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It seems like everyone these days is using VPNs to hide their browsing activity and benefit from better security.
But do VPNs really hide a lot of your personal information?
What does a VPN hide when you start using one?
Let's break down how VPNs work. And what exactly they mask from your Internet service provider, cybercriminals, and governments in this guide.
Table of Contents:
How Does a VPN Work?
And What Does VPN Do? 💭
Before we can get into what a VPN hides, you need to know what a VPN does.
VPN stands for "virtual private network".
A VPN is essentially an encrypted tunnel that bores through the Internet. The goal is to connect your computer or another digital device to a secure server. Which is located somewhere other than your home server.
Say that your home server, which is usually automatically selected by geographic proximity by your ISP, is in the US. You could use a top VPN service to instead connect your computer to a server in another country, like Norway. Then you’d access the Internet through that server.
Getting a New IP Address
In doing so, the VPN grants you an IP address that’s appropriate for its own location. So if you were to access the Internet using the aforementioned Norway server, you’d temporarily be browsing the Internet with a Norway IP address. Your “real” IP address would be masked and only identifiable through extremely complex tactics.
VPN providers have a number of secure servers all throughout the world, with different providers offering different connectivity points. Since the VPN connection is secure, your incoming traffic and outgoing traffic are both encrypted, making your data more difficult to scoop or read.
The Major Things Your VPN Protects
Valuable method of protection 🛡️
In a nutshell, you can get a VPN is a secure highway. That you can connect to so you can access the greater Internet with fewer restrictions and better security. Since your IP address is masked, and since you browse the Internet through a secure connection, you’re protected from a number of potential threats. Here are just a few.
If you are asking why would you use a VPN, well for one, a VPN protects your IP address. Your computer’s IP address is essentially its home address or location on the Internet or your local network.
It connects you to both your geographic location and your ISP, as well as your search history.
But when you use a VPN, you get a new IP address and your original one is masked.
This can provide great protection from those trying to track your home ISP. In addition to the information connected to it, like your home address, phone number, and even credit card numbers.
Any activities you perform through VPN will be associated with the VPN server IP address rather than yours.
As a side effect, your search history is also protected from snooping when you use a VPN. When you don’t use a VPN, your ISP normally records any websites you visit. Even if you clear your cookies and your browser’s search history.
By using a VPN, your search history won’t be recorded normally. Since, technically speaking, the VPN’s IP address was the one that made all those searches, not your own.
Still, using a VPN prevents any third parties from knowing, for sure, that you visited certain pages.
By proxy, VPNs can protect lots of your identifying information. Cookies and other tracking software essentially hook up to your IP address and monitor your activities, including:
- What webpages you click on.
- How long you stay on particular webpages.
- What words you type into search boxes.
- Where your mouse moves on pages.
All of this is data that can be compiled and analyzed to come up with key personal facts or information, including medical diagnoses, credit card numbers, what your media interests are, and more.
Using a VPN prevents much of this tracking since, as mentioned, it effectively creates a secure traffic tunnel and offers a dummy IP address that can be tracked instead of your real IP address.
Traveling and Other Retail Prices
One of the worst effects of cookies is how they can affect prices for travel arrangements and other retail goods or services. In fact, many companies or service providers will use your IP information to determine your geographic location, interests, and other factors and tailor their prices automatically.
You might very well be charged a different price for a product or a plane trip compared to someone else a hundred miles away!
A VPN can allow you to get different prices for travel arrangements or other products depending on the country in which the VPN IP address is based. Plus, it’s good to trick these companies out of principle – they shouldn’t be charging people different prices for the same things, anyway.
As touched on above, your IP address can be a key to your physical location. In conjunction with other key bits of personal or identifying information, like your physical address, your actual location can be pinpointed by hackers, other cybercriminals, and even government snoops.
If you want to avoid being detected in the real world as well as the digital world, you’ll need to use a VPN whenever possible.
Lastly, VPNs can hide torrenting activity. Torrenting as a downloading activity is not strictly forbidden in most countries, although downloading copyrighted material, such as movies, songs or other media is usually illegal.
Your regular ISP will track your torrenting activity, opening up the possibility of charges filed against you by the government. But VPNs can protect you from these effects by hiding your connection to the downloads.
On a more moral note, VPNs can protect you while torrenting since they prevent malware and other viruses from pinpointing your location, potentially giving hackers the upper hand.
Until Next Time 🎩
All in all, VPNs can hide a wide range of facts and personal information from those who wish to discover it.
Since a free and fair Internet relies on better security and anonymity, everyone should be using a VPN whenever possible, both to protect themselves from cybercriminals and from government overreach.