What is a VPN and What Does it Do?

in VPN

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The world we live in is becoming ever more connected by technology. It is easier and easier to access information, share knowledge, and interact over the internet. Our privacy is paying the price as our lives move further into the digital world. But have you ever wondered, what does a VPN do?

VPNs are privacy heroes! They exist as a way for you to anonymize your online presence and protect your data from nefarious activity. 

The main purpose of a VPN is to create a private connection between devices that are linked over the internet. This private connection is like an internet inside the larger internet, secure and hidden from hackers, malware, and snooping entities. 

Reddit is a great place to learn more about VPNs. Here are a few Reddit posts that I think you’ll find interesting. Check them out and join the discussion!

What is a VPN?

VPN is shortened from Virtual Private Network. 

And while the name itself is fairly self-explanatory, the details need a little clarity. 

What is a VPN and What Does It Do?

You can visualize a VPN as a secret tunnel that links your electronic device to the internet at large. This tunnel makes it seem that you are searching from a location entirely different from where you are. (VPNs are often run out of other countries to your home)

 VPN takes your privacy even further though. 

Imagine VPN as an invisibility cloak wrapping around your online self. It makes you and your data invisible to snooping, interference, censorship, and malicious hacking.  

What a wondrous thing then is a VPN! VPN services are also easier to find than ever before!

Why are People Snooping on my Internet Usage?

You are valuable, and so is your data. 

Internet service providers and data collection companies will find and share your information in the hopes of capitalizing on its value. They might sell your information to advertising agencies and the like, who use it to target you with specific advertising. 

Remember that one time you searched for bark-flavored toothpaste as a joke, and now get toothpaste adverts almost constantly while online? 

That’s your information being sold to third-party companies. 

All that seems quite benign, right? 

Well, while advertising companies targeting you based on your search history may not be the high stakes you imagined, they do show you that you are relatively unprotected from identity hackers. 

An identity hacker looks for passwords, bank account details, and social security numbers that will allow them to rob you of your identity and often of your money. These cyber-attacks are often incredibly difficult to track and reverse. 

Besides private entities doing harm, the eyes of your government might be scanning your internet usage. Overly protective government agencies will snoop on your data as a means of controlling you and the rest of your population, censoring your content, and using online purchases as means of uncovering ‘undesirable’ people in your community. 

You have the right to free access and safe internet searching, and VPNs like Atlas VPN help you achieve that. 

How are VPNs Protecting my Information?

In a nutshell, VPNs encrypt your connections and hide your locations, making it virtually impossible to track you down. 


Your VPN hides your IP address by letting the network you are working from redirect your address. VPNs redirect through specially configured remote servers, called proxy servers that are run by the host of the VPN you choose to use. 

vpn secure connection

Your Virtual Protection Network redirects all your information through different servers, making it nigh on impossible to track. Your VPN is a screen door, plated with one-way reflectors, that all your search data moves through, and trackers are incapable of seeing back through. 

VPN services like NordVPN, SurfShark, and ExpressVPN all work using this protection model. And, while Tor networks and others like it may offer even higher levels of protection, VPNs offer the best balance between efficiency and data security. 

There are three types of VPN software available:

  1. IPsec (Internet Protocol Security)

IPsec is the standard form VPN we’re talking about in this article. An IPsec creates secure connections between networks and devices within those networks. 

An issue with IPsec is that there can be connectivity issues between networks or devices attempting to share information. 

  1. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) 

You’ve more than likely used an SSL VPN without even knowing it. 

SSL protocols are designed to connect a single device to a website portal, like those used for making online payments. These SSLs create encrypted VPN connections protecting your information into it. 

SSLs are very helpful, as they use web-browsers for the interface with people. However, they are not especially efficient, and IPSec is definitely the more common choice for daily use. 

When Should I be using a VPN?

That all depends on the level of security you hope to receive for your online presence. 

