VPN

What is VPN and why do I need it

Hello, my name is Nicholas Katz. I am an employee of Switcherry VPN. Today I will tell you what a VPN is, why it is needed, and how to apply it in practice.

It is well known that the Internet is an open system. This means that all data transmitted over the Internet, if desired, can be intercepted by anyone-hackers, employees of special services and other government agencies, your business competitors, etc. And these «whomever» are always ready to use the information they receive against you. That is why in modern realities, network security comes to the fore, which for the average user in the absolute majority of cases means anonymity and confidentiality.

But an unprotected user loses anonymity when they log in to the Internet – their identity can be easily identified by their IP address, and their network activity is completely transparent. Moreover, the Internet service provider tracks and records all the actions of ordinary users in log files, which it is obliged to store on its servers for at least a year and provide on demand to the special services.

This is why ensuring the security of users on the Internet is becoming an urgent necessity. At the moment, VPN technology is the most advanced way to protect your personal data from most threats coming from the network. In this article, you will learn how VPN technology protects your privacy, guarantees security and anonymity, and when it is vital to apply it.

What is VPN

The abbreviation «VPN» stands for «Virtual Private Network». The adjective «Private» in this phrase means not just «private», but rather «personal», «secret», «secret», «confidential». Initially, private virtual networks were deployed to organize secure communication channels between the central offices of companies and remote branches.

Currently, VPN technology is used to create a secure connection within a public network. In other words, in an insecure public physical network (the Internet is the most famous example of such a network), a virtual, secure and secure subnet is created, in which all data is transmitted in encrypted form.

How a VPN works

Virtual Private Network
VPN» stands for «Virtual Private Network»

The VPN technology is based on the creation of a so called «tunnel» – a secure connection between the user’s device and the VPN provider’s server. A «VPN provider» is a company that provides VPN services to users, and by «device» we mean computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other gadgets with various operating systems. Also, the «device» can be a regular router – home or office, but keep in mind that not all models of routers support VPN.

A VPN provider deploys special software on its servers, which is called a «VPN server», and users install a special application on their computers or other devices – a «VPN client». (On routers with VPN support, the necessary software is already installed, the user only needs to configure the connection.)

Immediately after connecting to the VPN network, the client establishes an encrypted connection with the VPN provider’s server. A secure, secure connection between a VPN client and a VPN server is called a «tunnel». Since the connection is created in an open network, the data transmitted through the «tunnel» can still be intercepted by attackers. But since encryption is used in data transmission, the information passing through the «tunnel» is more or less protected from hacker attacks and other dangers that endanger the user’s privacy.

An important feature and advantage of using VPN technology is the concealment and substitution of the client’s IP address. For all Internet resources visited by the user, only the IP address of the VPN server will be «visible», and the «native» IP of the user is securely hidden. For example, if the user is physically located in the UK, and the VPN provider’s server is in the US, then from the point of view of the website being visited, it will also be located in the US.

Due to data encryption, it is impossible to determine what the user was doing on the network, what kind of content he viewed, what files he downloaded, so the Internet provider is not able to track the actions of clients using a VPN. The only thing that will be able to determine the software of the Internet provider and that will be recorded in its log files is the IP addresses of VPN servers.

How a VPN works
How a VPN works

About cryptographic protocols used in VPN

It was said above that a VPN tunnel protects information not absolutely, but to some extent. This means that in practice, the degree of data protection depends on the encryption protocol used. A «weak» cryptographic protocol can be cracked in a relatively short period of time. Only a modern strong encryption protocol can reliably protect the transmitted information.

Cryptographic protocols such as OpenVPN, SSTP, and IKEv2 are considered secure and reliable, while the legacy PPTP protocol is weak and insecure. At the same time, a «strong» cryptographic protocol imposes increased requirements on the server’s computing resources and can significantly slow down the data transfer rate, while a «weak» one does not load the server and has a minimal impact on the Internet speed.

Therefore, a «weak» encryption protocol makes sense to use where high data transfer speed is important, and protecting information from interception and hacking is not very important, for example, when watching streaming videos, downloading files from torrents and in online games.

