What is a VPN: How it Works and Types of a VPN

A VPN ( Virtual Private Network) is an encrypted connection that exists between a device and a network over the internet. The importance of VPN services is that they provide protection against an increased number of government-run surveillance programs and mass data collection by technology companies. To enhance internet security and privacy, people use VPNs.

The VPN services have increased their popularity due to remote working culture, data mining processes, personal information collection, and machine learning usage. In 2021, the VPN usage increase can be between 20 and 30.based on figures from 2020. The VPN usage reasons are hiding the IP Address, and protecting the personal information of the user. To protect the users’ information from technology companies such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook in the purpose of privacy, anonymity and preservation of online identity, VPN services and usage have many benefits.

VPN Guide
The two primary benefits of using a VPN are that the internet traffic is encrypted, and hence secure, and the IP address is masked. This means no company or internet service provider can link a given internet data back to its originating user.

According to Arcgis.com, Gurdeep Singh-Pall (while working at Microsoft) developed the PPTP protocol in 1996. It took another three years before the protocol was published. Of course, since then VPNs have evolved to a great extent.

What are the Benefits of a VPN?

The benefits of a VPN for privacy, or network security are listed below.

  • VPNs can secure public WiFi networks whenever there is a need to connect to one at a location like a cafe or the local library.
  • Virtual private network services can stream geo-restricted content from various streaming websites such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.
  • VPNs can bypass internet censorship in any country of the world. 
  • VPN services can stop internet service providers from activities such as surveillance and tracking.
  • Avoid price discrimination in some regions. Turning on a VPN service to change location to a place with the lowest prices can result in huge savings. 
  • VPNs secure banking activities that require extra security. A lot of banks still make use of unsecured networks to carry out transactions. The best way to counter that is to use a VPN.
  • VPNs also Stop hackers from stealing payment details while shopping online.

What is a VPN Used For?

These are the top activities VPNs are used for

  • VPNs help users to stay anonymous on the internet for privacy.
  • VPNs can be used to secure internet traffic against hacking attempts that make use of techniques such as MiTM and phishing to gain more security.
  • VPNs are also used for connecting to an office network that may be located in a different building and hence secure lines of communication. 
  • Journalists use VPNs to receive anonymous tips without compromising their identities and location.
  • VPNs are also used to change the IP address to access different content by bypassing geo-restrictions.

What is the Best VPN?

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The best VPN service can be chosen based on the speed, cost, privacy policy, encryption, advanced security features like Kill Switch and double VPN, servers, country of origin, money-back guarantee and content unlocking ability. The best VPN Service, according to the SecurityGladiators, can change based on the user’s requirements.

Therefore, the first thing to do is to know the reason for purchasing a VPN. Customers looking to protect the whole household should go with one that offers the most simultaneous connections. 

Pro Tip:

For streaming movies, look for a VPN that offers fast servers, unlimited bandwidth, and lots of servers. Travelers should go with one that offers the most security features and has servers in lots of countries.

Torrent users will obviously have a different best VPN candidate as they would require a VPN service that goes one step beyond the standard security features. More specifically, for torrenters a VPN that offers advanced security features such as VPN Kill Switch, Tor Over VPN, Double VPN and automatic connection will be most useful. 

Casual online users who only want to surf the internet uninterrupted by geo-restrictions and hyper-targeted content will want to go for a VPN candidate that offers the most locations and servers. Encryption standards and security protocols are less important to such users.

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Another way to pick the best VPN is to see its supported platforms. A VPN is no good to a customer with an Android device when the VPN only supports iOS and Windows. The best VPNs support all major platforms such as iOS, Linux, Android, Mac, and Windows. 

Some VPNs allow router installation which can protect each and every device in a given range. 

Looking at the VPN apps on offer is another way to pick the best VPN. Good VPNs offer a simple installation process and a clean user interface.

Top-quality VPNs not only work in commonly covered regions such as the US and the UK but also in remote locations such as those in China and Iran. 

The best VPNs usually cost money. Price is a huge factor in determining if a VPN is the best available for a given list of needs. This is where subscription length and payment methods such as cryptocurrency and debit cards come into the equation. The best VPNs offer the most choices. 

