Are you tired of blocked websites, insecure internet connection, data stealing, and region-blocked services? Yes, For a long time, you have been hearing of this term Virtual Private Network but what the word Virtual Private Network or merely VPN means? Is it something software, how does it work, what are its advantages/disadvantages, is it safe to use VPN, is it legal to use in India and more such question which keeps roaming in mind when you hear term VPN. So, let’s deep dive into this Virtual Private Network and understand everything about it.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for the Virtual Private Network is a service which permits you to access the internet through a secured tunnel where your data/privacy is protected from Governments, Organisations, and Data stealers. Let’s have an example to understand it better.
Example: Consider Rajesh & Umesh are two internet users. Rajesh uses VPN during internet surfing, and Umesh doesn’t. Now when both are surfing, a hacker/data stealer tries to enter their network. The data stealer successfully documented and monitored into Umesh network to watch information such as IP Address, Name, and type of device used, Accessed Website. It’s data as there were no additional security layers that will protect and hide his identity and data. In comparison, the data stealers haven’t succeeded in breaching into the Rajesh network as he was using a VPN, and hence his data and privacy has been protected.
How Does a VPN Works?
Now, as you understand what VPN is, let’s see how does a VPN works. To understand virtual private network with the help of the above diagram. The first thing that comes in a process is a device you use; then, it might be a desktop, laptop, or mobile. The second and important thing in the process is VPN client, so VPN client is a software/app which, when you click on connect to VPN, changes your setting such that your data is encrypted and passed through a VPN Tunnel. A VPN tunnel is a path secured by your VPN, providing a company where security is ensured and connects the user to the VPN server. The VPN server is a server located anywhere in the world which hides your IP Address and change your geological location to the location you have chosen through VPN client. When you want to visit a website, you turn VPN ON, and the process gets started. For you, it’s you who wanted to connect websites, but for that website, it’s the VPN server that wants to visit that website. During this complete process, your data is encrypted and transferred through a VPN tunnel. Therefore, no organization, Internet Service Provider, Governmental agencies, or the hacker would be able to get into your network, and everything is secured and protected. Still not clear? let’s understand with an example;
Example: Ishika (Location: Mumbai, India) is a VPN user. She wanted to connect the internet through a VPN because it is blocked in India but open for the United Kingdom. At first, she opens an application/VPN client and selected the VPN server (Location: London, United Kingdom), and click on connect. Once she is connected, her data is now being transmitted through a tunnel that is secured by a VPN provider. Whenever she visits a website, that website looks her as a visitor from the United Kingdom, and the IP address provided to that website is for the VPN server and not the actual IP, which is assigned to Ishika in India. So in this way, she protects her Identity, data, and access to the data which is not available to her in India. Now, I hope that you have understood how a Virtual Private Network works, now let’s have a look at what are the advantages /disadvantages of VPN.
Advantages of VPN
The following are the advantages of Virtual Private Network:
Hiding Your Online Identity
Hiding your Identity is essential, with the use of a VPN, you can hide your identity while using the internet from Governmental agencies, Internet service providers, and data stealers/hacker. Whereas if you are not using a VPN, there will be no assured that your data isn’t being monitored.
Access Geo-blocked Content/websites
One of the significant benefits of using a VPN is that you can access content worldwide. In most countries, the Government applies some blocks to a few specific websites and apps. Using your existing network isn’t possible; therefore, using a VPN can quickly and easily provide you access to such content.
Data Protection Through Encryption
While surfing online with a VPN, all the tasks you are not encrypted, which results in the loss of your data, which can be misused later for illegal activities. Therefore using Virtual Private Network can help you communicate with servers securely without being visible to the hacker, Government, ISPs, etc.
Prevent Bandwidth Throttling
When there is more user in the same area, you must have experienced slow speed. That’s a basic example of bandwidth throttling. When a user is more, and the bandwidth available is less, the Internet service provider uses bandwidth throttling to provide access to all users but at slow speed. With the use of a VPN, you can prevent bandwidth throttling as the Internet service provider won’t view data being transferred through your device.
VPN can bypass Firewall
A firewall is a set of rules which allow or disallow your access to some/entire content. For example, Netflix India has some TV shows which cannot be seen in the USA. The same goes for India. It is mainly done through firewall rules. With VPN, you can easily bypass the Firewall and access the content by changing your location.
VPN offers secure torrenting
If you ever use torrent, you must know how risky it can be with tons of Ads, spams, free software, and more such thing trying to get into your system. Well, With VPN, your Identity is too secured on the internet while torrenting preventing you from any damage.
Disadvantages of VPN
The following are disadvantages of Virtual Private Network:
Slower Internet Connection
In the standard case, you can connect to the website server directly. Still, in VPN’s case, you first connect to the VPN server and then the website server resulting in additional transmission between these servers, resulting in a slow down internet connection.
Don’t know how strong is Encryption
One of the significant problems with Virtual Private Network is that we don’t know how strong a Virtual private network’s Encryption is, resulting in panic situations. However, using trusted and premium VPN services can be helpful.