The most common encryption protocols:

  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol) – the oldest and most insecure. The main advantages are the wide distribution and low demands on the server’s computing power;
  • L2TP (Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol) – this protocol is used in conjunction with IPsec;
  • IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) – a strong cryptographic protocol, usually used in conjunction with the L2TP protocol, and in this form is called L2TP/IPsec.
  • SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) – developed by Microsoft based on the SSL/ TLS encryption protocol. Used on servers running Windows.
  • OpenVPN – a free, open-source encryption protocol based on SSL/TLS. Powerful and reliable, but it places high demands on the server’s computing resources, which can cause data transfer to slow down significantly.
  • IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange 2) – a reliable and secure encryption protocol developed by Microsoft and Cisco based on IPsec.

Types of VPN networks

Three types of VPN networks have become widespread: Direct Remote Access VPN, an Intranet-based between nodes VPN (intranet-based site-to-site VPN), VPN between nodes based on Extranet (extranet -based site-to-site VPN):

  • VPN with direct remote access – the simplest network formed by VPN tunnels connecting client’s computers to the VPN provider’s server.
  • An Intranet-based between nodes VPN (intranet-based site-to-site VPN) – multiple local area networks (LAN) are connected by VPN tunnels to one global network (WAN). Network users securely exchange information and can access files located on servers and computers of neighboring networks.
  • VPN between extranet-based nodes (extranet -based site-to-site VPN) – VPN – tunnels connect global (WAN) networks. Network users are able to securely exchange information, but do not have access to the content of the servers of another network.
The figure
The figure shows the intranet-based site-to-site VPN scheme, remote users get direct access.

What you get by using a VPN

Using a VPN, both ordinary and corporate users get a lot of advantages:

  • The average user gets complete freedom-anonymity, security, confidentiality. VPN allows you to circumvent censorship, protect yourself from hacker attacks and from the surveillance of an Internet provider. IP address substitution provides the user with complete anonymity and makes it possible to unblock independent Internet resources, and traffic encryption guarantees security and confidentiality.
  • Corporate users get the opportunity to securely share confidential information. VPN allows you to create secure communication channels between the company’s head office, branches and home offices of remote employees. Freelancers and employees of the company who are on business trips get access to the corporate network through a secure and secure connection.

What is a VPN for

In addition to the general benefits that clients of Private Virtual Networks receive, the benefits of using a VPN are shown in some specific cases, which will be discussed later.

Streaming services (Netflix and others)

The vast majority of streaming services are geo-dependent. This means that due to licensing restrictions, the terms of use of the service, the cost of a monthly subscription, and the library of movies and TV series available for viewing are different for each country. Even within the European Union, the subscription price and content library is different for individual states.

Some popular video services are only available to US residents. But even citizens of the United States after traveling abroad partially or completely lose access to the streaming service, despite the paid subscription. VPN allows you to bypass all restrictions and view all the movies and TV series available in the video service library from anywhere in the world.

Torrents

Many Internet service providers block downloading files from torrents. Using a VPN makes it easy to bypass the block. However, the use of a VPN to some extent reduces the download speed. Only the best VPN providers, owning modern powerful servers that are connected to high-bandwidth lines, are able to provide high-speed downloading of files from torrents.

Fire TV Stick

Amazon Fire TV Stick – this is a miniature gadget that connects to the HDMI connector of a digital TV. With the Fire TV Stick, you can watch movies and TV series from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and many other streaming services directly on your TV screen. The gadget also provides the ability to listen to music and play video games. In fact, the Fire TV Stick is a microcomputer running Fire OS – an operating system developed by Amazon based on the Android OS.

Therefore, you can also install a VPN app on the Fire TV Stick, which will help you unblock your favorite streaming service. Now many VPN providers offer VPN clients created specifically for the Fire TV Stick, but applications developed for Android will also work.

