The Definitive VPN Guide

Definitive VPN Guide

VPNs are one of the best ways to keep your personal data secure and encrypted online. We’ve put together this guide so you’ll know what a VPN does, how it can help, and why you should be using them. Learn how to choose the right VPN for your needs.

What is a VPN?

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a secure and safe way to connect to the internet. By using a VPN your data will be protected online and you can also bypass censorship.

A VPN (Virtual Private Network) hides your IP address and physical location while encrypting your internet traffic – no one can tell who you are, where you are, or what you’re doing online.

VPNs protect your internet browsing by leveraging encryption and other methods. Discover what a VPN is and the basics of how they work in this comprehensive guide to VPNs.

How Does a VPN Work?

You connect to the internet through a network of servers operated by VPN providers. You can choose which remote server your data goes through, hiding your IP address and securing it with encryption protocols. This means no external parties are able to discern anything meaningful from a VPN-protected connection.

Without a VPN (virtual private network), your internet traffic is potentially exposed to ISPs, governments, advertisers, or other people on the same network as you. A VPN strengthens your online privacy and security with an encrypted connection between two points of access.

What is VPN Encryption?

Data encryption is the process of using data encryption (encryption protocols) to create a private tunnel for your data to travel through. When someone examines your VPN connection, they’ll see meaningless data.

​Most VPNs use the AES 256-bit algorithm, which is considered so secure that it is used to encrypt sensitive information like bank records and government information.

What are VPN Protocols?

A VPN protocol is the set of instructions that link your computer or device to a VPN’s proxy servers. Every VPN protocol is comprised of an encryption method and transmission standard. Below are some of the popular VPN protocols:

OpenVPN

The most popular VPN protocol, OpenVPN is both secure and fast. Due to the open-source nature of OpenVPN security vulnerabilities are quickly identified and fixed. This transparency also ensures no malicious or suspicious code is added to the VPN protocol.

IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2)

IKEv2 uses 256-bit encryption like OpenVPN and can switch networks as easily. It is also popular with mobile devices or for remote connections, but unlike OpenVPN, it is not open source. It is often used in combination with IPsec for added security.

L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)

L2TP was created by Microsoft and Cisco as the successor to PPTP. The VPN connection is often paired with IPsec for security.

IPsec

While there are a variety of ways to set encrypted connections between two devices, IPsec is one of the most popular today. It works by encrypting packet data and authenticating the sending source for packets; this is particularly helpful when setting up VPNs.

PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol)

PPTP is an obsolete, less secure protocol still popular with free VPNs, and should be avoided if security is what you’re looking for.

Why should you hide your IP address?

Connecting to the internet is a process that relies heavily on two sets of numbers: your IP address and location. When you visit a website, these numbers let the site know who you are and where you are located so it can serve up content accordingly. Think of an IP as an identifiable street address.

Your IP address connects your device to your ISP and provides a rough location. Platforms can use this to block content regionally by using geoblocking. If you have an adaptive IP, streaming services like Netflix will be able to tell who you are regardless of where you live.

A VPN works by showing the public internet the VPN’s IP address rather than your actual one. This prevents anyone who may be tracking you online from discovering the information they need to know about you. Some VPNs even provide a single common IP address for all of their users, which further anonymizes traffic.

When you add encryption on top of the IP masking, internet activities are completely private from external private eyes.

What does a VPN do?

There are many benefits of using a VPN. With a VPN, you can encrypt your internet connection and change your IP address by hiding it behind the VPN’s new IP address often located in another part of the world. VPNs also lets you:

  1. Protect your data over unsecured Wi-Fi.
  2. Access geo-locked media libraries.
  3. Visit restricted websites.
  4. Avoid censorship.
  5. Stop ISPs from viewing data.
  6. Mitigate price discrimination.

There are many reasons why you should get a VPN, and it is not just for web surfers who want to stay anonymous, they’re also used for gaming and many other activities.