A lengthy money-back guarantee is a great way to sign up for the best VPN. The longer it is, the better the overall deal. 

This is important:

Privacy conscious users should give a thorough read to the privacy policy document of the VPN they are interested in. The privacy policy document will usually describe in detail the kind of data the VPN service collects and stores.

Similarly, the geographic location of the VPN service and where the VPN service operates out of is also very important for people who care about their privacy. The way to choose the best VPN in this regard is to go with the one that isn’t located in the US or the EU and has a zero-logs policy.

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Another way to select the best VPN is to look at the level of encryption the VPN service in question offers. Users should not sign up with a VPN service that offers anything below AES 256-bit encryption. Plenty of VPN services use 126-bit encryption which is not as strong as the former. 

The best VPNs offer the strongest encryption standards and back them up with strong VPN protocols such as OpenVPN and/or WireGuard.

Finally, customer support. Setting up modern VPNs is a simple procedure but sometimes customer support can make things easier. Look for VPNs that offer multiple ways of communication. 

What is a VPN Service?

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A VPN service is a tool that provides online users with anonymity and privacy. It does that by generating a mini private network from a much larger public internet. The primary feature of any given VPN service is its ability to mask the user’s internet protocol address. That leaves user activities untraceable. 

Different VPNs focus on different aspects of online privacy and anonymity. Some focus on ease of use while others focus on security. Then there are those that concentrate on price (some VPNs are free while others charge a premium) and a few focus on unblocking geo-restricted content.

For more information on how does a VPN server work refer to the guide linked to.

Are There Any Free VPN Services?

Yes, the VPN market does offer free options for consumers looking to try things out before shelling out money or are just looking to keep to their budget. Free VPNs usually come with restrictions on bandwidth and usage. They also have fewer security tools and server locations. 

There are some VPN services that are free and operate ethically. Such free VPNs have no involvement in deceiving the user by selling data or hiding their logging activities. Finding the best free VPN services in today’s market is more difficult than it sounds.

What is a VPN Kill Switch?

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A VPN Kill Switch disconnects users from the internet the moment a VPN connection drops. The major benefit of a VPN Kill Switch feature is that it stops information and IP leakage if a VPN stops working suddenly for some reason.

Before the 2010s, a VPN Kill Switch feature came as a luxury feature but recently has become a necessity because of the increased sensitivity of the work that journalists, activists, P2P users, whistleblowers, and torrent users do regularly.

Do VPNs Work on Phones and Mobile Devices?

Yes. VPNs do work on mobile devices and various phones. Plenty of VPNs come with dedicated apps for Android and iOS platforms. In addition to those, some VPNs also support FireStick and Blackberry devices. Usually, the official website of a given VPN makes it crystal clear which platforms they support.

What is the Difference Between IOS and Android VPN Services?

These are the major differences between Android VPN and iOS VPN services. 

  • The obvious difference is best iOS VPN services don’t offer privacy and anonymity on Android devices and the best Android VPN services don’t work on iOS devices.
  • iOS VPNs usually support fewer protocols because of iOS restrictions. Android VPNs are much more fleshed out because of the permissions the Android operating system grants to any app by default. 
  • iOS VPNs are generally more secure because of the closed nature of the iOS itself. Android VPNs, again because of the nature of the Android operating system, have a harder time containing information from being leaked.

What are the Disadvantages of VPN?

These are the disadvantages of VPN services, 

  • Since a VPN has to encrypt and reroute internet traffic, it decreases connection speed.
  • Some streaming services like Netflix and Amazon ban people who use VPNs to bypass geo-restrictions so there is always a risk of permanently losing access to these services.
  • A few countries, like China and Iran, have banned unapproved VPN services. Depending on the location VPN usage for anonymity and privacy may or may not be legal. 
  • Consumers have no other option but to trust VPNs on features such as encryption and zero-logs policy. In the end, a VPN may or may not provide protection. 
  • Some VPNs sell user data which defeats the purpose of using a VPN to gain anonymity and privacy. The potential logging and reselling of user data is a major disadvantage of using a VPN.
  • VPN connections can drop at any time which can lead to data leaks in the absence of a Kill Switch feature and compromise user privacy.
  • VPN services can give a false sense of security if the user does not take appropriate precautions in addition to using a VPN. Clicking on a malicious link will lead to loss of privacy and data security whether or not there is a VPN in place.

