Guide to Private Internet Access | VPN Guide For Dummies 1Source

VPN is an abbreviation for ‘Virtual Private Network’. A VPN gives you a “private
network,” and a “virtual location.” The private network completely fences you off
and prevents unauthorized access to your network. The “virtual” part of the
VPN lets you access the private network from a virtual location.

Thus, a VPN efficiently encrypts your true connection allowing you to surf the net
anonymously. VPN commonly comes with a collection of servers that you can
link up to via your ISP’s network. This process is referred to as tunneling. It
conceals your true location and gives you the virtual location of the server.

The tunneling process protects your online activities and lets you operate from a
secure and private “online office space,” secluded from everyone else. Every
online activity you perform from this sheltered and isolated space, including all
your data traffic is encrypted.

So, with a VPN, you have a good amount of online
privacy and your activities are hidden from prying eyes including your internet
service provider.

Common VPN terms

• VPN client

A VPN client is a software that links your computer or mobile device to the
services of a VPN provider. The VPN client is also referred to as a ‘VPN app’.

• VPN protocol

The VPN protocol is a process through which your device securely connects to a
VPN server.

• VPN server

A VPN server is just one end-point in a VPN network where you can link up to
encrypt your online activities.

• VPN service

A VPN service is a VPN company that links you up with their network after you
sign up with them. Some of these services provide you with VPN software, while
others don’t. You’d normally be able to access these services through a monthly
or annual subscription. The term VPN service, VPN company, or VPN provider all
means the same thing.

How a VPN works

A VPN functions by encrypting the connection between your computer or Mobile
device and the tunneled VPN server. The encrypted connection works more like a
secured “tunnel” and allows you to access any online content as if you are
physically located in the country where the server is located.

This way, you enjoy your web activities with the greatest amount of anonymity. In
addition, your online activities enjoy more security. Besides, you have the
freedom to access any online content without any form of restriction.
The VPN encryption means your data is kept safe and secure against all prying
eyes including hackers, governments, and ISPS. This is great because when you
surf the net without a VPN service, all your activities can be tracked to your
physical location through the IP address of your computer or mobile device. Any
device you use to access the internet is assigned with a unique IP address,
whether it is the computer or a mobile device.

Because the majority of top VPN providers have servers scattered all over the
world, VPN makes it possible for you to gain access to contents from any part of
the world. When you sign up to a VPN service by paying the subscription fee, you
can download the VPN software to your device and start to surf the web
anonymously.

Why use a VPN?

There are a lot of reasons to use a VPN. Given, the escalating incidences of online
security issues happening day by day, VPNs are priceless for remaining secure and
protecting your privacy while you surf online. Some of the reasons you want to
subscribe to a VPN service include:

1. Surf securely online

One of the primary reason to sign up with a VPN provider is to secure your online
activities. VPN tunneling ensures all your personal data are encrypted. And this
makes it difficult for any hacker trying to intercept your personal information like
banking details.

A VPN also means you can surf online securely through your local coffee shop
public Wi-Fi while winding down. Besides, a VPN also offers you protection
against other security issues including virus attack, malware attack, phishing
attack, IP leakages, identity theft, and other fraudulent activities against your
personal information online. So, you can carry out your online transactions with
confidence knowing that your banking details are secure.

2. Maintain online Privacy

Privacy is another reason you want to use a VPN service. VPN encryption keeps
your personal data like banking details, credit card information, etc from being
accessed by unauthorized internet users. Some best VPN providers keep no log of
user’s activities and this means there is no trace of all your online activities. This
way you surf the internet with confidence and anonymously.

