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Ask The Techspert: What is a VPN?

Have a tech question that’s got you stumped? Send your tech questions to Techspert Jonathan using THIS FORM. He’ll be tackling one question a month from readers.

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network,” though it is not quite a network per se. VPN is a service that protects your internet connection and enhances your online privacy.

Things to know about your internet connection

To better understand VPN, you must first have a clearer picture of what comes with your internet connection.

  • Although your ISP (Internet Service Provider, like AT&T or Comcast) can see all the websites you visit, they cannot track your activities on secure websites.
  • Most websites are already secure by using HTTPS.
  • Whenever you connect to any internet, a public IP address gets assigned to your device. This IP address holds information about your geolocation.

Why use a VPN?

There are multiple reasons for using a VPN, but they always come down to the following three:

  • Securing your online data:  This service provides an extra layer of security to your online activities by encrypting all the data you send over the internet. A good VPN service can protect your information when accessing a public network or using unsecured websites or apps. Moreover, it also hides your online activities to your ISP (Internet Service Provider), including the websites you visit.
  • Spoofing your location: VPN allows you to connect virtually to a network in different areas. When working remotely, you could connect to your company’s secure network from anywhere in the world, and it will appear as if you were in the company building.
  • Accessing restricted content online: This is a derived benefit of spoofing your location. Let’s say that you would like to stream your Netflix show when visiting China, a country where Netflix is restricted. When using a VPN, you can connect virtually to a network in the United States and access Netflix in China.

Do I need to use a VPN?

You might want to start using one if you fall under one of the following categories:

  • You frequently work from public places like coffee shops or cafés.
  • You wish to access restricted content in your current location. For instance, being able to access YouTube or Netflix in China.
  • You work remotely with highly private information like organizational business data.

VPN examples

There are many choices when it comes to VPN services. The good ones always come with a subscription fee, and you should be wary of the completely free ones. Click on this TechRadar article for a detailed list of the best VPN services currently on the market.

Conclusion

  • VPN is not an internet connection. You need access to the internet to use your VPN.
  • VPN does not protect you from viruses, scams, and phishing.

You can avoid most of the problems people face with online security and privacy by following standard cyber hygiene like using solid passwords and being skeptical of links you receive via emails.

 

Leave a comment below with any questions or input that you might have.

 

Jonathan-Techspert-techTechspert Jonathan is Senior Planet’s Sr Digital Community Relations and Product Specialist and a former Senior Planet San Antonio technology trainer. He is also an iOS developer with a background in Information Systems and Cyber Security.

Jonathan, Senior Planet’s Techspert columnist, answers one of your questions every month… but for exclusive tech reports, talks, webinars and more, become a Senior Planet official Supporter. Learn more about becoming a Supporter and access to exclusive events and offerings here

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