Does a VPN Connection Make the Internet Slower?

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Generally, VPN connections do make the internet slower. VPNs decrease download and upload speeds since the services have to encrypt data and then re-route that data. Compared to a vanilla connection with no security, VPN connections are slower. Of course, connecting to the remote server and encrypting internet data is how VPNs do their job. Without encryption and re-routing VPNs wouldn’t work. Premium VPNs can diminish the effect a VPN has on internet speed with the help of fast VPN servers.

How Does a VPN Modify Internet Connection? 

Here is how a  VPN modifies an internet connection (previous discussion on how does internet connection work when there is a VPN involved shows the user’s connection changes significantly). 

  1. A VPN connects the user through the user’s preferred VPN server to the internet for added privacy.
  2. The user’s data travels through an encrypted VPN tunnel towards the VPN server.
  3. The VPN server then sends the data to its final destination. This changes the IP address of the user.
    Because of that, the data the user’s computer transmits comes out through the VPN server and straight to its final destination rather than from the user’s computer itself.
    An easier way to think about VPNs is they act as intermediaries and connect the user to the larger public internet after hiding the IP address of the user. This protects user identity.
  4. Then the user receives the response from the website/app/service accessed without giving up the IP address and other sensitive information.

Note:

VPNs modify internet connection in other ways as well. For example, most VPNs encrypt user data. That means even if a hacker intercepts the VPN tunnel and gains access to the data, the encrypted data would be of little use. Reading encrypted data is close to impossible.

How Many Minutes Does it take to Connect to a VPN?

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In order to connect to a VPN service, a user can take anywhere from 5-15 seconds assuming the VPN app is already installed on the system. Of course, the quality of the VPN in question will come into the equation as well. The server the user connects to and how far is it from the user’s original location is another factor that may increase or decrease connection time. 

Finally, the protocol a user connects with also has a bearing on connection time.

How to Find a VPN IP Address?

Here are the steps for finding the IP address of the VPN server connected to, 

  1. Go use our free tool to check the current IP address (these tools also show what is IP leak and if it is present).
  2. Connect to a VPN server. 
  3. Go to the above-mentioned tool again and check the new IP address. 
  4. That is the IP address of the VPN server.

An advanced method is to go to https://ping.pe.

  1. Input the IP address that is shown right beneath the input field on the top of the page into the text field on the top of the page after having connected to a VPN server. 
  2. Then click on Go.
  3. The site will ping the provided IP address from various locations around the globe. 
  4. The lower ping time from different locations will indicate the VPN server being closer to that location. 

What is the Onion Over for VPN?

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It is a phrase. It describes a scenario where an internet connection has the protection of both Tor and a VPN. Sometimes, services refer to it as Tor over VPN. 

Onion Over VPN is important for people working in sensitive areas just as journalism, political activism, and others where any slip-ups can mean prison time. Onion over VPN adds an extra layer of security on an internet connection that can further hide internet traffic and machine IP addresses. 

The major benefit of using Onion over VPN is the inability of a given ISP to see if a given user is using a VPN. Onion over VPN also means even the VPN provider doesn’t get to know which websites the user is visiting. Moreover, Onion over VPN provides access to .onion websites on the dark web.

What is VPN Configuration?

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VPN configuration is when the user successfully installs a VPN app on a computer and hence protects the available network. VPN configuration is necessary since without proper configuration the network would not receive the benefits of a VPN service. Modern VPNs only require permissions in the form of VPN configuration as the installation process takes care of everything else. 

Hence there is no need of spending too much time learning how to configure VPN for any device. 

The main benefit of proper VPN configuration is a working VPN connection that hides internet traffic and changes IP address and keeps it that way as long as the user wants. 

What is Double VPN?