There are different ways a VPN protects your privacy online. These include:
• Protecting your data and online activities from your internet service provider
(ISP) through tunneling and encryption. Your ISP can only know you connected to
a VPN and won’t be able to track your online activities.
• You will be able to circumvent censorship and stay secure from prying eyes or
from governmental agencies like the FBI and NSA. The majority of these spying eyes
get information about you from your ISP.
• A VPN conceals your real identity and location making it difficult for the
website you visit to track your real identity. They can only see the IP address of
the VPN server and not the real IP from your local ISP.
An important thing to note is that it is still possible for your browser cookies to
track your activities even while using a VPN. You can set your browser to private
mode as you surf to prevent any of such tracking. It may also help to install
software that blocks such tracking activities like ghostery.

3. Gain access to geographically restricted content

There are some contents that are restricted to a specific geographical location.
This means you cannot access such contents from certain locations across the
world. However, a VPN allows you to mask your real location giving you a virtual
location, so you can surf any website you want without such restrictions. This
way you can access content blocked by your workplace or by your educational
institution.

4. Circumventing censorship

With the Virtual address, the VPN offers to you, you can as well evade government
censorship. Because VPN services have servers located in different parts of the
world, you can tunnel into a server of your preferred location. For instance, if you
are in a location where Netflix streaming is not allowed, you can stream away by
connecting into a VPN server of a country where it is not banned.

To watch interesting things online

Although BBC iPlayer is a free service, it can only be accessed from the UK. But
With a VPN, you can stream away and enjoy its amazing programs from any part
of the world. Again, despite the near-ubiquitous availability of Netflix and the near
equal subscription rate everywhere, if you are in the US, you can access almost
fifty percent more library than if you access it from other parts of the world. With
a VPN service, you can steam as if you are located in the US.

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How to use a VPN

The first thing you need to do is to subscribe to a VPN service. These services
commonly have servers spread around different parts of the world.
Next, download special software referred to as a VPN client or app. Through the
VPN app, your computer, or mobiles devices connect to the VPN server of your
provider. Ensure you select a VPN server in a different location. This way you
conceal your true identity and location and surf as if you live in the country whose
server you are using.
Any information you transfer from your computer or mobile phone travels in an
encrypted form and cannot be seen by anyone without legal permission to access

or view such content. This way the VPN server represents the internet access
point and gateway for data you receive and send online.

Setting up a VPN

VPN setup information would vary depending on the device you are using for your
online activities and your VPN provider. However, a good number of the best VPN
services require the following simple installation steps:
• Sign up to a reputable VPN service
• Choose and pay for a subscription plan
• Download the desktop or mobile VPN client or app depending on the device
you are using it.
• As soon as you install the app, log in to the VPN service with your information
from the app.
• Once you log in, select your desired VPN server and you are set to freely surf
the net privately and securely.

VPN protocols and encryption

VPN providers commonly provide different types of VPN Protocols that users can
use with their VPN client.

What does a VPN protocol mean?

VPN protocols are a group of instructions set up to create a secure and encrypted
the connection between your PC or mobile device and a VPN server to help in the
transfer of data.
VPN encryption makes use of a collection of diverse security protocols to
function. These include Layer 2 Tunneling protocols, Secure Socket Tunneling
Protocol (SSTP), and Point-to-Point Tunneling (PPTP).
Below are some of the popularly used VPN protocols:

OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the best, most secure, and most preferred VPN protocol. This protocol
is compatible with all types of devices and makes use of many different
authentication systems. It comes with many features and works with UDP or TCP
port. OpenVPN commonly uses very secure protocols which include the OpenSSL
library and TLS.

IKEv2/IPSec

The Internet Key Exchange version 2 VPN protocol is a safe security protocol that
allows fast downloads. It is pre-installed in many operating systems out of the box
including windows, Mac, and iOS. This VPN protocol is great for mobile devices
and helps to re-connect you if there is a temporal loss of a connection. However,
the protocol is not open-sourced. It is a product of Cisco and Microsoft but works
just like OpenVPN for mobile devices.

L2TP/IPSec

Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol(L2TP) is another good VPN protocol. It offers more
security than the PPT Protocol. However, it is slower because it comes with a two-
fold summed up data packets. You will mostly found this inbuilt in mobile devices
and also in a lot of OS.

