy as possible, so don't worry: getting started with a VPN will be easy! Below are some easy step-by-step guides that will allow you to set up a VPN on all your favorite devices.
Please note that the steps you will need to follow may differ from the following depending on the VPN service you choose and the operating system you are using. If you have any difficulty, check the directions on the site of your chosen VPN service.
3 easy steps to install VPN on Windows, Mac OS and Linux devices
Many VPNs offer apps for Windows, macOS, and even Linux. The installation process is the same for all operating systems:
Download and install VPN. Once the installation is complete, launch the VPN application and connect to the server in the country of your choice. That's all! Now you can start using the Internet freely and safely .
Quick guide: how to set up a VPN on your Android or iOS phone
Nearly every VPN offers dedicated apps for Android and iOS devices. Follow these steps to install VPN on your phone:
Download the VPN app from the app store. Open the VPN app, log into your account and tap the server location to connect. Everything is ready! VPN now protects your smartphone .
For most Smart TVs on the market, there are no VPN applications. If you want to use a VPN with your Smart TV, you will need to first install the VPN router app (see below for instructions on how to do this ). After that, connect your Smart TV to the router and it will automatically connect to the remote VPN server.
If your smart TV is running Android, you can use the VPN app for Android TV. This will save you the hassle of connecting through a router.
Most people use VPNs on select devices like laptops or smart TVs. But you can also install a VPN app on your router to protect any device connected to your Wi-Fi network . Once you've done that, you don't have to install VPN apps on separate devices, unless of course you use them outside your home.
Before subscribing to a VPN service, visit the service's website and make sure its app is compatible with your router.
The installation process depends on the model of your router and the selected VPN service, but usually looks like this:
Download VPN Firmware.
Connect your router to an electrical outlet and the Internet.
Connect your router to your computer.
Go to your router's control panel.
Come up with a username and password.
Click the Upgrade Firmware tab.
Download the firmware you just downloaded to work with the VPN.
Enter the activation code from the VPN setup page.
Click the "Activate" button .
Since the methods for setting up VPN on routers may vary, be sure to check the steps on your VPN service website.
VPN Frequently Asked Questions
Is it legal to use a VPN?
In most cases, using a VPN is completely legal . However, in some countries with strong censorship (for example, China, Turkey and Iraq) they are prohibited. The penalties for using a VPN in the event of being caught red-handed can be quite severe. Keep this in mind when traveling.
Are VPNs really secure?
It is difficult to give a definite answer, because different services offer different functions to ensure protection. VPN security depends on the technologies and protocols used by the service . Look for AES-256 encrypted services that use the OpenVPN or IKEv2 protocol and offer additional features (DNS leak protection and kill switch) for maximum security.
Which VPN protocol should I use?
OpenVPN has always been the most popular choice, but now many people are switching to the new WireGuard protocol. Ultimately, the choice of VPN protocol depends on the balance of protection and speed you want, as well as your device.
Do VPNs provide anonymity while working online?
While many VPN service providers claim to provide complete anonymity while browsing the Internet, the truth is that VPNs provide privacy, not anonymity. The VPN service assigns you a new IP address belonging to one of its servers in a different location from yours, but the VPN service provider can still see the data about the pages you visit .
No VPN server can run without logging: logging allows the server to handle DNS requests and troubleshoot connection problems. The key difference here is that the best
VPNs don't keep logs of your personal information . This means that even with a court order to share information about the sites you visit, the best VPNs won't be able to. This is especially true if your VPN service is located outside the countries of the aforementioned alliances.
While using a VPN will not give you complete anonymity, it is still a good tool for increasing your privacy while on the Internet. If you want complete anonymity, you should use VPN and Tor at the same time - an open network that does not collect any information about users.
Will a VPN slow down my internet speed?
A VPN can slow down your internet speed as your data is transferred through the VPN server. Moreover, the VPN will encrypt and decrypt your data, which also takes time.
It is worth noting that using different VPNs is associated with different speed drops, and this must be taken into account when choosing a VPN.
Your internet speed will also depend on the server you choose. Typically, the further away the server is, the slower the Internet, as it takes longer for the data to get to the server. If you connect to a server nearby, you will hardly notice the difference in internet speed.
Do I need an ISP to use VPN?
The VPN won't notice your ISP. An ISP allows you to connect to the Internet, while a VPN simply protects your data when you surf the web.
Can a VPN be used on more than one device?
Yes. Most VPNs offer dedicated apps for several types of devices and operating systems.
If you want to use VPN on multiple devices, make sure the VPN provider of your choice allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously and offers apps for all the devices on which you intend to use the VPN.
What devices can I use VPN on?
It all depends on the VPN provider. Most premium VPNs are compatible with Apple, Windows and Android devices. Some VPNs can be used on Linux devices, smart TVs, and even routers.
Free VPN services usually only support specific devices. To avoid disappointment, check which devices are supported by your VPN provider before signing up for a service or subscribing to a data plan.
Do VPN services keep logs?
Are VPNs useful for torrenting? Why?
It's better to work with P2P networks using a VPN , because you never know exactly what the downloaded files contain and who their sender is. If you're sharing files that you shouldn't, your ISP won't know if you're using a VPN. This will help you avoid a warning, fine, or even jail time.
However, while many major VPNs support P2P, other VPNs do not. When choosing a VPN for torrenting , make sure it adheres to a no-log policy, offers unlimited bandwidth, and provides fast download speeds.
Can I watch Netflix with a VPN?
It depends on the VPN service provider you choose. Although Netflix can be watched in over 100 countries around the world, the broadcasts and movies available vary from country to country due to licensing agreements. However, a good VPN can help .