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A double VPN connection means the user’s traffic passes through two VPN servers instead of just one. Double VPN connections have become important for people who want more security and an extra layer of anonymity on top of their standard VPN protection. It comes in handy for organizations and individuals who regularly transfer important files from one network to another and/or carry out sensitive tasks such as banking and checking health records.

The main benefit of a double VPN connection is twice the encryption and twice the change of IP addresses. That makes it doubly harder for governments, ISPs, and hackers to track down the VPN user in any way, shape, or form. 

What is the VPN Access?

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A remote VPN access is a virtual private network that allows online users to securely use and access data and apps remotely. Usually, the data is held in a data center or office HQ that is located in a different location to the location of the user. Via VPN Access the data is encrypted while it is sent and received.

As mentioned at the top as well, remote VPN access only happens because of the creation of a tunnel. The tunnel connects the remote user and the website/network/app the user is trying to access. This tunnel is private. And encrypted.

VPN access has become very important for users who have to access their organization’s network from public locations. It is also important for data such as patents and formulas that a company may use to gain an edge over the competition. Such data needs protection from potential interception or tamper attempts. VPN access provides that protection.

The main benefit of VPN access is an anonymous, encrypted, private network through which one can send and receive data without having to worry about it being eavesdropped on.

What are the VPN Types?

VPNs come in different shapes and sizes. Here are the main types of VPNs (VPN types can also mean different protocols of VPN) used for privacy and anonymity, 

  • Client-based VPN

This virtual private network is created between a remote network and a single online user. Most of the time, the user has to use an app to create the network after authenticating the process with a username and password. Generally, the VPN client creates a tunnel, encrypts it, and allows the user to have access to the remote network.

The main reason why such types of VPNs exist is to make it easy for single users to access private resources from remote locations with nothing but their mobile devices and/or laptops. Another reason is to provide the connection with some form of security.


  • Network-based VPN

These virtual private networks come into existence when two different networks get connected to each other via an untrusted network. The easiest way to understand this type of VPN is to think of different offices that belong to the same company but need to access each other’s networks via IPSec tunnels (for example).


  • Network-based VPNs have 3 subtypes. 
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The first is IPSec Tunnels. This network-based VPN works similarly to the client-based IPSec tunnel. The difference is that client-based IPSec tunnels target single devices and their traffic patterns while network-based IPSec tunnels are configured to carry an entire networks’ worth of device traffic and thus enable communication between them. The top reason why this type of VPN is used is to connect devices from different vendors and networks via the same tunnel for added privacy and anonymity. 

The second network-based VPN is DMVPN or Dynamic Multi Point VPN. It takes the concept behind IPSec point-to-point tunnels and expands it to a huge cloud of connected networks. In simpler terms, any network has the ability to communicate with any other network via DMVPN cloud. 

Multinational corporations who want to reduce latency rates between different networks belonging to remote sites have to use DMVPN to get the job done. 


  • The final type of network-based VPN is MPLS-based L3VPN.

The MPLS enables organizations to virtualize their networks. A device known as a PE router transfers traffic from a company’s circuit to a VRF or virtual route forwarding in a WAN circuit. The CRF is unique to the company involved. Then the PE forwards it to a provider core or PC router. It makes use of MPLS to tag the traffic. 

The reason why companies go for this type of VPN is so that customers are kept logically separate but physically together in a shared network for enhanced data security.


What is the P2P VPN?

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A P2P VPN is a virtual private network service that is able to anonymize the user’s internet traffic when it is generated as a result of torrenting. P2P VPNs are different from normal VPNs in that they allow users to download torrents and other types of files either via a torrent client or any other P2P file transferring application without alerting government agencies or internet service providers. 

The obvious benefit of using a P2P VPN is the ability to download torrents anonymously. P2P VPNs have grown in popularity in the last couple of years because of an increased need for torrenters to stay anonymous. More and more governments and copyright holder groups are taking strict action against torrenters and hence they have started to look for ways to protect themselves. 

Generally, P2P VPNs cost anywhere from $3 to $14 per month.

What is Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol VPN?

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The Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol or L2TP is one of the most popular computer networking protocols. Internet service providers use this protocol to enable VPN operations. 