PPTP

PPT Protocol is a standard VPN protocol pre-installed on most operating systems.
Sadly, the PPT Protocol has some security issues and no longer works for safe
surfing and maintaining online privacy and security reasons.

WireGuard

WireGuard protocol is the latest VPN protocol under development. It is developed
with top security and premium performance that intends to surpass the existing
protocols. It is not a finished product yet, however, many VPN services integrate it
to investigate and test it out.

Factors to consider while choosing a VPN provider

There are now simple scores and scores of VPN providers to choose from. Finding
the one that’s right for you comes down to a few basic considerations:

1. Security Vs cost

You need a VPN service that offers premium security protocols. Besides using
high-quality security protocols, the VPN company must also constantly work hard
to ensure adequate maintenance of such protocols. A good place to start is to
research the user reviews of customers of your potential VPN client.

2. Cost

Look for VPN providers with an affordable price tag. Though you can find
providers that offer free VPN services, you can really trust these services to
perform as much as paid services. In general, a VPN service with good speed,
connection time, security protocol and a high level of online privacy would come
at a higher cost.

However, you can still be able to get good VPN providers that offer competitive
prices. You can further reduce subscription costs by subscribing to a one-year or
two-year plan.

3. Privacy and Security

Ensure that the VPN service keeps no log of user’s activities if you want your
online activities to remain private. Also, check that they offer rock-solid
encryption services to ensure your data is safe. Do not take the claims of
providers for their words. Check that their claims are true with trial offers and
also by reading reviews of certified users of the service.

4. IP sharing

One more factor to consider while shopping around for the best VPN service is to
check if a provider offers IP sharing. This feature means that more than one user
can use an IP address. IP sharing is another degree of protection as it makes it
difficult to track the activity of the IP address to a single user.

5. Server quantity

Look for a VPN provider with large numbers of servers. The larger the server, the
faster the connection as that would mean there are not too many people
cramming together in a specific server at a time.

 

6. Country locations

Besides, the need for large numbers of servers, these servers need to also be
widely distributed across many countries of the world. That larger the servers and
the country location of these servers, the better for speed and ease of access. It
would also mean that you can easily stream content from any part of the world by
tunneling into a server located in your interesting country.

7. IP leakage

Check that your prospective VPN provider has a free trial offer. If they do, sign up
and visit the IP detecting site. If you can still see your ISP IP address, look another
way. Such a service is not sufficiently secure and won’t ensure your online safety.

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8. Easy-to-use Interface

The VPN software you chose needs to be easy to use. If it is complicated, you may
want to find a better option. It needs to have a user-friendly interface and allows
you to easily sign in and out. Again, it should also allow you to change server
locations.

9. Speed

While you need privacy and security, these should not come at the expense of
speed. A retarded connection can leave you frustrated. Ensure your VPN provider
always offers a fast connection speed above 5Mbps.

10. Supported Platforms

The VPN protocol that is best for your PC differs from the best option for mobile
devices. Your choice would depend on your unique needs and what operating
system you hope to use- computer, Mac, iOS, or Android.

11. Concurrent Connections

VPN providers commonly offer specific numbers of concurrent connections. This
is a good choice if you hope to be able to use yours on both your computer and

mobile devices. The number of concurrent connections offered by providers
varies. So check that your VPN service provider’S offer is suitable for your needs.

12. Kill Switches

Kill switch feature turns off the connection automatically anytime, there is a
possible security threat. This helps to keep your data safe and maintain your
privacy online. A VPN service which incorporates an advanced skill switch feature
is a good option.

13. Money-Back Guarantee

A trustworthy VPN provider is not afraid to offer a money-back guarantee should
things go awry. So, choose a provider that offers a free trial period or money-back
guarantee.

14. Easy Software Installation

Look for a provider with a user-friendly interface and easy-to-install VPN client.
Carry out research before settling on a final choice to be doubly-sure.