VPN technology was originally used by large corporations to allow their remote staff to connect to their network securely. This is still the case for many companies but VPNs are now frequently used at the consumer level.

Reasons VPNs are used:

Protect your data over unsecured Wi-Fi

Free public Wi-Fi networks are convenient because they don’t require logins or passwords. As anyone can connect to a public Wi-Fi connection, there’s no way to know who is connected at any given time. Open Wi-Fi hacking is a common practice for hackers as it provides them with an easy access point and all of your data.

Your personal data and what you do on the internet can be hacked when you are not using protection. A VPN (virtual private network) is one type of protection from hackers if you have your computer connected to a public Wi-Fi network.

Access geo-locked media libraries

If you want to access your home region’s streaming library while traveling, a VPN service can be used to unblock those sites. Most streaming servers geo-restrict their media libraries making in impossible to access the full Netflix library without a VPN.

If you’ve ever tried to access international media libraries and you can’t, just activate a VPN, set it to the country you’d like to access media from, and start streaming. When the VPN is installed on your phone or mobile device, you’ll truly have access no matter where you’re at.

Visit Restricted Websites

You may find that you are not always able to access certain websites and content. For example, some schools or workplaces restrict access to websites.

Your encrypted VPN tunnel will bypass any blocks as you browse the web.

Avoid censorship

Many countries censor Internet access, making it difficult to use Google or Facebook. A VPN connection can circumvent censorship blocks from restrictive governments.

Stop ISPs from viewing data

Without a VPN, your ISP can spy on all your online activity. ISPs use this data to provide service to the customer and it could be used by law enforcement agencies if required.

Many people don’t know why they need to use a VPN (virtual private network). In the UK, your ISP stores your data for 12 months – that’s everything you read, watch or click. And in the US, an ISP can sell your browsing history and data to companies without asking you first.

Here in Australia, ISP are are required to store the following information and meta-data:

  • Name, address, and billing information
  • Phone number / email, and the phone number or email of the recipient
  • The time, date and session duration of communication
  • IP address
  • The location of the communication equipment
  • Communication type: phone call, text, or email
  • Bandwidth usage

Mitigate price discrimination

When a company offers different prices to different people based on their perceived ability to pay, this is called price discrimination. Retailers use past purchases and location information to predict what you might be willing or able to spend.

The prices on flights change in response to a range of factors, including the time, the location and how fast tickets sell. You can sometimes counteract these changes with inventive thinking – like giving your IP address an overseas IP address with a VPN service.

Why online privacy is increasingly important?

The internet is at a tipping point. As more people become reliant on smartphones, laptops and computers to connect with our online world, they risk exposing intimate personal data like their browsing history, habits and patterns to security breaches or surveillance by their ISP.

Your personal data should be protected from irresponsible parties and the internet’s inherent flaws.

What can be tracked with an active VPN?

Even with a VPN, some information must be stored to deliver the VPN service. Payment details are one such piece of information, but this can be mitigated by choosing a VPN service that accepts cryptocurrency payments.

Credit card purchases make it easier to track a user. That is because with just the credit card company and the IP address of where you are physically located at, your identity can be tracked. However, most VPNs have policies that do not log information about what you are doing on their service or capture any personal identifying information.

A VPN (virtual private network) protects the data that travels between your device and the VPN server. If you connect to HTTPS-encrypted websites, then your data will be safe from interception as it journeys back down through the servers. However, if you connect to unsecured websites, then an interceptor can capture your traffic once it exits the VPN tunnel.

Security and privacy extensions for Chrome and, especially, truly secure and private browsers can block cookies and protect you against browser-based web and ad tracking, while a VPN insulates your data and hides your IP address.

Using privacy extensions for Chrome, and or truly secure and private browsers like Brave specifically designed to protect your data, can block cookies that track you online. Combining this with a VPN results in a very high level of security and privacy.

VPNs that offer a shared IP address give you an extra layer of protection by creating one unified identity for multiple users.

