What is a VPN?

Last updated: October 20, 2020
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A Virtual Private Network, or VPN in short, is an online service that creates a secure connection to another network over the internet. It hides your IP address and encrypts your traffic, effectively shielding you from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) and your government.

VPNs are used to secure public wifi hotspots, unblock geo-restricted services such as Netflix, protect downloading torrents, avoid speed throttling, and much more.

Table of Contents

      1. What does a VPN do?
      2. How does a VPN work?
      3. VPN security
      4. How to choose a VPN?
      5. VPN types
      6. VPN protocols
      7. Free VPN vs paid VPN – which one is better?
      8. How to set up a VPN?
    1. Should I use a VPN for torrenting?
    2. Is using a VPN for online streaming a good idea?
    3. What are the most popular VPNs on the market?
    4. VPN FAQ

What does a VPN do?

A VPN is a tool for security and privacy, but it can do way more than that. So if you ever asked yourself, “Why do I need a VPN?”, read on to find out. Here’s what a virtual private network does:

  • Encryption. A VPN encrypts your traffic so that it becomes virtually undecipherable to third-parties. This means that your ISP or your government may see that you’re using a VPN, but they will have no way to tell what you are doing online.
  • Hiding your IP. A VPN hides your IP, which gives away your location and, with a little help from your ISP, can be used by the government to track you.
  • Access to Netflix. Streaming platforms, such as Netflix, Peacock, or Disney+, use geo-blocking. With a VPN, you’ll be able to watch your movies and shows outside the US.
  • Protects torrenting. P2P is illegal in some countries, while others check for copyright infringement on a regular basis. A VPN will protect your torrenting and may also allow seeding via port forwarding.
  • Bypasses firewalls. From the ones at your office to the one used in China, firewalls block certain websites from users. Thanks to a VPN, you can visit Facebook, YouTube, Google, and other popular sites wherever you may be.

Finally, a VPN will protect your connection to public wifi and help avoid bandwidth throttling. Some Virtual Private Networks even offer their own anti-malware solutions.

What does a VPN hide?

As you’ve probably seen in the section below, VPNs hides your real IP address. It also encrypts your traffic using a military-grade cipher. But how does that translate into real-world scenarios? Let’s take a look.

  • Browsing history. Both your ISP and your web browser track what you do on the web. Most often that knowledge is used for profit. Even more, browsing history can also be linked with your IP address. With a VPN, you effectively hide not only your browsing history but also your IP and your traffic.
  • Location. Your IP gives away your approximate location. With a VPN, it becomes hard to track the places you’ve visited that might be used to tailor ads targeted right at you. What’s more, hiding your location enables you to access geo-block content, such as Netflix and other streaming platforms.
  • Web activity. If you’re using a VPN provider that doesn’t log your web activity, you can be sure that neither your ISP nor your government know what you’re doing online. All they have is that you use a VPN, which is probably legal in your country.

How does a VPN work?

Without a virtual private network, your connection request goes straight to the ISP, which in turn forwards it to your desired online resource. In this case, some of your traffic will be unencrypted, and your ISP will know everything that you do on the internet. Last but not least, your IP address is visible and gives away your approximate location.

How a VPN works

A VPN works by sending your connection request to the VPN client, which encrypts all data and hides your IP address. So when your request reaches your ISP, it can only see that you’ve connected to a VPN server. And when it reaches your desired online resource, it can only see the IP address of the VPN server and has no way to tell where is the source of this traffic.

This process, illustrated above, involves creating what is known as a VPN tunnel. This uses special tunneling protocols to “wrap” packets of data in a layer of encryption so that any interceptor would be unable to make any sense of it. Most VPNs use military-grade encryption, which means that it’s virtually impossible to break the cipher using a brute force attack.

VPN security

Using insecure VPNs is almost as bad as having no VPN at all. In fact, it could be far worse. If users feel protected when they actually are not, they might let their guard down and share information that puts them at risk.

Here are some of the risks that poorly run VPNs can expose users to:

  • IP and DNS leaks
  • Your online activity data sold to marketers
  • Exposure to malware
  • Out of date (and easy to hack) encryption

Despite people knowing about these risks, many VPNs remain vulnerable to IPv6, DNS, and WebRTC leaks – you name it. All of these VPN security vulnerabilities leave users wide open to hacking attempts or government surveillance.

Then there’s the integrity of the VPN providers themselves. Even though they protect individuals against outside actors, VPNs have privileged access to the data and identity of their customers, which can be used for nefarious purposes.

A significant proportion of VPN users rely on them for protection in rather sensitive situations. Perhaps they’re journalists or political activists, hiding from the malicious gaze of government agencies. Or perhaps they’re simply torrenting and would rather not get hit with fines. Whatever the case may be, using a faulty VPN can result in a nasty surprise.

Can a VPN protect me from hackers?

A virtual private network can protect you from hackers, but just like any other online security solution, it doesn’t give a 100% guarantee. That being said, a solid VPN will make hacker’s work much harder, and that’s the least you can do for your safety.

