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What is a VPN?
VPN is an abbreviation for Virtual Private Network. This is a way of connecting two or more computers (may even be phones,, tablets or smart watches, but we’ll just go with computers as it really doesn’t matter too much), where there is a intermediary (also known as a Proxy server) between the computers. This intermediary is usually another computer/server and all computers (as in our computer, the computer we are connecting to, and the intermediary) are connected to one network, typically to the largest one, i.e. the Internet.
Computers that want to connect to each other then work as if they were connected, for example, directly or were in a single private network. Sometimes, however, this direct cable connection is very inefficient or untenable.
The whole VPN works by setting up intermediaries that that takes care of virtual connection between the computers. Both the intermediary server and connected computers must be connected to the same larger network (typically the Internet). Computers connect to the server, which verifies their identity by, for example, the login name and password, and the server then interconnects both computers and encrypts communications so that no one can intercept it.
Example of how a VPN would Work in Mail Service
We can show that VPN works much like a mail service, but with some slight tweaks.
Typically, we will write the address of the person to whom we want to send the letter, but also the return address where we want to receive the reply. Both parties then know the real addresses of each other and communicate directly with each other. However, if we incorporate the intermediary, co communication would be different a bit.
We first send the letter first to the intermediary’s address. The intermediary would delete the return address (that is, our real address) from the letter and replace it with his own address (that is, the intermediary’s address) and send a letter to the final recipient (who we want to sent the letter to). He would now receive a letter to see the intermediary’s return address, but he would not know our address. Now he will send the answer to the intermediary, who knows that the answer is aimed at us, so he will send us the letter.
The person to whom we sent the letter (which would be another computer or server in the Internet world) will never know our real address, but we were able to send the data and receive the data. The only one who knows our real address is the middleman. It must be completely trustworthy and we must be sure that it will not read the contents of the letters, but it will serve only as a service that transmits the letters to the correct addresses.
You Are Never Completely Anonymous on the Internet
Every computer connected to the Internet has its address, which we call the IP address. It works in much the same way as the house address and we cet very accurately know the location of the computer to its the IP address.
If we connect to the server and request data (data can be, for example, a web page or a file that we want to download), then we have to communicate our IP address to the server so that it can send the data to the correct address, A.K.A our computer.
This is the way the Internet works and it is not possible to circumvent this principle. It’s roughly the same as sending someone a letter with a request but not giving a return address.
This may be of concern for several reasons:
- Sometimes you want to surf completely anonymously and without anyone having any idea where you are
- Some sites or services are restricted or censored to residents of some states
It’ noteworthy that the anonymous browser window does not mean that you are anonymous on the Internet. These anonymous windows only hide your previous activity on sites, so sites do not know you have visited them before. If you connect to the server, you also communicate your IP address whether you are in the anonymous window or not.
How to Use VPN to Browse the Internet and Download files Anonymously
VPN is actually an intermediary that connects two computers, or a computer and a network. But that intermediary can also serve as an anonymous crawler on the Internet.
VPN is highly recommended to use when downloading copyrighted files via torrents. If you download without VPN, you are theoretically traceable. When using a VPN, no one knows your true location but the intermediary (VPN).
VPN is also great, because all the data you are sending or receiving is encrypted. This means that it’s great to use a VPN when connected to a public wi-fi network.
For instance, you can be in the US, but you do everything through an intermediary VPN, which is located for example in France. Given the speed of the Internet, this is no problem. Since VPN is actually doing the requesting data from servers and just sending it to you, for the servers it appears you are in France.
The only one who knows your IP address and location is the VPN that needs to know it in order to send the data to you. For everyone else you are in France (or any other state) and you are completely anonymous.
Beware of VPN Selection
Although Internet usage over VPN may seem to be only beneficial over direct connection to servers, it is not the case. VPN selection is extremely important because it’s just the middleman through which all data flows, both from you and from you. If you enter a password, you do not enter it directly on that website you wish to visit, but through someone who can read it, being the VPN. Therefore, it is essential that theVPN does not actually read the data you are sending or receiving, but simply sends them to the right hands.
So, if you want to choose the best VPN service, be sure to read the user reviews and do not simply choose based on the price.