What Exactly Does “no logging” mean?

With a no-log VPN, your VPN provider will not track or store any information as you use the connection. The only things they know is what IP address to send your requests out through, how to bill you and which VPN server you are using while connected.

Whenever you use your computer, a log of the activity is saved to the system. Since servers are also computers, they collect information when accessed by another device — such as yours. Avoid this with no log VPN service.

Read the VPN provider’s privacy policy to see what type of information it collects and stores. If they keep your browsing history, then it defeats the point of a VPN.

VPN Glossary of Terms

In an age where privacy is worth more than gold, having a good VPN is quickly becoming one of our modern-day essentials, especially if you find yourself spending most of your time behind a computer. After all, most of us do our shopping, banking, and business over the internet these days, not to mention all the leisure time spent scrolling through social media. 

With all our most important personal information being tucked away on the web, safeguarding all that data from malicious users or keeping it as confidential as it should be is what VPNs are all about. Problem is, picking the right VPN and keeping yourself secure on the net can be a tough task, given how much technical jargon software companies throw at you when selling their software. 

The whole point of this page is to help the average user learn more about important technical language often associated with online security and VPNs but in more layman’s terms. That way, you can be more confident in the products you use and you can always revert back to this glossary if you come across some new jargon that raises a big question mark over your head.

Want to jump straight to a specific term? Simply click any of the words below and we’ll take you straight to the explanation.

Ad blocker

This is an extension, add-on, or piece of software that is often installed on your web browser to stop pesky advertisements from showing up on the web pages you visit. That’s not its only use, however, as it also keeps away malicious ad-based malware, as well as the collecting of your online information by certain companies – also known as cross-site tracking.

Perhaps the most popular and most commonly used Ad blocker browser extension is Adblock Plus, though certain VPN softwares nowadays have their own version added to their service.

AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)

Considered the gold standard of encryption, AES-256 quickly became perhaps the most common encryption method around. It remained the top cipher of its class since it was developed back in 2001, consistently holding its ground despite the passage of time. 

It’s essentially a type of algorithm that encrypts and decrypts your data for you in order to maintain your privacy and security. Think of it this way, if VPN utilizes AES-256 encryption, it’ll use that encryption method to take apart your data at one end of your internet connection, then put it back together at the receiving end, allowing your information to remain secure and confidential. If the VPN you’re considering doesn’t use AES, you might want to think twice.

BitTorrent

This is one of the more popular peer-to-peer (P2P) programs for downloading or sharing files on the web. As opposed to the more traditional way of downloading files directly from a website, using torrents allows you to connect to various other users who’ve already downloaded the file. That way you can download small chunks of the file from those users until completed. Once you’ve successfully downloaded the entire file, you can choose to “seed” the file yourself, giving other users the opportunity to download parts of the file from you just like you did previously.

To start torrenting, you’ll need to install the BitTorrent software or any similar program, such as uTorrent or Deluge. Next, you’ll need to locate a torrent file for whatever it is that you’d like to download. Torrent files are most commonly found on illegal pirating websites, though you can often find some on certain forums and the like.

Due to its fast speeds and peer-to-peer nature, torrenting has become synonymous with piracy and has become one of the prime ways of selling bootleg software, games, movies, and music. We suggest you never use it for such purposes, as it is morally wrong and may land you in some very hot water depending on the country you reside in. Keep in mind, however, that the process of torrenting is completely legal and can be a fantastic way to share files that are rights-free.

One of the downsides to torrenting is the fact that your IP address would be completely visible to other users who are part of the transfer, which is why you’ll want to consider procuring a decent VPN. That way you can keep your business away from prying eyes.

Browser Extension

These are add-ons that can be installed onto your web browser of choice, allowing it to perform a host of extra functions. Ad blocker is a good example of a browser extension. 

More popular browser programs like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox feature an online store where you can browse through all the available extensions, though not all extensions can be used across different browsers.

