In simple terms, a VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a connection between a group of discrete networks that exchanges encrypted data between your computer and a distant server.
Sounds like boring technical jargon? Well, VPN’s can actually be used to perform some pretty neat tricks online that you’ll be missing out on if you don’t employ the services of these privacy boosting devices:
Safely access a work or home network from far away
VPN’s are an essential tool for professionals out there who travel and have to access important files from a distance. Individuals can use a VPN to access network resources even if they’re not physically connected to the same LAN (local area network).
Why are they perfect for dealing with important data from afar? Well, a VPN is also an efficient and easy way to maintain your privacy when you’re surfing the web. In fact, many experts recommend the use of a VPN when browsing the Internet on a public Wi-Fi hotspot as they guarantee that all the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and inaccessible to hackers.
If anyone tries to pry on your internet activity, all they’ll see is the VPN connection, all other data will remain anonymous.
Avoid censorship and detection online
A controversial function of the VPN for sure, they can be used to bypass government censorship anonymously. Whether you agree or not with censorship online, it’s an undeniable fact that certain websites are blocked for legal reasons, almost every government worldwide blocking certain websites within their country.
Meanwhile, the ability that a VPN gives its user to go undetected online has been highlighted in the news recently as police in Holland confiscated 2 servers from VPN provider Perfect Privacy without releasing a public statement.
The German and French governments also want to controversially force mobile operating systems, by law, to allow them to access encrypted content if they deem it necessary in federal investigations.
Watch your favorite shows online wherever you are
Here’s where the fun begins! Many, many people are using VPN’s merely for entertainment purposes. The reason for this? Companies like Netflix, Youtube and Hulu use geo-blocking mechanisms to make some of their content unavailable outside of certain countries due to legal requirements appertaining to arguably outdated content laws in this age of free information.
In fact some people argue that, though this is only speculation, the content laws being so outdated, recent attempts by companies like Netflix to crack down on VPN usage have only been for show. In other words, the streaming giant wants to keep Hollywood distribution companies, who are responsible for creating a great deal of the content shown on Netflix, happy whilst harboring no real desire for making it harder to access their shows worldwide.
As an example of the numbers, in the US, Netflix offers the full experience of roughly 7000 shows, whereas in the UK slightly more than 4000 are available. Countries that have only been reached by Netflix recently are far behind.
Netflix though, has recently been trying to crack down on VPN usage, whilst also admitting that it is almost impossible to do so effectively.
The company’s Chief Product officer recently said that “since the goal of the proxy guys is to hide the source, it’s not obvious how to stop VPN Users. It’s likely to always be a cat-and-mouse game.”
Though the streaming company have blocked certain VPN users from accessing the site, providers like Express VPN and Buffered VPN claim to have great success at getting around these measures.