VPNs are one of the most misunderstood technologies on the planet today. This is due in large part to VPN companies and their army of shills who tout them as a one-button solution to online privacy and security. This is a gross oversimplification.
There are several advantages to utilizing a virtual private network, but knowing “the why” may require some finesse. So let’s discuss what a virtual private network exactly does, whether or not it can protect you online, and five facts that we bet you didn’t know about VPN.
1) The Internet Is Now Encrypted And In 70% – 85% Of Cases VPN Encryption Is Obsolete
The internet used to be a different, more trusting place 20 years ago. All communication was conducted in the form of HTTP. Your passwords, as well as all of the other information you supplied, were sent over the public internet in clear text.
Anyone who intercepted your communications could see everything you sent and received. This wasn’t good enough. As the world’s technical knowledge increased, and software that might record all of a public WiFi network’s traffic became available for download, something had to change. So the internet switched to an encrypted version of HTTP, known as HTTPS.
The saying “military grade encryption” is used a lot by VPN providers. It’s mostly marketing because HTTPS encryption, in general, is likely superior than whatever the provider uses.
Here’s the catch: while recent research suggests that about 80 percent of websites use HTTPS, that isn’t every website. Nothing close to it. I was on the Turkish Embassy’s website the other day in an attempt to acquire a visa and found that it didn’t employ HTTP. The site asked for passport photographs, bank statements, and other information sufficient to construct a fake identity, but it didn’t utilize HTTPS.
Another excellent example is streaming platforms. They seldom utilize HTTPS. If you’re sharing your WiFi with housemates or if there’s a common network for your building, a VPN is useful on these websites.
2) Your ISP Can Recognize That You’re Using A VPN
With a VPN, an ISP can’t tell what sites you’re visiting or anything else you’re doing online.
The only thing they know is that they’re routing traffic to a remote server, and they can probably figure out that the server is a VPN. There are lists of known IP addresses belonging to VPN businesses, the handshake process differs depending on whether you’re using HTTPS or a VPN, the packet is most likely different in size, a lot of data goes to a single IP address, and there are other ways to tell you’re utilizing a VPN that we won’t go into.
In a nutshell, yes, your ISP may determine that you’re utilizing a VPN, but it’s unlikely they’ll care enough to investigate. And if they did, there’s nothing they could discover. In Belarus, China, Iraq, North Korea, Oman, Russia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), VPNs are either prohibited or selectively banned; however if you live in one of these countries it’s unlikely you’d be reading this article in the first place.
3) The Main Reason People Use VPNs Is To Watch Geo Blocked Content
Many VPN users already knew this, but the major reason people use VPNs is to access geo-blocked material. Geo-blocked material is not available in all areas. There are hundreds of titles that aren’t accessible in other countries on US Netflix. Then there are entire services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, HBO, SkySports, and others that aren’t available to everyone around the world.
Why? Obsolete broadcasting rules from the days of the living room television sets are still regulating our fiber optic-powered entertainment on demand reality. You may continue to wait for outdated regulations to catch up with you, or you may simply get a VPN and upgrade your internet connection with the press of a button. These days, you can even get a VPN on your smartphone. For Android devices read about VPN apks.
4) VPNS Can Help You Prevent Your ISP From Slowing Down Your Connection
In the developed world, this isn’t much of an issue since there are legal safeguards in place; nevertheless, ISPs limit heavy users in developing regions without such protections.
This is a common practice in Asia and Africa. ISPs are known to track torrent traffic and slow it down. Their intentions for doing so are self-evident. The more people they can connect to the internet at the lowest possible price, the more money they make. Your ISP is first and foremost a business.
Your internet connection is shared. There may be a splitter connecting the cable that runs to your home to all of the other cables that serve your street outside of your home.
There’s also a second box down the road where all internet traffic for the area/suburb/city is aggregated. The majority of the internet is kept on servers abroad, so your nation’s internet traffic goes under the sea to data centers to retrieve international sites and join in steam lobbies. Every byte of data that travels over this submarine cable is paid for by IP transit agreements between ISPs. As a result, you can see how it is in the best interests of ISPs to slow down heavy users.
VPNs aren’t the one-click panacea to online privacy and security that many people think they are. What they are is the most convenient method to access geo-blocked material while avoiding ISP throttling. It’s true that they hide your IP address from sites you visit, as well as sites you visit from your ISP, but don’t believe everything VPN companies say about themselves.
EDITOR NOTE: This is a promoted post and should not be considered an editorial endorsement