What Is a VPN and How Can It Protect Me?

There has been a lot of news focus on protecting your identity online and preventing snooping eyes from seeing what you are doing online and who you are talking to. The reports surround both private and government eyes watching the types of websites you are visiting, what you are purchasing online, right through listening to your voice calls and reading your text messages.

For this reason, you may have noticed that many, if not all, of your chat and texting apps have enabled something called Peer-to-Peer encryption. This means that even the company who hosts your messages doesn’t have access to read them. As you can imagine, if they don’t have access then they can’t grant access to anybody else.

As protective as this method is, it still only covers your texts and messages sent using that app. If you want to take your online privacy a step further and keep your browsing data, you can use what is called a VPN. If you have heard a little about what a VPN does or are fresh to the idea and want to learn more, keep reading.

The best place to start is with a brief understanding of how the internet works. In particular, how your browsing data is logged and transmitted.

Each time that you type a website address into your browser or you perform a Google search, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) keeps a record of the address you visited, which includes what you searched for on Google. Each time that a website is refreshed and new information is pushed to your screen, this information can also be tracked and logged.

This can occur even if you are using a website with security enabled or are shopping on the Groupon Coupons page for Target, as your ISP still needs to know what site you want to go to. They can’t steal your internet banking details but they do know who you bank with and the type of products you have been buying. This information is logged and can be used for law enforcement purposes or, recently, can be used to sell as a product to marketing agencies for research data purposes.

Enter a VPN.

A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and is a service that runs outside of your regular ISP. A VPM is a service that provides a concealed tunnel of information that your ISP and other snooping eyes can’t see.

A VPN works by installing details and settings on your computer. When you connect to the internet regularly, you are actually connecting to the internet through your VPN service. With a VPN enabled, your ISP only has a record that you connected to your VPN service’s details. Nothing more. All traffic that flows through your VPN is now protected.

Can It Protect You?

This is a tricky question. Can it protect your information from your ISP and any agencies or private contractors is has deals with? Yes, it certainly can. However, this doesn’t mean that your browsing isn’t recorded.

As your VPN service now handles your data, it is your VPN provider who now has access to your browsing data. Similarly to your ISP, they aren’t able to steal your internet banking details but they do have a list of the sites that you visit.

For this reason, it’s important to choose a VPN service that is reputable, well-known, and potentially not located in your country. If true privacy is a concern for you, consider a reputable VPN that destroys your information as soon as the traffic is sent along with being located outside of your country and in one with strong data protection laws.

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