My advice? Always.

vpn pros cons

As the world charges forward into the digital realm, more and more of your sensitive and private data will be in danger of cyber-attack. We lock our doors when we leave the house, don’t we? Why aren’t we taking the same precautions with our online profiles? 

However, even if you decide against using a VPN for your home network, there are times when a VPN is indispensable! 

  • When you’re traveling:
    • VPNs allow you to continue using the internet as if you were in your home country by bypassing censorship issues that may be prevalent in the country you’re traveling to. 
  • When you’re using public WiFi: 
    • When you connect to a public WiFi, hotspot or domain instantly puts you at risk of a data leak. These networks are hotbeds for uncouth persons and hackers alike. A VPN will make you invisible in this space, allowing you to surf in your favorite coffee shop with ease, thanks to the strong encryption it offers.
  • When you’re Gaming: 
    • Protect yourself from pings, DDoS attacks, and general lag by connecting your VPN to a server closer to the game’s servers. 
  • When you’re sharing files: 
    • VPNs keep your IP addresses secret, allowing you to download confidently in the knowledge that your IP will not be discoverable. 
  • When you’re online shopping: 
    • Certain online stores will have different pricing based on where you are in the world. But, with a VPN limiting location access, you can find the best and fairest prices for whatever it is that you’re looking for. 
    • Your card information is kept completely hidden away by the encryption software a VPN uses. 
  • When you’re streaming: 
    • A VPN limits the ability to throttle your WiFi connection, meaning that you can enjoy perfect streaming whenever you want. 

VPNs of Note:

Not all VPNs are created equal.

I have listed the top three best VPN services to choose from. 

1. NordVPN

NordVPN is a dynamic service that caters to diverse customer needs. This VPN service ranks highly in many affiliate sites for a good reason. 

NordVPN - Get The World's Leading VPN Now
From $3.99/month

NordVPN provides you with the privacy, safety, freedom, and speed you deserve online. Unleash your browsing, torrenting, and streaming potential with unparalleled access to a world of content, no matter where you are.

2. Surfshark

Surfshark has more than 3200 servers across 63 countries, meaning you will be completely undetectable, and your location will be completely private.

Surfshark - Award-Winning VPN Service
From $2.49/month

Surfshark is an excellent VPN with a strong focus on online privacy and anonymity. It’s among the best VPN services to use AES-256-bit encryption and offers security and convenience features like Kill Switch and split tunneling. Take control of your online security with Surfshark VPN!

3. ExpressVPN

The fastest and most secretive of all VPN services, ExpressVPN is an excellent idea if you need to transfer files and download content.

ExpressVPN - Superior VPN That Just Works!
From $6.67/month

With ExpressVPN, you're not just signing up for a service; you're embracing the liberty of the free internet the way it was meant to be. Access the web without borders, where you can stream, download, torrent, and browse at lightning-fast speeds, while staying anonymous and securing your online privacy.

It is important to note that nothing good in life comes free, and VPNs are no different. 

As the old adage goes, you do not pay if you are the product. 

Free VPNs like Speedify will need to recoup their expenses in some way. Often these free services will try to turn a profit with aggressive advertising or, even worse, by selling your data to third-party entities, which defeats the point of having a VPN in the first place. 

Free Virtual Protection Network services may also limit the data you use and the speed at which you can use it, rendering it useless for most of the tasks you are hoping to complete with it. 

And, given the reasonable pricing that servers like nordVPN charge, it really is worth spending the money and getting the proper protection you need.

But if you want to try out different VPN services before you decide, then here is a list of VPNs with free trials.

Great Benefits of VPNs:

You’ve been reading a great deal about why you should get yourself a solid VPN. Here are some of the highlights of having your own VPN: 

  1. Secure Encryption and Authentication

Bring on the quick maths! 

VPNs use clever encryption techniques and algorithms to ensure that you will need special encryption keys to access your data. 