Just like any software, extensions can be developed by anyone – even malicious users who are looking to do harm to your device or acquire your information. Only install extensions that look legitimate and come with a lot of satisfactory reviews.

Some VPN solutions come with their own browser extensions, providing you with a great way to have a bit more privacy when you’re surfing the web without stealing away too many resources from your machine.

Cipher 

Ciphers are mathematical algorithms used primarily for the encryption of information. Due to the complexity of today’s algorithms, even the most advanced computers in the world would struggle to crack the security of a modern cipher.

The toughest cipher available for VPNs nowadays is known as AES-256, though you may come across the AES-128 variety from time to time.

Connection Logs

These are logs used by VPN services to identify technical hiccups or general troubleshooting. They are also sometimes known as metadata logs.

The degree of data collected depends on the VPN service in question, though most of the time they just collect anonymous information, including the number of gadgets connected to the service, the volume of data transferred, and the time the connection was established. 

Logs of this kind are usually considered harmless, as long as the information gathered is general, anonymous, and only saved briefly. Be wary, however, of VPN services that log your originating IP address information.

Cookies

I’m sure many of us have come across this computer term before and wondered what it means, exactly. Simply put, it’s a text file that’s saved on your device whenever you visit a website and it’s used to recall certain information regarding you or your machine at a later time.

For the most part, cookies are used to retain your login credentials and your preferences when it comes to the site you’re visiting. Websites generally inform you of this the moment you navigate to any of its pages, though there have been some sites that track users without their knowledge or consent.

Cookies are usually split into two types: session and persistent. Session cookies, as its name suggests, only lasts for the duration of your current browser session, meaning they disappear when you exit your browser. As for persistent cookies, they stay behind even after your browser is closed and the information stored will likely be used for future visits to the same website.

You can freely delete cookies from your web browser at any time, though the methods of how to do so vary depending on which one you’re using. Here’s how to delete your cookies for the more famous browsers:

Google Chrome

  • Head to chrome://settings/
  • Navigate to the very bottom of the page and select “Advanced”
  • That should’ve uncovered a new option labelled “Clear Browsing Data”
  • Tick the box called “Cookies and other side data” and then hit the “Clear data” button

Apple Safari

  • Fire up the Safari browser and head to “Preferences”
  • Navigate to the “Privacy” tab
  • Select “Manage website data” and then hit “Removal All”

Mozilla Firefox

  • Click the hamburger menu icon on the top-right corner of the screen
  • Navigate to the “Privacy & Security” section
  • Select “Manage Data” and then hit “Remove All Shown”

Opera Browser

  • Click the large “O” on the top-left corner of the window
  • Choose “Preferences”
  • Select “Privacy and Security”
  • Click “All Cookies and Site Data”, followed by “Delete All”

Microsoft Edge

  • Click on the three dots button in the top-right corner of the browser
  • Select “Settings”
  • Head to “Privacy & Security”
  • Tick “Cookies and saved website data” and click “Clear”

Dark Web/Deep Web

Despite the fact that people think these two are one and the same, they’re actually very different from one another. The Deep Web is made up of all the sites that you won’t be able to look up using traditional search engines, such as Google. Instead of the more common website suffixes like .org or .com, websites on the Dark Web end in .onion. 

Navigating to these sites require you to use special networks like Tor or I2P, the former making it near-impossible to track you. Contrary to popular belief, using the Dark Web is completely legal and it’s often utilized by people who live in countries under strict censorship or oppressive rule in order to circumvent ISP blocks. 

If you’re lucky, your VPN will have the built-in function of letting you access .onion sites through their service, eliminating the need to download a Tor browser. For people who live in countries with stricter internet laws, it’s worth noting that using a Tor-based browser will probably end up alerting your ISP, which shouldn’t be a big deal unless you’re doing something shady.

The Dark Web is exactly as ominous as it sounds and is actually a portion of the Deep Web that’s pretty much dedicated solely towards illegal activities. Here you’ll find all kinds of dubious marketplaces and forums which you’d best steer clear of.

