The use of the internet has expanded our possibilities so much in the last several decades, that the modern-day world looks and functions completely differently than as recently as 20 years ago. You can learn anything, buy anything, work, socialize, play games, watch movies and shows, and do a lot more — all of it from the comforts of your own home. However, all of this comes at a price — and I’m not talking about the cost of your internet subscription. No, the price we have to pay includes our information. The Internet gives us a lot of options and possibilities, but it also endangers our privacy and security. You cannot use it without giving something in return, and this could be a scary thing, considering the fact that you do not know who gets to see your data.
This is why the use of privacy technologies like VPN (Virtual Private Network) is not only recommended but should be considered mandatory for anyone concerned about their online privacy and security. Of course, you should not use any technology if you do not properly understand how it works and what it does, first. With that in mind, we will focus on explaining what a VPN is, what types of VPN there are, as well as what technology it uses to keep you safe.
What is a VPN?
Let’s start from the beginning and talk about what a VPN actually is. Simply put, VPNs are online privacy, security, and anonymity technologies. VPN comes in the form of an application, and it is mostly used on PCs or smartphones. However, some VPN providers also offer dedicated apps that were specially configured to work on Smart TVs and many other devices.
VPNs are good at what they do, which is to say that they are more than capable of protecting your privacy and anonymity while you surf the web. All you need to do is enable them, and they will keep you safe and anonymous.
How do VPNs work?
The first thing to realize is that every VPN is different. They may differ from one another in different ways, such as the quality of their security features, or even in terms of which security features are offered.
Three things that all VPNs have in common — three features that define VPN technology — are:
- Security protocols
- Server networks
Anything other than these three is a bonus that makes a VPN better, but these are necessary for a service to offer in order to be considered a VPN.
All three of these features work together with one another to ensure that you remain safe at all times. Security protocols are responsible for protecting your online traffic from view by creating a secure tunnel for your traffic to flow through. Encryption makes your traffic unreadable, so even if someone does manage to see it — they would not know what it is they are looking at.
Finally, a server network contains servers around the world, and by using the VPN app to connect to any of them — you replace your own IP address with the one that belongs to a VPN service. This is important because your IP address can reveal your identity and location. If you connect to any VPN server — every service on the internet will believe that you are located in the same place as that server.
This allows you to change your online location to another country, which, in turn, lets you bypass online censorship and geo-restrictions, which might prevent you from accessing certain content.
Types of VPNs
Now that you know what a VPN is and what it can do, it is time to go through different types of VPNs. VPNs can be classified into several different categories. For example, when it comes to their basic types, they could be Site-to-Site VPNs or Remote Access VPNs.
Remote Access VPN
A VPN that functions pretty much the way I described it earlier. It allows you to connect to a private network owned by a VPN service, and use all of its resources such as servers, remotely. All you need is an internet connection, and you can access the VPN’s network, and through it — a wider internet.
If you use a VPN for private purposes, this method can allow you to unblock foreign or censored content, such as streaming websites, online games, social networks, online shops, and other things that are out of reach in your region. Alternatively, you could also use a VPN as a business user, to protect your company’s secrets, or to communicate with your company’s network and remotely access its resources, files, and alike, in a safe way.
This is a more specific type of VPN which is typically used by large companies and organizations. Basically, if these firms have different offices, often in different countries — they could use Site-to-Site (also known as Router-to-Router) VPNs to connect these offices into a single network and communicate within.
Sometimes, different companies tend to establish such networks when they partner up. That way, their business transactions can remain private and secret, which prevents the competition or bad agents such as hackers from spying on their plans and activities.
If one company establishes a network that connects its own offices, that is called an Intranet-based VPN. Alternatively, if partnering firms do it, it is called an Extranet-based VPN.
Premium and Free
Paid VPNs are commonly known as Premium VPNs, and these are the services that you need to pay to use. Typically, they are a lot more secure, as they make a profit from their own users. That way, these services can focus more on security, and less on figuring out the way to stay in business. The best among them can provide very large server networks, often spanning through dozens of countries, with thousands of servers under their command. They also offer the strongest encryption, as well as the most powerful security protocols.
On the other hand, you have free VPNs, which are typically not as safe, or as efficient. Since you are not paying to use them, these VPNs tend to find another way to make a profit. Some of the worst ones will log your browsing history and other information and sell it to advertisers, the government, or anyone else who is willing to pay for it. They might also bombard you with ads, or use your own device in some way.
Not only that, but their security features are often cheap and not as good as premium ones, while their server networks are usually very small, with only a few dozen servers, as opposed to thousands that a premium VPN can provide. Not to mention that these servers tend to be very slow and overcrowded.
Some of them may even be malicious, capable of infecting your device with malware, while you think that they are keeping you safe. Because of that, people are usually advised against using free services.
Types of VPN Protocols
Another thing that we would like to focus on today is different VPN protocols. As a reminder — VPN protocols are a security feature that creates a shield around your traffic, thus preventing others from monitoring your activities.
They kept evolving over the years, so there are quite a few different ones today. Because of that, we have:
- Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
- Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
- Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
- SSL and TLS
- Secure Shell (SSH)
Now that you know what they are, I’m going to show you what they do. Below you’ll find a full analysis of each and every VPN protocol out there. Take a look.
This protocol is considered to be the strongest of the security protocols, as well as the most advanced. It is open-source, meaning that anyone can inspect its code, which provides certainty, transparency, and security. It is used for creating Site-to-Site and Point-to-Point connections. At the same time, it is based on SSL and TLS protocol.
SSL and TLS
Stands for Secure Socket Layer and Transparent Layer Security, which is a technology that creates a VPN connection that makes the browser act as a client. As a result, user access is limited to only specific applications, and you cannot access the entire network.
This is a protocol that is often used by online shops. With most browsers already being integrated with SSL and TLS, you don’t really have to do much in order to use this protocol in everyday browsing. Most websites are already using it, and you can confirm this by looking at the beginning of the URL. If it starts with HTTPS instead of HTTP — you will know that you are using a secure connection.
This protocol makes sure that internet communications across an IP network will remain safe and secure. It can secure IP communication by providing session verification, where all data packets get encrypted. It comes in two different modes — transparent mode, which encrypts the content of the data packet; and tunneling mode, which encrypts the entire packet.
It is a protocol that is seldom used on its own. Instead, services tend to combine it with another protocol, with IPSec being its most common partner. While this is clearly a disadvantage, the combination of the two can create a very secure connection. In this partnership, L2TP acts as a tunnel, while IPSec uses its own technology to encrypt the data.
A protocol that confines the data packet to a tunnel it has created. It uses PPP (Point-to-Point Protocol) for encrypting said data between the connection. It is a very common protocol, which confirms its quality and security features. However, it’s not the safest to use.
It creates a tunnel and encrypts it to make sure that the data will remain safe. By using it, you can easily transport the data from your local port to some remote server, which is, obviously, very useful to VPNs.
VPNs and Their Protocols – The Conclusion
And with that, we are done. In this article, we have explained what a VPN is and how it works. Also, we’ve shed some light on the main types of VPNs and their security protocols. It is important for you to know how these things work. That way, you’ll when you are safe and when you are not.
Basically, using a good-quality premium VPN can keep you safe at all times. However, using free VPNs may be attractive, but it is ultimately a bad move. As for the protocols, all of the ones mentioned above are widely used and are considered safe and secure. Many would say that OpenVPN sits above the rest, which is why most VPNs use it. However, a lot of VPNs offer most, if not all of these protocols, so you can just take your pick in the settings.
Did you get all you came for from this guide? Let me know if there’s anything else you wish to know in the comment section below.