  1. Proxying 

VPNs act as proxy servers. Simply put, a proxy server disguises your location by running the VPN from a country different from where you are searching. 

This is great for disguising where you are and accessing information, sites, or streaming services that are censored in your country.

  1. No Data Storage 

VPNs don’t store any search history or make any logs of your online activity, making it impossible to collect and share any of your online data with third parties. 

  1. Access to Regional or Censored Content

Standard connections use local servers to ascertain your location, and from this, specific sites, deals, and streaming services will be disabled. 

And, in our global society, this type of censorship is unspeakable. 

  1. Secure Data Transfer 

Secure data transfer is known as tunneling. This secure data transfer is essential for remote workers accessing important company or public network files. 

VPNs connect to private servers and use encryption methods to limit the risk of potential data leakage. 

What do VPNs do? The History of VPNs

The need for private and secure internet searches has been around as long as the internet itself. 

The first predecessor of the VPN is SWIPE (Software IP Encryption Protocol), created in the think tanks of Columbia University and AT&T Bell in 1993. 

Following this, the Peer-to-Peer tunneling protocol, affectionately known as the PPTP, was created in 1996 by a Microsoft employee. This rudimentary VPN protocol existed only to make a secure connection between a single computer and the internet. 

As the internet gained more and more power, the need for more sophisticated internet security became apparent, and that is where the modern VPN was created. 

At first, these VPNs were used in the business world exclusively. But, the primary data leaks of the early 2000s led to increased demand for privacy security. VPNs went from being a high-tech piece of business jargon to a household name, 

Remember IPsec? The minds who created it formed a coalition known as the Internet Engineering Task Force. This team of brilliant minds comprises engineers, vendors, developers, and programmers. Their goal is clearly defined but far from simple. 

The IETF is tasked with the evolution of the internet and its functional operations, creating and maintaining a coherent and fair set of protocols surrounding the internet and how information is transferred. 

Your Secret is Safe with Me

It’s relatively safe to say that the internet is not a safe place, and using it without any form of protection is like driving into a blizzard without snow tires. 

Initially, VPNs were easy to attack and prone to fault. But, our modern VPNs are versatile, powerful, and highly functional pieces of technology that provide so much more than just a secret network. 

VPNs protect us while we are shopping online. They provide geographic anonymity while we attempt to cross-regional fire-wall to find the information we deserve to know. 

VPNs make it impossible for our information and search history to be sold to third-party buyers who wish to make more money off of us, 

And finally, VPNs hides our most precious information from being leaked to those who would use that information against us. 

What started as a clever piece of tech in 1993 has burgeoned into a vital part of our everyday online existence, leaving an indelible mark on how we see the world and interact with it. 

Modern VPNs like NordVPN, SurfShark, CyberGhost, and ExpressVPN have taken this technology and perfected it. These companies have created full-proof VPNs and have the support teams to back them up.

Your internet life is as important as your physical life; protect it as such.


About Author

Matt Ahlgren

Mathias Ahlgren is the CEO and founder of Website Rating, steering a global team of editors and writers. He holds a master's in information science and management. His career pivoted to SEO after early web development experiences during university. With over 15 years in SEO, digital marketing, and web developmens. His focus also includes website security, evidenced by a certificate in Cyber Security. This diverse expertise underpins his leadership at Website Rating.

WSR Team

The "WSR Team" is the collective group of expert editors and writers specializing in technology, internet security, digital marketing, and web development. Passionate about the digital realm, they produce well-researched, insightful, and accessible content. Their commitment to accuracy and clarity makes Website Rating a trusted resource for staying informed in the dynamic digital world.

Nathan House

Nathan House

Nathan has a remarkable 25 years in cybersecurity industry and he contributes his vast knowledge to Website Rating as a contributing expert writer. His focus encompasses a wide range of topics including cybersecurity, VPNs, password managers, and antivirus and antimalware solutions, offering readers expert insights into these essential areas of digital security.

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