DD-WRT

This is an open-source firmware for wireless routers that’s based on the Linux operating system. It’s compatible with a wide variety of router brands and is usually developed in a way that allows you to install it over the device’s default operating system. This is done to give your router additional functionality.

You can either purchase a pre-flashed router or flash DD-WRT into your router yourself, overwriting the device’s default settings and giving you more control. Through this, users are able to set a VPN straight from the router itself, forcing all the gadgets that connect to it to run through the VPN without the need for installing a VPN app or service.

Dedicated IP Address

When using a VPN, you’re usually assigned a random IP address from a list of available ones. Some services offer a large number of addresses for you to choose from, while others allow you to choose just one. Since the IP addresses that you utilize are also used by other users on the same server, it’s likely that someone will end up using the address at the same time you are.

Depending on the VPN service, some of them give you the option of having a dedicated IP address, usually for an added fee. That way it’ll be uniquely yours and no one else will have access to it, allowing you to connect to the address anytime you please.

Here are a few upsides to getting your own dedicated IP address:

  • It’s better at unblocking streaming sites, such as Netflix and Hulu.
  • You’re less likely to run into annoying CAPTCHAs.
  • Fewer messages from your various accounts that send out alerts for unfamiliar IP logins
  • Less congestion on the network you’re on could lead to better speeds

While these perks certainly sound tempting, purchasing a dedicated IP address sort of defeats the purpose of using a VPN in the first place. Since anonymity is what you’re after, why would want to stick to an IP address that could be traced back to you one way or the other, when you can have randomly assigned addresses that are used by a number of different people? 

Deep Packet Inspection (DPI)

DPI is a way of policing and analyzing web traffic and, as far as VPNs are concerned, is often used by governments to censor the internet within the country or block out certain web traffic. Traffic that travels all over the web is made up of packets, which are tiny portions of information that are sent out piece by piece and then reassembled once they’re received at the other end, thus completing the whole process between your device and whatever server it’s trying to reach.

DPI is able to read the information that’s travelling in these packets, allowing it to effectively dictate which kinds of information to let through and which not to. That’s why it’s so popular with ISP providers, workplaces, and sometimes, even governments, granting them the ability to censor information as they see fit. With the right VPN, you can protect your traffic from DPI.

DMCA Notice

Short for Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a DMCA notice is a message sent to ISPs by copyright holders to notify them of copyright infringement. For anyone who enjoys torrenting licensed media or watching shows on illegal streaming sites, they’ll constantly be at risk of having such a notice forwarded to them by their ISP. 

Due to the fact that using a VPN means that you’re utilizing the service’s IP addresses, the DMCI notice will end up being forwarded to them instead. Different VPN services have different responses to DMCI notice, so it’s worth giving their terms of service a read first, in case you plan on doing some serious torrenting. That being said, we suggest that you only ever torrent license-free material and avoid downloading illegal/copyright media for your own security.

DNS (Domain Name System)

This is the way the internet interprets web addresses (also known as URLs) as numerical IP addresses. Since each site has its own IP address, it would be a huge hassle for users to remember the address for every site they plan on visiting. That’s why we recall domain names instead since each domain name translates to a specific IP address.

Our website’s domain name, for example, is exampleurl.com and that translates to the IP address 192.158. 1.38. through DNS. The conversion process is often done by your ISP and that means that they’re able to monitor all of the websites you visit as well as their IP addresses. Using a VPN, however, forces the process to be handled by your VPN provider instead of your ISP. 

That way, your anonymity is ensured since your ISP can’t track the websites that you’re visiting, which is the primary reason why you’d want to use a VPN in the first place. This is also why it’s important that you pick a high-quality VPN service since you could end up experiencing a DNS leak in case the whole process fails.

DNS Hijacking

This is a form of cyberattack where a malicious user halts your traffic while it’s still on its way to the right DNS server. Instead of you reaching your intended destination, the hacker can reroute you to a harmful website without your knowledge. 