Internet Cafe Security

Internet access via Wi-Fi is traditionally considered the most insecure. The Wi-Fi connection is not protected in any way or is very poorly protected, all data can be easily and unhindered intercepted by anyone. The possibility of losing money, the threat of blackmail and extortion, identity theft-this is not a complete list of the dangers that every Wi-Fi user is potentially exposed to.

Imagine – you work in an Internet cafe, exchange secret information with colleagues and business partners, conduct bank transactions, chat, visit social networks and view mail, and at the same time a hacker sitting at the next table intercepts usernames and passwords to your mailboxes and accounts in social networks, reads your bank card data, gets access to the most confidential and intimate information about you, about your friends, colleagues and relatives.

Using a VPN is the only way to protect yourself from all potential threats coming from a Wi-Fi network. Even if a hacker intercepts the traffic, instead of useful information, he will receive a meaningless set of characters, which he will not be able to decipher.

Internet Security
Internet Security

For online games, game consoles

Many gamers actively use VPN. The advantages of using a VPN in the gameplay are as follows:

  • individual Internet service providers block all P2P connections (to prevent illegal file sharing), which makes it impossible to participate in some online multiplayer games. Just as in the case of unlocking torrents, using a VPN easily solves this problem;
  • if the VPN provider’s server and the game server are located close to each other, then VPN users sometimes (but not always!) they can reduce the delay time («ping»), thereby gaining an advantage over other gamers;
  • thanks to IP address substitution, gamers using a VPN are protected from DdoS – attacks from competitors;
  • the game servers of popular online games can be located in several countries at the same time. The gamer’s computer automatically connects to the game server closest to it. Sometimes a gamer, for one reason or another, needs to establish a connection not with the nearest server, but with one that is located in a strictly defined country. VPN users can do this very simply – just select the desired geolocation in the VPN client settings.

To access blocked sites

Internet censorship is becoming a huge problem. The governments of a number of countries are constantly attacking freedom of speech, blocking access to certain sites. With a VPN, you can bypass the blocking in just two clicks – by selecting a country in the VPN client settings that does not have Internet censorship. For example, if you are in Russia and want to visit a site that Roskomnadzor blacklisted, then in the geolocation settings of the VPN client, select the nearest country where there is no censorship – it can be Sweden or the Czech Republic or Norway, etc. After that, you will be able to freely visit any prohibited site.

Changing geolocation – what it is and what it gives

As mentioned above, VPN technology masks the user’s own IP address with the IP address of the VPN server. The visited Internet resources identify the user’s location with the location of the VPN server. This is the principle of changing geolocation.

Changing the geolocation helps to overcome price discrimination – the policy of forming the cost of goods and services depending on the location of the client. Prices for goods in some online stores depend on the country and region of residence of the buyer. Prices for air tickets and hotel reservations may also depend on the customer’s place of residence. To make purchases at the lowest prices, just select the appropriate geolocation in the VPN client.

Some Internet resources change the content or block the display of individual pages, depending on the user’s geolocation. There are sites that provide access to content only to residents of certain countries. For example, movies and TV shows of the streaming service Hulu can only be watched by residents of the United States and Japan. Changing the geolocation makes it easy to bypass the geoblocking.

Multiaccounts

Most Internet resources categorically prohibit the creation of multiple accounts for one user. In case of violation of this rule, all detected accounts are blocked and subsequently deleted. With a VPN, you can safely create an unlimited number of accounts on a single Internet resource.

For a new account in the VPN client, a new geolocation with a new IP address is set. It is advisable to create and maintain each account in a separate browser, for example, the first account in Chrome, the second in Mozilla Firefox, the third in Opera, etc. If you are going to use the same browser for all accounts, then before logging in to a new account, do not forget to delete all cookies associated with this Internet resource or work on the browser in private browsing mode, in which all cookies are automatically deleted after the end of the session.

How to use a VPN

Switcherry VPN offers free download and installation of VPN clients for computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones running operating systems Windows 7,8,10, Android, iOS, Mac OS, Chrome OS.

The following is a detailed guide for setting up and working with the VPN client for Windows. Since the interface of VPN clients is the same for all operating systems, you can also use this guide to work with applications developed for other operating systems.

