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What Is a VPN?

What Is a VPN?

August 11, 2020

Recently, the acronym “VPN” has floated around the tech world as something everyone should know about and everyone should have. VPN stands for virtual private network. It’s a type of connection that typically works best when you’re on an unsecured network, such as public Wi-Fi. VPNs essentially connect one computer to another computer (called a server) on the internet, using that computer’s internet connection.

These are servers:

VPN 2.jpg

They’re giant computers connected directly to the internet.

When you connect your computer to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same network where the VPN is located. If that computer is located in another country, it will appear as if you’re located in that country. This allows you to access resources on local networks (like your documents on your employer’s network when you’re not on site) or access sites and content that may only be available in another country. Here are some other reasons you could use a VPN:

  • Keep your location private on an unsecured network
  • Give you access to geo-blocked content that may not be available in your country (like specific shows on Netflix)
  • Access your employer’s network while working remotely
  • Access your home network while you’re traveling

More and more people are now working from home, and they need the help of a VPN to connect their home network to their employer’s network since they’re physically two separate networks. If they don’t have a home network and have to use public Wi-Fi, like at the Library, a VPN can still gain them access to their employer’s network and provide them with the security they need to protect their information.

VPN 3.jpg

VPN works by using encryption and other security measures to keep unauthorized users from accessing the network. It essentially is a “tunnel” that routes all of your network traffic and data to travel safely through the internet. The data is encrypted before it’s transmitted and then decrypted once it reaches its secured location. This way you can keep your credit card info, passwords, and other sensitive information private.

So, what are your VPN options? There’s TunnelBear, NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost, and many others. You’ll need to research to find what is best for you and your browsing needs. Here is a great article that details if you need a VPN, what you can use it for, and how to choose a VPN provider that best suits your needs. It’s kind of lengthy, but worth the read. There’s also this list from CNET that can be helpful to know what all is out there. (Note: They don’t recommend free services, so keep that in mind as you’re reading the reviews.)

All in all, you may find that a VPN isn’t for you, and that’s okay! However, it’s still good to practice safe searching skills and other precautions to keep your information protected while you use the internet. Staying vigilant is crucial—with or without a VPN. For more information about internet safety, be sure to explore the Library’s available resources on this topic!

Happy Searching!

Brityni S.
Consumer Technology Specialist     

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