What is a VPN and why do you need one?

You’ve no doubt seen the term VPN pop up in reference to Internet security on this site and others. If you’re not familiar with the term, here’s a basic explanation of what VPN is and how it works.


VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A virtual private network creates an encrypted Internet connection between two devices. Encrypted means that it’s scrambled in a way that someone who intercepted it wouldn’t be able to decipher the data. The data can only be deciphered on the other end. Kind of like speaking in a code that only you and the person on the other end of the line understand.

It’s called a virtual private network because an actual private network would be physically connected between devices in the same building. A VPN does essentially the same thing but allows you to be anywhere in the world. VPNs are useful if you just like extra security, you deal in a lot of sensitive information, or perhaps you’re somewhere where you have doubts about the security of the network you’re using, such as using public WiFi in a hotel or relying on the network at a company you do business with.

A VPN can either be direct, where an encrypted connection is set up between two sites and only used for those sites or remote where you can access the VPN from almost anywhere. So, if you want a VPN for a laptop or phone that you plan to use when you’re away from home, make sure you get one with remote access and not just a service that works from your home or business.

You might pay for a VPN from your ISP or from a company like Nord VPN. My ISP will let me had a VPN for eight dollars more a month. Third-party security companies like Symantec offer VPN services.  Nord VPN has plans as low as $3.49 a month. Avast offers VPN services for $60 per year. The Opera browser offers a free, built-in VPN service.  There are a lot of options out there.


Is a VPN 100% guaranteed not to be hacked? No, nothing is. It does provide an extra level of security.



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