If you take a step back and consider how much of your life is transmitted over the inherently insecure internet, you may feel a creeping sense of dread. That’s reasonable, considering the forces arrayed against your privacy. One of the best ways to secure your data is to use a virtual private network (VPN), which also provides some control over how you’re identified online.
What Is a VPN and How Does It Work?
Simply put, a VPN creates a virtual encrypted tunnel between you and a remote server operated by a VPN service. All external internet traffic is routed through this tunnel, so your data is secure from prying eyes. Best of all, your computer appears to have the IP address of the VPN server, masking your identity.
When your data reaches the VPN server, it exits onto the public internet. If the site you’re heading to uses HTTPS to secure the connection, you’re still secure. But even if it was intercepted, it’s difficult to trace the data back to you, since it appears to be coming from the VPN server.
To understand the value of a VPN, it helps to think of some specific scenarios in which a VPN might be used. Consider the public Wi-Fi network, perhaps at a coffee shop or airport. Normally, you might connect without a second thought. But do you know who might be watching the traffic on that network? Can you even be sure the Wi-Fi network is legit, or might it operated by a thief who’s after your personal data? Think about the passwords, banking data, credit card numbers, and just plain private information that you transmit every time you go online.