It is different from other protocols as it merges two protocols. One from a company called Cisco and the other from Microsoft (PPTP). 

The main benefit of using L2P is that it saves dial-up costs and other overheads for users who want to connect to their office site remotely.

In terms of popularity, this protocol is on the decline since it does not offer encryption for the user’s internet traffic by default.

VPNs that offer only L2TP protocols are cheaper and may range between $3 to $9 depending on the length of the subscription package.

What is SSTP VPN?

SSTP VPN protocol works pretty much like PPTP as it secures and transfers PPP traffic. However, it does it via an SSL/TLS channel which the PPTP doesn’t do. Hence it offers more security than PPTP. It is different from other protocols as it offers secure key negotiation, encryption, and traffic integrity checking. 

Note:

SSTP is not the most popular VPN protocol since it works best for Windows users only. Android and Linux users can use it as well but it is difficult to set up properly.

Services that offer the SSTP protocol usually cost between $3 to $10 depending on the length of the subscription period.

What is IKEV2 VPN?

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IKEv2 stands for Internet Key Exchange version 2. It secures internet traffic by establishing and handling the Security Association or SA attribute within another authentication suite. That suite is usually IPSec. 

IKEv2 is a very secure protocol and can incorporate ciphers like Camellia, 3DES, and AES among others. The MOBIKE feature ensures no data leak even when the user switches networks. It is also fast.

IKEv2’s popularity has been on the rise since it works very well on iOS devices and can restore dropped VPN connections without any input from the user. 

Services that offer the IKEv2 protocol usually cost between $4 to $11 depending on subscription period length.

Are All VPN Services Secure?

No, not all VPNs are secure. However, signing up for a reputable VPN service will usually guarantee security and anonymity. With that said, free VPNs usually are not safe and may actually compromise data integrity and anonymity.

How to Understand Whether a VPN is Secure or not?

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To understand whether a VPN is secure or not, check the current IP address without VPN and then with VPN with help from tools like BrowserLeaks. 

There are many other ways to check if the VPN is secure. Any VPN that claims to be secure has to offer IP leak protection. The best way to find out is to read reviews. 

Secure VPNs do not log information. Check if the VPN in question is a zero-logs VPN as that is the only way to ensure privacy and anonymity on the internet. Read the privacy policy document of the VPN in question to see if it logs any data. 

Pro Tip:

Another way to know if the VPN is secure is to check for the Kill Switch feature. A Kill Switch will cut off internet access on a VPN connection drop. Without it, a VPN cannot claim to be secure.

Do All VPN Services Block Internet Sites From Tracking?

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No, free VPNs claim they do but don’t. Even paid ones sometimes mess up. Therefore, it is a must to sign up for a premium VPN that has a clean record of blocking site tracking.

Companies and other entities usually track users via malware, IP address, cookies, fingerprinting, DNS leak, and doxxing. A VPN takes care of most of these but an anti-virus program should be used for complete protection. 

Not clicking on suspicious links and unknown emails always help.

Do VPN Services Prioritize Internet Security over Speed?

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Most VPN services prioritize internet security over internet speed. Of course, the final connection speed will depend on the internet connection of the user. But even the fastest VPNs drop 10 to 20 percent download speeds. Premium VPNs minimize speed loss while maximizing security and privacy.

They also use enhanced security features and better logging policies which ensure more security but may decrease speed. 

Users should sign up for the best VPNs to avoid giving up too much speed for security.

Do VPN Services Care About Internet Privacy?

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Generally, yes, VPN services care about internet privacy. But not if the VPN in question is a free VPN. Free VPNs are mostly involved in shady practices that do not provide any evidence if they care for privacy. 

Premium VPNs have no-logging policies which shows they care about privacy. They also have strict VPN protocols and secure servers to further make sure they take care of the user’s privacy. 

Moreover, they support privacy advocacy groups all over the world to make the general population more aware of their privacy rights in cyberspace. This shows they care about internet privacy.

Individuals who want to make sure they sign up for such services should first never sign up for free VPNs and second, should go with top-of-the-line VPNs after reading user reviews on various forums and review sites.