You could end up on a phishing site that was specifically designed to look identical to the legitimate one you were trying to reach, but instead of logging into your account, the phishing site proceeds to steal your login information. You could also wind up on some random site that’s chock-full of harmful malware.

This whole thing can be avoided by using a VPN, since that will allow you to have a secure route between the DNS server and your device, preventing any middleman from monitoring or interfering with your DNS requests.

DNS Leak

This happens when your DNS request somehow falls out of the VPN tunnel, causing it to pass through your ISP instead. That means that your actual IP address and that of the website you’re attempting to visit are both revealed. There are several free DNS leak test tools you can use online so you can check for any DNS leaks in your connection.

To avoid such incidents from happening, make sure you subscribe to a well-known and highly recommended VPN service that offers DNS leak protection.

Firefox

One of the most popular web browsers in the world that happens to be both free and open-source. It was created by a non-profit organization known as the Mozilla Foundation. It may not be quite as famous as Google Chrome, but Firefox is quickly becoming exceeding popular among users who are particularly security-minded. This is on account of the large number of privacy-related extensions that the browser has to offer.

Geo-Restrictions

As its name suggests, geo-restrictions are limitations that are put in place to restrict users from accessing web content depending on which country or region the user is located in. Hulu, for example, can only be accessed in the United States, while Netflix features specific TV shows and movies depending on your geographical location.

Some governments also tend to use these restrictions to ban certain websites that are deemed unfit for the public or those that are in conflict with the country’s laws. VPNs can be used to bypass geo-restrictions on some apps or sites, but you need to be extra careful not to violate any copyright laws or break any rules. 

One of the main uses of VPNs is to alter your virtual location. This is called geo-spoofing and can also be done by utilizing a proxy. While it’s relatively easy to set this up via proxy which can help you bypass geo-restrictions towards certain content, you should keep in mind that none of your information will be encrypted and you’ll be completely exposed.

HTTP & HTTPS

HTTP is an abbreviation for HyperText Transfer Protocol, one of the basic building blocks of the world wide web. HTTPS is essentially a safer version of the former, with the “S” standing for “Secure”.

Hypertext refers to any sort of content that’s available online that also connects to various other content as well. That’s what gives the internet its web-like interconnected structure and its absence would cause the internet to be just a bunch of standalone pages with no relation to one another.

You’ll notice that the URLs in your address bar always start with either HTTP or HTTPS. When you boil it all down, HTTPS is pretty much just requests and their corresponding responses. Every time you try to access a site, your browser starts off by sending an HTTP request to the server that’s hosting the website you want to visit. The server has to then respond to your browser’s request, granting you access to the website you’re looking for.

HTTP offers no encryption towards this entire process, effectively leaving the transaction vulnerable to monitoring or hijacking by malicious users. HTTPS, on the other hand, does offer a level of encryption (usually port 443), making it the far more secure option of the two. To be safe, you’re better off sticking to HTTPS websites and make sure that the pages you visit have a padlock icon showing next to the address portion of your browser.

IP (Internet Protocol) Address

This is a completely unique numeric address provided by your ISP for your internet connection. You can change it yourself or have one randomly given to your connection every it is reset, though every single activity you perform online must be linked to an IP address.

When talking about IP addresses, they’re split into two different types, either public or local. For the most part, discussions about IP addresses are usually in reference to the public kind. Public IP addresses provided by your ISP encompass every single gadget connected to your network, meaning a laptop and desktop seem identical to your ISP. 

Local IP addresses, on the other hand, are provided by your router to each of the devices connected to it individually, allowing it to distinguish the gadgets from one another. The visibility of the devices is limited strictly to those connected to the network, so it’s all fairly secure.

Bear in mind that IP addresses are linked to actual physical locations, which is why you require a VPN in order to access content that’s barred in your region. The VPN assigns you an IP address that belongs to a server in some other country, tricking websites into believing that you’re trying to access them from that area.