Netflix and other platforms like Hulu and BBC iPlayer restrict access to users based on their location, which they identify by their IP address. To avoid blocking and watch Netflix shows that are only available in a certain country, you just need to connect to a server located in that country .
Netflix is constantly improving its technology to block people who use VPNs, but many of the best VPNs provide information on which of their servers can bypass Netflix blocks.
Do VPNs work on Android?
Yes, as long as the VPN provider of your choice has a dedicated Android app. Beware of free VPN apps for Android, as research shows that many of these apps are the culprit of user information leaks or malware.
Do VPNs work on iOS?
Yes. Before choosing a VPN, make sure it has a dedicated iOS app and is trustworthy. All major VPNs have iOS apps.
Do VPNs work on Kodi?
Yes, VPNs can help you improve your privacy while watching streams on Kodi, VPNs can also help you access content that would otherwise be inaccessible to you due to your location. With a VPN, you can safely watch broadcasts using add-ons without worrying about threats from hackers and other third parties.
For best results, choose a VPN that supports P2P networks. Also, make sure the service you choose has apps for the devices you want to use Kodi on.
Do VPNs work on Smart TVs?
Yes. If you want to use a VPN on your Smart TV, go to a VPN service that has a dedicated app for your device. Some VPN services offer detailed instructions on how to manually set up a VPN on your Smart TV in case you can't find an app that works.
How to use TOR with a VPN?
Using a VPN with the Tor network is the key to complete anonymity. To use a VPN with Tor, do the following:
Turn on the VPN connection.
Open your Tor browser.
This will allow you to increase your privacy, but it may also slow down your Internet speed. You might get into trouble if you plan on downloading large files, so using VPN and Tor at the same time is only good for safe browsing and streaming, and gaming.
When should you use a VPN?
Top reasons for using a VPN include:
hiding data about the pages viewed from third parties
data encryption during online transmission
hiding the location to access geo-blocked content
ensuring security while using public Wi-Fi hotspots
getting access to lower prices while shopping online
Use a VPN when you need heightened online privacy, anonymity and security.
When shouldn't you use a VPN?
There is no reason not to use a VPN at any time. A VPN protects you from governments, ISPs, ads, and even hackers.
How are VPNs different from proxy servers? Which is better to use?
Proxies simply mask your IP address, while VPNs encrypt your data as well. Therefore, it is better to use VPNs as they provide a much greater degree of security .
Can I be tracked if I use a VPN?
It depends on the VPN - which is why it is important to know how to identify a quality VPN provider . If you've downloaded a VPN with weak privacy controls, you can still be tracked, even if you're connected through Tor or using advanced features (like Multi-Hop or hidden servers). In addition, marketing slogans are not always worth believing - many “logless” VPNs in practice turn out to be services that collect user data.
Choose a VPN with a proven no-log policy and a reputation for protecting user privacy.
Is it safe to use a VPN for online banking?
Yes, a VPN provides an extra layer of security for online banking. It will be especially useful if you need to make financial transactions while traveling or via a public WiFi network in a cafe, hotel or library. A VPN encrypts your traffic and hides your IP address before they reach the bank so that your personal billing information is always protected from being monitored by third parties (especially hackers).
How much does a VPN cost?
You can easily purchase a VPN for up to $2 per month with a long term subscription (2 years or more). A monthly plan costs approximately $10, while a 1 year plan will cost $6 per month. However, price shouldn't be the only factor when choosing a service - you also need to consider the quality of the VPN and its features.
Should I use a VPN on my phone?
Yes, connecting a VPN on your smartphone is a good idea if you value your online privacy. Just like a desktop/laptop computer, your phone can also be susceptible to third-party surveillance and data leaks. Unfortunately, there are a large number of apps that contain malware and trackers specifically designed to track Android and iPhone users.
With a VPN, you can protect and encrypt your personal data. It will also let you unblock inaccessible sites (if you live in an online censored country) and streaming platforms from around the world like Netflix and Disney +.
Glossary of Common VPN Terms (to make technical jargon easier to understand)
The Five/Nine/Fourteen Eyes Alliances (5/9/14 Eyes) are international security alliances whose countries cooperate in the collection and exchange of large-scale intelligence data. Any VPN provider located in a country that is part of one of these alliances can record and share data about your online activity.
Encryption - converting data using a code for secure transmission.
Geo-Blocked Content - Content that is blocked in some countries, but can be accessed using a VPN.
IP Address Leak - VPN crash that reveals your IP address. An ISP is a company that you pay to provide you with Internet access.
Network/Internet Knockout Feature is a VPN feature that automatically disconnects your Internet connection if it becomes insecure. This feature ensures that your data is always encrypted and helps to avoid IP leaks.
Logs - data stored by your VPN service about you and your online activity.
Multi-Hop: VPN feature that routes your internet connection through 2 VPN servers (instead of 1), making it harder to track your device.
Proxy server: is a server that acts as an intermediary between your device and the rest of the Internet. Using a proxy server increases privacy as you do not interact directly with other servers, which means your IP address is not visible.
Router: is a device that sends data between computer networks. Your ISP will usually provide you with a router to enable you to access the Internet.
TOR: is software that allows you to chat anonymously online. It sends your data across a worldwide network of volunteers, making it very difficult for anyone to determine where the data came from.
VPN app: is a program that you install on your device to connect to a VPN server. VPN protocol is a set of processes used by VPN applications and VPN servers to transfer data securely. Different protocols provide different degrees of security.
VPN Server: is a computer controlled by your VPN service that you can connect to using a VPN application. Your data is redirected through a server, thereby hiding your actual location and IP address.
VPN service: is a service that enhances security by encrypting your Internet traffic and masking your IP address. The VPN service also allows you to bypass censorship, giving the impression that you are in a different place.