Illegal use of VPN
Unlawful use of VPN is widespread; usually, hackers mask themself with VPN to avoid being tracked by governmental agencies and other white hat security specialists. Such help cannot be avoided as mainly VPN provider does not monitor your activities. Due to such Illegal activities, the IPs of VPN providers might get blocked by websites and apps, resulting in no access to other VPN users.
Free VPN is worst then the actual connection
The primary purpose of VPN itself is too keep you secure, but in some of the recent studies, it has been found that some of the popular free VPN providers itself contain malware into the network. Therefore using a free virtual private network provider is even more dangerous than not using at all.
How a VPN can help to protect your identity online?
So, before we know how a VPN can help protect your identity online, we need to understand what online Identity means? An online identity is any small/large piece of information present online such as your IP Address, login credentials, online transactions, online search activity, and browsing history. A virtual private network can help you ensure your online Identity through end to end Encryption resulting in safeguarding your data from Government, stealers, ISPs, and hackers. It is also provided if with a masked IP Address; therefore, none can track you even after you visited any website and can see logs created by you. Therefore virtual private network can play a critical role in protecting your Identity.
Is VPN Traffic Encrypted?
Yes, VPN traffic is encrypted using public and private keys. Let’s understand how a Virtual Private Network encrypts your data and does you have to perform any action? Well, first of all, Encryption is a method of converting plain text into cypher text which means Example: My Name (In Plain Text): Vaibhav Kulkarni will look something like this (In Cypher Text) C#$54ds#[email protected]%DFGh451134f45848 so now if anyone tries to read it be able to read or understand it without public & private keys which is only available to VPN client & server or simply provider. Therefore whatever you do online is encrypted and safe with a virtual private network. So, now do you have to perform any activity to encrypt your data? NO, when you turn a virtual private network on, the system automatically starts encrypting your data during internet usage, so you don’t have to do anything but to use the internet.
What is Always-on VPN? and What is a kill switch?
From the above topics, you must have understood it is essential to have a VPN if you want to protect your online Identity. Well, Always-on VPN is the same as what it indicates in its name, which means the Virtual Private Network will always be ON. No additional user input is required to turn it ON, and your connection will always be secured during usage of the internet. But consider while surfing online. Unfortunately, your VPN got disconnected, but you are still connected to the internet through your existing network. There is a chance that your Encryption will discontinue, and IP address will be exposed. A Kill Switch is a switch or button which instructs VPN that if VPN got disconnected, then your connection to the internet should also be disconnected; therefore, it won’t let your online Identity to be exposed.
Is VPN necessary?
Well, there will be two answers, Either Yes or NO. First, let’s discuss this. Yes. If you are someone who a lot of internets throughout the day where continuous login, payments, or transfer of sensitive data is involved, you must use a VPN to secure your data and online Identity. Whereas if you are a person who is not so active on the internet and rarely makes any payments, share sensitive data, then you can resist yourself from using a VPN. To explain it much better, let’s look at an example.
Example: Consider a bike rider as you and who frequently drive to the office, friend location, for work reasons, for travelling, and for many more events. Then helmet (VPN) becomes necessary as the more you drive, the chances of an accident are high, whereas your friend who rarely goes will have fewer options. Still, it does not mean that he/she will not have an accident at all, so wearing a helmet is always a smart and safer option.
Is VPN 100% Safe?
Is VPN legal in India?
Whenever you hear about anything related to cybersecurity, one of the first things that come into the mind is, is it legal to use in India? Well, most of you will be having the same question and would like to know that usage of a VPN is legal or not. To answer your question, Yes, usage of VPN is legal in India as there are no norms in India specifically for Virtual Private Network, but still, if you found to be using a VPN for any illegal actions, you will hold accountable and will be punished according to The Information Technology Act (2000). So it’s always recommended to use it for legal purposes only.
This Might Intrest You: Difference Between Cyber Security and Information Security
Do VPN Log my Data or Store my Data?
It depends upon the country of the virtual private network provider and its IT norms. For countries like the USA, Germany, France might store data as their policies are more oriented towards national security. In contrast, countries like Sweden, Switzerland have stringent no data monitor/storage policy, which results in VPN provider from those countries will not save your VPN logs.
What is the main difference between a firewall and a VPN?
One of the main differences between a firewall and a virtual private network is that Firewalls help you configure how your computer will communicate with the web to prevent malicious or harmful files. In the case of a VPN, it enables you to secure your connection (Not your computer) and prevent data stealing during internet usage.
In conclusion, we have seen VPN, how does it work, advantages/disadvantages, and how to protect Identity? Is it safe to use a VPN? Is it legal to use a VPN in India? Does it store log files and the difference between a firewall and a VPN? From all the above information, we can conclude that we should use a VPN for day to day internet usage and protection of our online Identity. Although using a reliable and trustworthy Virtual Private Network provider is essential to get the most out of it. Use of some of the vital features like; Always-ON and Kill Switch can enhance your security furthermore.