IP Leak

This occurs when a device that’s using a VPN somehow contacts a default server instead of the VPN one that it’s meant to. What ends up happening is your real IP address is revealed to the websites you visit, as opposed to the one that was provided by your VPN service. 

You can do a quick test for IP leaks by looking up VPN leak tests online. Most of them are free and hardly take any time to perform. If you want to protect yourself from IP leaks, you’ll want to choose a VPN that features both DNS and IPv6 leak security.

IPv4

IPv4 stands for Internet Protocol Version 4 and it’s often the default protocol for how IP addresses are defined. It was first introduced back in1983, utilizes a 32-bit address scheme, and supports approximately 94% of all internet traffic. However, due to the insane rate at which the internet’s popularity and functionality have progressed, the addresses provided by IPv4 are running out, which eventually lead to the development of IPv6.

IPv6

Short for Internet Protocol Version 6, this protocol was developed as the new standard and was set to make up for the shortcomings of its predecessor. Instead of 32-bit internet addresses, it uses 128-bit ones, allowing for an almost unfathomable number of addresses.

IPv6 still hasn’t garnered the same popularity as its older sibling, so most VPNs have trouble allowing IPV6 traffic to flow through its tunnels. That being said, if you connect to an IPv6-enabled site, your ISP may end up handling the DNS request, effectively revealing your real IP address.

ISP (Internet Service Provider)

This one’s fairly self-explanatory. They’re the ones who supply you with your internet connection. If you’re not sporting a VPN, all your internet information is unencrypted, which means that your ISP is able to monitor your every move online.

It’s worth noting that a lot of countries require their ISP to save the metadata of their clients so that the government can access it if requested. Certain ISPs also continuously police internet traffic and funnel it to the authorities and intelligence agencies.

Multi-Hop VPN (aka Double VPN)

The regular flow of web traffic begins from your device, then travels to the VPN server and finally reaches its endpoint. Multi-hop VPNs work a little differently. Your traffic ends up passing through two different VPN servers, both of which are usually from different regions in the world. The point of all this is the added security since having to go through two VPN servers instead of one makes your traffic harder to monitor. 

There is a major downside to using Multi-hop VPNs, however, as your connection speed takes a significant dip on account of the extra distance your traffic has to travel. For the most part, using a standard VPN should be more than enough for the average user, though utilizing a multi-hop one for activities that require the utmost anonymity isn’t a bad idea.

Obfuscation

This is a fairly common term as far VPN traffic visibility is concerned. Basically, it refers to the way VPN traffic is masked to make it look like normal data from a conventional net user. This is necessary because most websites and services can easily tell the difference between regular traffic and that which is run through a VPN.

This is especially necessary for regions with advanced censorship blocks, as most regular VPNs end up being detected. Only a few top-calibre VPNs come with the advanced obfuscation needed to bypass these blocks. 

OpenVPN

Open source refers to types of software that allows its code to be freely checked by anyone. Why is that so important? Well, it allows industry professionals and advanced VPN enthusiasts to inspect a VPNs source code to see if there are any glaring vulnerabilities. Also, it means that open source VPNs are unable to exaggerate the capabilities of their service since the truth can easily be determined through its code.

Proxy

Having a proxy server adds an extra stop between your device and the internet, making any traffic that passes through it seem like it’s coming from a different IP address than your real one. While this sounds quite similar to the function of a VPN, connections through a proxy have no encryption. 

That means your ISP still ends up logging your activity, the proxy server still sees which IP address the traffic is coming from, and malicious users will still be able to intercept your data with relative ease. The most common use for proxies is to circumvent geo-restrictions since they alter your virtual location for free and with relative ease. A solid VPN is still the better choice because and it can perform the same function while simultaneously encrypting your traffic.

Shared IP Address

This happens when various users end up being assigned the same IP address. Where a standard IP address is unique to each router and the gadgets linked to it, having a shared IP address makes it far more difficult to corner a specific user which, in turn, gives you more privacy and security.

