What is a VPN?

A VPN stands for a Virtual Private Network. You’ve probably heard about it a lot in the news recently, as concerns over security and privacy mount. It’s essentially a way of building your own, secure mini-network, a separate entity from the wider internet itself.

VPNs allow people to share and receive data on a secure, private network – it might be used by a company to ensure employees can access company systems securely from home, or someone might use one to browse in complete privacy at home. It also changes your IP address, concealing you from your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

VPNs tend to be very secure and it’s extremely difficult to intercept the data they send (if the right security conditions are in place. If your laptop has already been infected with a virus, for instance, a hacker might be able to see your VPN activity).

Other benefits of VPNs include:

  • Hiding your browsing activity from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) – if you want to keep your activity completely private, then a VPN is for you
  • Bypassing country restrictions – if you’re in a country where a website is blocked, then a VPN may allow you to visit it, as it can conceal your true geographic location
  • Downloading files – you can use VPNs to download content in a secure, private manner
  • (Potentially) Improving speed – sometimes your ISP will throttle (reduce) speed for some sites and services, so by using a VPN there is a chance your speed won’t be affected by this

Popular VPN services include IPVanish, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN and NordVPN. However, they aren’t free services – they can be quite expensive because of the security features they provide – and they are available on mobile too. To summarize, VPNs are great options for giving your online presence an additional layer of security.

You can also use a VPN on mobile

To find out more about Wi-Fi connections and security issues, read our relevant infographic or check out our post.

If you’ve got any further questions, do let us know in the comment section below or by tweeting to us at @JustAskGemalto.