The acronomy VPN became popular in January 2019 after the government imposed a “total internet shutdown” in what critics called an attempt to hide growing reports of a violent crackdown on protests against a dramatic fuel price increase.
By Tongai Mwenje
The shutdown was targeted at social media platforms.
Techies had to quickly turn to VPN to access the blocked social media platforms.
To date some are still ignorant of this private gateway.
In this article I am going to define the term VPN, types, advantages and some of the free VPN softwares.
VPN simply means Virtual Private Network.
A VPN is an online service you can use to unblock geo-restricted/censored Internet content, and protect your online data from hackers and government surveillance by encrypting your online traffic and hiding your real IP address.
It extends a private network across a public network and enables users to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if their computing devices were directly connected to the private network.
Applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp running across a VPN may therefore benefit from the functionality, security, and management of the private network.
Encryption is a common, although not an inherent, part of a VPN connection.
VPN technology was developed to provide access to corporate applications and resources to remote or mobile users, and to branch offices.
For security, the private network connection may be established using an encrypted layered tunneling protocol, and users may be required to pass various authentication methods to gain access to the VPN.
In other applications, Internet users may secure their connections with a VPN to circumvent geo-restrictions and censorship or to connect to proxy servers to protect personal identity and location to stay anonymous on the Internet. Some websites, however, block access to known VPN technology to prevent the circumvention of their geo-restrictions, and many VPN providers have been developing strategies to get around these blockades.
A VPN is created by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated circuits or with tunneling protocols over existing networks. A VPN available from the public Internet can provide some of the benefits of a wide area network (WAN). From a user perspective, the resources available within the private network can be accessed remotely.
VPNs can be characterized as host-to-network or remote access by connecting a single computer to a network or as site-to-site for connecting two networks. In a corporate setting, remote-access VPNs allow employees to access the company’s intranet from outside the office. Site-to-site VPNs allow collaborators in geographically disparate offices to share the same virtual network. A VPN can also be used to interconnect two similar networks over a dissimilar intermediate network, such as two IPv6 networks connected over an IPv4 network.
Advantages of VPN Services
- A VPN Hides Your Online Identity
Since a VPN hides your IP address and encrypts your online traffic, it essentially makes sure your digital footprints can’t be tracked on the Internet. Online hackers won’t be able to use your real IP address to find out personal details about you, and government surveillance agencies and ISPs won’t get to monitor what you do online by snooping on your traffic.
Besides helping you elude government surveillance, that also helps keep your privacy safe from advertisers.
- VPNs Help You Bypass Geo-Blocks
Don’t know what geo-blocks are? Well, did you ever try to access a website only to be met with the following message (or a variation on it): “Sorry, the content you requested is not available in your area.”
That’s geo-restriction technology in action. It’s basically a way for content providers to control which geographic areas their websites, movies, music, and TV shows are available in. They normally do that because they need to comply with copyright regulations, licensing regulations, and various legal procedures too.
How does a VPN help with that issue? Here’s something you need to know first – websites can normally hide content behind geo-restrictions because they can see your geo-location when you’re online. Essentially, the platform you want to access sees the connection request your device sends – and also the IP address the request comes from. Once the website knows your real IP address, it can track your geo-location easily. If it’s blacklisted, you will be denied access or redirected to a different page.
Since a VPN can hide your real IP address, it can easily help you bypass geo-blocks since the platform you want to access will think you’re from the “right” geographical region.
For example, if the government decides to block social media platforms, with VPN you can connect to a UK-based server, you’ll be able to access those platforms.
- VPN Services Secure Your Online Connections
WiFi is everywhere nowadays, and it’s extremely convenient to use – especially if you have a tight mobile data plan. The only problem with free WiFi is that it’s often unsecured, meaning you’re putting your personal data in danger whenever you use it. After all, cybercriminals can find out a lot about you – which can lead to them stealing your:
Credit card details
Bank account details
Email login credentials
If you use a VPN, though, you won’t need to worry about those dangers. Why? Because a VPN uses encryption to secure your online communications, effectively making sure nobody can monitor them. Basically, if any hacker would try to look at your connection traffic, they’d just see gibberish.
This is also why VPNs are such a good choice for accessing work files remotely too. If you ever need to check a client file while you’re taking a break at a coffee shop and using their WiFi, your best option is to use a VPN to make sure no would-be hackers can compromise your connection and work data.
- A VPN Can Prevent Bandwidth Throttling
Haven’t heard of bandwidth throttling, yet? It’s basically when your ISP limits your bandwidth, effectively lowering your online speeds. They might do that regularly, or just once a week or month. Usually, ISPs do that to improve their services by getting rid of network congestion and making sure there’s enough bandwidth for all users.
However, they most often engage in bandwidth throttling as a way to “convince” users (like you) to purchase more expensive subscriptions and data plans.
Well, the good news is that since a VPN encrypts all your Internet traffic, your ISP won’t be able to see what you’re doing online. They won’t know if you’re using up “too much” bandwidth to play online games, download files, or stream TV shows. So, they won’t be able to throttle your bandwidth for doing any of those things.
- VPNs Can Bypass Firewalls
When you’re at work, school, the airport, or even in a hotel, you might have to deal with annoying network firewalls that prevent you from accessing certain websites. Network admins do that because they often need to comply with various regulations, but that doesn’t make it fair for you.
Luckily, you can easily bypass any firewall you encounter with a VPN since it hides your IP address – the address the firewall restrictions have been applied to.
And yes, a VPN would even let you bypass government-enforced firewalls (like the Great Firewall of China, for example), so you won’t have to deal with any government censorship while browsing the Internet.
- VPNs Offer Secure Torrenting
Torrenting isn’t really dangerous if you know what you’re doing, but it can endanger your privacy if you’re not using a VPN. You see, all the members of the Swarm (all the people downloading and uploading a torrent) can actually see your real IP address. That means you’ve got unwanted strangers being able to see what country and city you are from, and potentially finding out what your ZIP code and who your ISP are.
What’s more, don’t forget that torrenting can be illegal depending on your country’s laws. Using a VPN is a smart way to ensure you don’t end up in legal trouble, get DMCA notices, or have your ISP terminate your contract just for downloading a simple torrent.
- VPNs Make Online Gaming Better
Because a VPN encrypts your connections and hides your IP address, there are plenty of reasons to use such a service to improve your gaming experience. You’ll be able to play in any geographical regions you’ll want, you’ll get to play banned games, you’ll keep yourself safe from DDoS attacks, and you’ll even manage to avoid unfair IP bans.
In case you’d like to learn more about VPNs and gaming, check out our in-depth article on that topic.
- VPNs Might Help You Avoid Online Price Discrimination
Online retailers and airline companies sometimes like to display different prices to their website visitors based on which geographical region they are from. They usually do that to better segment their markets, and also to drive more profit. Of course, having to pay more money for the same product/service just because you’re from a different part of the world is hardly fair.
Since a VPN hides your IP address, it masks your real geo-location too. So, if you’re from a more developed country (like the US, for instance), you could try making it seem like you’re from a less developed area of the world to get a better price.
Here are Free VPN Softwares
- Hotspot Shield Free VPN. Hotspot Shield is our recommendation to download. …
Protecting your identity with ease. …
- ProtonVPN Free.
Absolutely unlimited data allowance, without paying a single cent.
Super secure with a very generous data cap.