The cell phone industry is a high tech industry which has many different ways to monitor one’s usage of the cell phone. You may have heard the term VPN on the news. However, the news hasn’t done a good job of explaining what is a VPN. Let’s take a look.
What Is A VPN?
VPN stands for virtual private network, VPN’s provide a way to route your connection through the internet through another device or network.
By connecting this way your traffic doesn’t appear on your local network, only the traffic to the other device appears. Any outside entity that attempts to see who is visiting their site just sees the host device’s information.
Not everything is hidden by a VPN so make sure to read the What Does A VPN Hide? Section so you know what is safe and what isn’t.
How Does A VPN Work?
When you access the internet you are typically doing it through a public connection. The one provided by your internet provider (or ISP). All of the data is sent directly from your device (cell phone or computer) out into the internet.
That means any connection you have sees your device whether it is a site you want to have your information or not.
The beauty of a VPN is that all of your traffic is rerouted. Instead of going straight out to the internet, your data is sent to another network or device, then broadcast out onto the World Wide Web.
The reverse is also true. If you are trying to retrieve information, such as a website, it goes through the VPN first, then back to your device.
A VPN doesn’t just grant you access to the internet. You can also get access to any resources that are on the virtual network that you are connecting to.
Files can be shared without the need for internet hosting, as well as applications and other data.
In order to connect to a VPN, your device reaches out through the internet (or a private network) to another point, then establishes a connection.
This can be done through a number of ways such as a dedicated connection, virtual tunneling, or encrypted traffic.
Why Would You Use A VPN?
What you have probably gathered by this point is that many people use a VPN to hide their traffic. Sometimes that is a legitimate use of a VPN, sometimes it is not.
People don’t want the government, their ISP, or any other entity being able to monitor what they are doing. So this helps to keep sensitive information such as credit cards, secure. It also helps to keep your location secure.
Hiding your information isn’t the only reason one might turn to a VPN though. Many businesses utilize VPNs to have their remote offices and remote works appear to be coming through their headquarters.
They may also use a VPN to allow people to access programs and data that the office relies on.
Individuals who are tech-savvy might also use a VPN to access their home networks while they are traveling. That way you can access your files from wherever you go.
Another use for a VPN that is arguably not completely legitimate is to access websites that have geographic locks.
Many media websites are locked to the country they originate, The BBC and Fox are two examples of websites that lockout specific regions.
If you are on a VPN from within their region, you will be able to access their website. Most of the time.
What Does A VPN Hide?
The main purpose of a VPN is to hide your geographical information. All of your traffic appears to be from the VPN’s host. Your IP address won’t even show up if you are just accessing a traditional website.
Data that is transferred between your device and the VPN host is encrypted. At least in most cases. That means that anyone who attempts to access the data will just get a bunch of encrypted information that won’t help them very much.
A big point that you need to keep in mind is that anything that the VPN host sends out onto the internet is not encrypted. It acts just like a normal internet connection from that point on.
Any information that you put into a form or otherwise submit to a website is only masked until it reaches the general internet.
In addition to that, some website based programs require some of your device’s information in order to run. Flash and Java are two good examples of this.
Information that is sent to the VPN may also be logged by the company that runs the VPN. Essentially, they have access to all of the data that you send through them.
Many virtual private network companies will have a disclaimer that your information may be logged. Often times this isn’t for malicious purposes, it is to prevent criminals from using a VPN.
Because a VPN has access to all, or most, of your data, it is important to find a company that you trust. You don’t want to just sign up for the first virtual private network provider that you see.
You should read some reviews to find out what other people have said about them on the internet.
Many people think that private browsing mode on their internet browser does all of this. The only thing that this does, is to prevent information from being stored on your device.
Your search history, browser history, and cache are not stored on the device. Any outgoing traffic remains mostly unchanged.
How To Use A VPN?
Now you have learned quite a few things about VPNs. However, one major thing has been left out. How do you use a VPN? Well, this is one thing you won’t get a solid answer on. Because there are various ways of doing this.
Many VPNs now feature their own software. You install it onto your device and the software manages your internet connection.
No fancy setup is needed and you can easily view the status of the VPN. Another great benefit of this is that you can switch between the VPN and your network at any time, simply by turning off the VPN in the program.
Traditionally though, a VPN is set up either through the cell phone’s generic internet settings or through your browser settings. When this is the case your VPN provider will give you details on how to connect to the VPN.
It is harder to change back to your own network when the VPN is set up through your device’s settings. That being said, it utilizes fewer resources from your device.
Individually plugging VPN data into your browser gives you the ability to have individual browsers that use the VPN while others don’t.
A recent method that has become popular for connecting to VPNs is through your router. Many routers today are extremely user-friendly and they are made in such a way that makes it easy to set up VPNs.
Some VPN providers will even sell or lease you a preset VPN router. When your VPN is set up through your router, any traffic on your WiFi network or through the devices plugged into the router is masked.
If your workplace is your VPN provider they may provide an additional layer of security for the VPN. You may be given a dongle or card reader that needs to be plugged into your computer before you are able to access the VPN.
The device acts as a layer of authentication that lets the VPN know that you are an authorized user.
A card reader that plugs into your computer must also have your access card plugged in. Many major companies have started to use this to help protect their networks from remote intrusion.
You may have heard of Tor, an internet browser that allows you to have a “private” connection and access the dark web. It uses multiple nodes to help protect your information from getting out onto the internet.
However, Tor is not a VPN despite what some articles on the internet say, it works in a very similar way but leaves out the company hosting the nodes that information is passed through.
Tor still has several downsides and you must use the Tor browser in order to get the anonymity that it provides. To further provide you with anonymity it disables parts of web pages that use Flash or Java.
VPNs aren’t new, they have actually been around for quite some time now.
Greater concern over privacy and security when browsing the internet has brought more attention to them than there has been in the past. If you want to protect your information, you might want to consider using a VPN.
Now you know what is a VPN and how it works so if you have any comments or questions. Please feel free to share them in the comment section below.