Having a VPN that offers a large number of IP addresses may be faster, but having fewer IP addresses translates to better privacy on account of the number of people using them. It’s up to you to decide which factor is more important to you.

Simultaneous Connections

This is the number of gadgets that are allowed to connect to your VPN simultaneously at any given time. Most VPN services offer up to five connections, though basic/free plans mostly allow just one. 

Smart DNS

Just like proxies or VPNs, a Smart DNS allows it to seem as if you’re connecting to a website/service from a different region in the world compared to where your IP address is actually located. It accomplishes this by altering the DNS server that your traffic passes through instead of changing your IP address.

By changing the route of your DNS requests, a Smart DNS is able to cover your real location, allowing you to bypass certain website blocks. Similar to proxies, however, a Smart DNS doesn’t offer any kind of encryption, though that makes it faster and allows it to be used with devices that don’t have their own VPN apps, like consoles and the usual streaming device.

Split Tunnelling

This is a specific VPN feature that lets you dictate which programs are allowed to bypass your encrypted VPN tunnel. While it may seem like it goes against the whole point of utilizing a VPN, certain services only function properly if it detects that your traffic is coming from a real location, while others have safeguards that allow the service to distinguish and block any traffic that comes from a VPN. For cases like that, you have split tunnelling.

Static IP Address

Usually, VPN services assign dynamic IP addresses, meaning they’re randomly assigned to you each time you connect to it. Certain VPNs feature static IP addresses, though this usually comes at an extra expense. What this does is allow you to connect to a specific IP address each time. Here are the pros and cons of using that kind of IP address:

Pros:

  • Superior speeds on account of you being the only user connected to the specific IP address
  • Static IP addresses are able to bypass geo-restrictions since their traffic pattern is a lot more similar to standard traffic compared to a usual VPN.

Cons:

  • If you’re using a VPN for anonymity, then you’ll want to look elsewhere since a static IP address pretty much does the opposite. They can specifically be linked back to you, even if your VPN provider doesn’t keep particular logs.
  • Since you’re limited to a specific IP address, then you’re also stuck with whatever region it’s located in.
  • VPNs with static IP address features usually cost an extra bit of coin.

Throttling

The bane of every avid internet user. Speed or bandwidth throttling refers to when your ISP purposely slows the speed of your internet connection in order to control the traffic in the network which they often do to in order to lessen the congestion of the bandwidth.

ISPs often do this to users who are detected engaging in activities that require high amounts of bandwidth, like intense torrenting or regular streaming. Since VPNs are able to mask your online activities, they can also prevent your ISPs from throttling your internet speed.

URL

Short for Uniform Resource Locator, we’re more familiar with this as the website address that you normally navigate to, like www.google.com, for example.

If we’re going to be more technical about it, URLs are alphanumeric addresses that are converted into IP addresses through a DNS translation service that allows them to be recognized by your device. 

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which grants you a host of nifty features, such as online privacy and security, bypassing geo-restrictions, and the ability to appear as if you were connecting to the internet from a different country. VPNs achieve this by encrypting your connection and re-routing you through a remote server so as to change your IP address. 

VPN Client

This is the actual software program that you use in order to connect your devices to the VPN server. When you say “VPN Client”, you’d be referring to the VPN provider’s desktop or mobile app. 

VPN Protocol

This is the system of rules and processes that VPN clients have to rely on in order to create secure connections between a user’s device and the VPN server. This is required to safely be able to transmit data. Here are the more common VPN protocols that you might come across:

  • PPTP
  • IKEv2/IPSec
  • OpenVPN
  • SSTP
  • Wireguard

VPN Tunnel

You’ll probably see this term thrown around quite a bit when talking about VPNs. Basically, it’s the encrypted connection that links your device to a VPN server. The term “tunnel” is used because the connection cannot be compromised from the outside and it allows you to connect from your real-life location to a region in a completely different part of the world.

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