What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network?

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a service that lets you access the web safely and privately by routing your connection through an encrypted server.

How do they Work?

You start the VPN client (the actual VPN software). This software encrypts your data, even before your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or the public WiFi provider sees it. The data then goes to the VPN, and from the VPN server to your online destination which is wherever you set it to. E.g you can say you live in Germany when in reality you like in England. This seems cool but depending on how far away you go, the worse and slower the connection which can causes major internet delays on loading pages and online data.

Does a VPN Make Me Anonymous Online?

Without a VPN, your connection is fully open, and your ISP, the open WiFi router, any server along the way, or a person with the right tools can look at your data. Using a VPN solves many of those problems by encrypting your data transfers and making it appear as if it’s the server itself that’s making the connection and not you.

VPN Services Logging Policy

The logs a VPN keeps significantly affects the level of anonymity and privacy you have with their service. The logs a provider may keep include:

  • User Activity
  • IP Addresses
  • Connection/Disconnection Timestamps
  • Devices Used
  • Payment Logs

Logs make you a tiny bit less anonymous since your IP can be connected to a given browsing session that you had. Of course, tying this to you personally is very difficult but still kind of do-able if some agency is deliberate enough.

Overall, the fewer logs your provider keeps the better, with “no logs” the ideal.

Be careful. Many services state you have privacy on their sales material, but you need to look at their privacy policy to see their fine print and what data they actually keep, or they will state that their country does not require data yet they do not state their own data policy.

How Much Does a VPN Cost?

The average out of 31 popular VPNs is £5.59 a month, which tells you a lot about what sort of an expense this usually is. VPNs that cost more than £10 are uncommon, and there’s not a lot of reason to buy them since there are more affordable solutions out there.

IP Leaks and Kill Switches

A kill switch is a feature that automatically kills your internet access (stops you accessing the internet) if the encrypted, safe connection should ever drop. If there’s any connectivity issue at all, the kill switch will trigger and block all activity until the secure connection returns. This makes sure your original, real IP address is not revealed.

If your VPN doesn’t have a kill switch and a connectivity issue arises, it’s probabl your device might attempt to restore the standard, unprotected connection, this exposing what you’ve been doing up until that point. And however ethical or unethical it will all be logged.