15. Customer Support

You want to be able to easily reach out to your VPN provider if you have any
concern, So, ensure that your provider has 24/7 top-notch customer service
support and that you can reach them through instant messaging, email messaging
and via phone call.

VPNs and Logs Keeping

If you want to maintain your online privacy, you need to ensure that your VPN
provider keeps no logs of your online activities including your usage logs and
connection logs. While some top VPN providers have zero log policy, a few other
providers keep limited or temporal logs of user’s activities. You need to double-
check that your provider has a no-logging policy to ensure complete anonymity.

VPN Vs Proxy server

A proxy server conceals your true IP address allowing you to access restricted
content but your traffics travels without encryption. This means your data can be
intercepted by other users like hackers and identity thieves.
A VPN, on the other hand, comes with all the benefit of a proxy server and, in
addition, it encrypts your data and safeguards it from falling into a wrong hand as
you surf the web.

VPN Vs DNS

Similar to a proxy server, a DNS service does not securely tunnel your network
traffic. This gives it faster speed but prone to security breaches. Besides, altering
your device DNS settings leaves your IP address bare because it is only a few of
your browsing traffic that routes via the DNS server. VPN works better for
maintaining the privacy and keeping your online data safe.

VPN Vs Firewall

A firewall safeguards your device from threats from inbound traffics like viruses and
worm attacks. You need a VPN to keep your outgoing data safe. Firewall
completes the functions of VPNs and together they offer premium data
protection.

VPN App Vs VPN Plugin/VPN Browser

VPN browsers or plugins offer you protection against your web browsers traffic.
Every other traffic from your device is not concealed from the prying eyes
including hackers and your ISP. On the flip side, a VPN app encrypts and
safeguards all your device’s network traffic.

Issues you may encounter while using a VPN

There are a few issues you may encounter while using a VPN service and these
include the following:

Address Spoofing

Although it may be great to spoof your address to access restricted web content
or evade censorship, it does pose some problem when you want to do something

like shopping. Tunneling into a VPN server in another country means that prices
of product, you want to purchase online get displayed in the foreign currency
instead of your local currency.

Speed issues

Accessing sites with a VPN slows down your connection which can be distasteful.
Although this may be insignificant sometimes it is hard to ignore.
There are a number of best VPN service that offers fast speed as well. However,
despite the speed issue, getting a VPN is a good idea given the increasing
numbers of internet attacks. The benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.

VPN leaks

Sometimes, VPN leaks occur and these can vary from:

• DNS leak: Your DNS request leaks out revealing your true IP address and
location.
• IP address leaks: Your true IP address leaks out of a VPN tunnel either briefly
or for an extended time.
• WebRTC leaks: Your ISP IP address leaks out through your browser even when
you use premium quality VPN service. It can happen with Firefox, Chrome, and a
few other browsers.

Is it lawful to use VPNs?

Every individual has the right to privacy which includes online privacy.
Nevertheless online privacy law varies from country to country. China and some
countries in the Middle East frown against the use of VPNs to evade government
censorship, but not really an outright ban to the VPN service as a whole.
However, VPN use is legal in the majority of Western countries. Many businesses
are currently using VPNs to keep their data safe.

What’s the best VPN service?

The best VPN service depends on your personal needs, why you want to use a
VPN service and the device you are using to surf the net. all boils down to your

own unique needs and use cases for the service. The best choice for top
encryption standards and surfing anonymous would differ from an easy to use
VPN service that allows torrenting and Netflix streaming.

Conclusion

Now, you know what VPN is and why you need one, it is a good idea to get one to
ensure your private information remain safe while you surf online. The world has
gone digital and day by day we share a lot of personal information online. While
we daily enjoy the benefits of the internet, we should exercise the greatest
amount of caution to ensure we remain safe. And there is no better way to do it
than through a VPN service. VPNs offer much more advanced protection
compared to that provided by SSL protocols, antivirus programs, and so on.