Installation

Go to the download page of the VPN client for Windows.

Click on the «DOWLOAD» button
«DOWLOAD» button

Click on the «DOWLOAD» button to start the download. After downloading, run the file installer.exe and install the VPN client on your computer in the selected directory.

Run the program
Run the program

Run the program after installation. When you first start the program, the welcome and terms of use windows will open:switcherry vpn

switcherry vpn

In the next window, you will be prompted to add the program to Windows Auto-upload:

switcherry vpn-3

To start the program automatically every time you turn on your computer after Windows starts, click the «Allow» button. If you are going to start the VPN client manually, select the button «Don’t Allow». (To start the program manually click on the icon on the desktop or run the file SwitcherryVpn.View.DesktopApp.exe from the Explorer.)

This is how the window of the ready-to-use program looks like:

switcherry vpn-4

The VPN client is running, but your Internet is not yet secure because the connection to the VPN server is not established. To establish a connection, click on the «CONNECT» icon in the center of the window. After a while, the VPN client will connect to the nearest available VPN server, the «CONNECT» icon will change to «STOP», the program will display your new IP address and new geolocation:

Internet traffic

Now all of your computer’s Internet traffic will go through a secure tunnel between the VPN client and the VPN server. To break the connection, just click on the «STOP» icon – the VPN client will stop working, and your Internet will become unprotected again.

If you want to select a specific geolocation, click the Fastest Mode button. You will see a list of countries where Switcherry VPN has servers:

switcherry vpn-5

Click on the list bar to select the location you need. If you select the USA, then after connecting to the VPN server, the program window will look something like this:

switcherry vpn-6

As you can see in the screenshot, the new IP address is – 206.81.3.128, geolocation – New York City, USA.

FAQ

1. Is it legal to use a VPN?

1. Is it legal to use a VPN?

Most governments do not restrict the use of VPN in any way. In some countries, such as China or Iran, the use of VPN is strictly regulated by law. Therefore, before you start using a VPN in a new location, you should make sure that you will not have problems with local law enforcement. On the other hand, the Internet service provider does not always have the ability to determine whether you use a VPN or not. Therefore, a VPN can be used almost anywhere in the world, without fear of any sanctions.

2. VPN – 100% guarantee of anonymity?

2. VPN – 100% guarantee of anonymity?

No, not always. A VPN connection can be considered completely secure and anonymous if:

  • VPN – provider uses strong encryption protocols;
  • VPN – provider does not keep log files on its servers.

Some VPN providers use weak cryptographic protocols and maintain log files that track users network activity and record their IP addresses. Theoretically, a VPN connection with weak security can be relatively easily hacked by hackers, and information from log files is provided to employees of special services and other government agencies. Therefore, you can not trust all VPN providers.

Conclusion

VPN technology is the most advanced way to ensure the anonymity, security and privacy of users on the Internet.

A VPN reliably protects the user’s personal information. «VPN» stands for «Virtual Private Network» – «Private Virtual Network». VPN technology is based on the creation of «tunnels» – secure connections between users devices and the servers of the VPN provider.

A «tunnel» is a secure connection between a VPN server and a VPN client. Tunnels are created using various encryption protocols. Legacy encryption protocols provide weak protection and should be used with great care in exceptional cases. Using a VPN allows you to bypass censorship, unblock sites and torrents, get full access to streaming services, change geolocation, gain an advantage in online games, secure a Wi-Fi connection, create an unlimited number of accounts on Internet resources such as Amazon or Steam.

Switcherry VPN provides VPN services to both individuals and corporate clients. The company has several thousand high-performance servers located in dozens of countries around the world. Switcherry VPN uses a strong cryptographic protocol, does not keep logs and does not collect information about its customers, which ensures maximum anonymity, security and confidentiality. The company guarantees its customers reliable protection from all the threats that abound in the modern Internet.

Author: Nicolas Cuts

Nicolas Cuts
Product Managers at SwitcherryVPN. Have 5 years background in management and marketing. I never stop learning!

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