For starters, a VPN encrypts your traffic using a military-grade cipher, which severy impedes any hacker. Furthermore, DNS and IP leak protection means that getting your real IP address will be quite a challenge. Finally, some VPNs provide a multi-hop feature which routes your traffic via not one but two servers.

Do VPN providers see my online activity?

When you’re using a VPN, your ISP cannot see what you do online because your traffic is encrypted. But can a VPN provider see your online activity? Well, it depends on the VPN you’re using.

Technically, all of them can see your traffic, so this is a matter of ethics. Usually, VPN providers claim to have a no-logs policy, meaning that they don’t monitor and don’t store your session’s logs. However, not all of them practice what they preach. For instance, in 2017, PureVPN admitted handing over logs of a suspected cyberstalker to the FBI.

Then there’s the legal system of each country. Some like Australia have strict data retention laws, requiring VPNs to store logs for two years. That’s why best VPNs try to register themselves in privacy-friendly countries like Switzerland, which are also not in the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance.

How to choose a VPN?

Choosing the best VPN depends on your priorities. Some providers are more secure, others are really fast, while some excel at streaming and torrenting. There are even some that manage to offer all that without breaking your bank. That being said, some VPNs offer free versions that might be the right fit for you.

In any case, the most important thing when choosing a virtual private network is its security and privacy features. Here’s what you should look at:

  • Military-grade encryption (AES 256-bit)
  • Tunneling protocols (WireGuard, OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPSec)
  • Kill switch
  • Multi-hop
  • Tor over VPN
  • Provider’s location
  • Logging policy
  • Anonymous sign-up

Below I will cover the most important elements of choosing a VPN in more detail.

Security features

Outside of the tunneling protocols and military-grade AES 256-bit encryption, users should look at additional security features. These, among others, include the kill switch, multi-hop, and Tor over VPN.

What is a kill switch?

This is a feature dealing with one type of situation – what happens when your VPN connection breaks? Your computer continues using your normal connection, which reveals your IP and your location. A kill switch stops all traffic when your VPN connection is disrupted.

There are two general kill switch categories – network kill switches and app kill switches. The first will stop all traffic, and the second will stop all traffic from your chosen apps. It’s a critical feature that every respectable VPN should have.

A kill switch can be crucial for torrenters if P2P is illegal in their country. Imagine if you’re downloading a file, and suddenly your VPN connection drops. Your real IP is automatically exposed, and that might be enough to start a prosecution.

What is multi-hop?

VPN providers like to brand this feature – Double VPN (NordVPN), Secure Core (ProtonVPN), etc. This is quite rare, but not unheard of. Multi-hop is basically the function that allows you to string together several (usually 2) VPN connections. The VPN client connects to one server, and then, instead of going straight to the destination, it first goes to another VPN server.

This makes it even more difficult to trace where the request came from. However, it’s still possible. A common misunderstanding is that multi-hop encrypts your data twice – this is wrong because it gets decrypted at the VPN server and then re-encrypted. Either way, multi-hop is the sign of a security-centric VPN. One thing to mention is that this will be a heavy burden on the user’s connection, resulting in slower speeds.

What is Tor over VPN?

Tor over VPN combines Tor network with a VPN for a higher level of security and privacy. Tor, short for “The Onion Router,” is a browser and free online network, whose purpose is to preserve user’s anonymity. It consists of volunteer routers or relays – anyone can become one.

Instead of your computer contacting a server, the traffic is sent on a journey through several (or several hundred) of these relays. The traffic is encrypted – levels of encryption are added or removed at each relay (depending on which way the traffic is going). This makes it very difficult for observers to know what you are doing online. Tor is not perfect in terms of security, but combining it with a VPN makes it more or less unbeatable. The downside is that the speed of such a connection will likely be even worse than multi-hop.

Privacy features

This is one of the most contentious VPN topics, mostly due to the difficulty of knowing the behind-the-scenes practices of VPN service providers. Thus, privacy is always an approximation rather than a hard fact.

The most important things to look at are the country where the VPN provider is registered and the privacy policy.

Location

VPN’s location is important due to the legal and institutional context in which the company must function. Some countries like the UK have draconian data retention laws, requiring to collect and store data about their users. Others like the US don’t have data retention laws but have agencies like the NSA that carry out wide-ranging surveillance operations.

Then we have countries that belong to the Fourteen Eyes intelligence alliance. Thanks to Edward Snowden, this group is known for spying on each other’s citizens and sharing collected information, among other things.

Finally, the likes of China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, or North Korea are arguably the worst countries to run a VPN service out of. You can almost be sure that their governments know all there is to know about the VPN users.

On the other end of the equation are countries like Switzerland that have rigorous privacy protection in place. That includes off-shore havens like the British Virgin Islands or Panama as well.

What is a VPN privacy policy?

While many VPN service providers boast of having a strict “no-logs” policy, the reality is often contradictory. Minimum data logging is needed if the user pays with a credit card or other non-anonymous method, so there’s nothing to worry about here. It’s the other things you should look out for in the Privacy Policy: logging IP addresses, DNS queries, etc.

Having said that, we can group all VPNs and their privacy policies into these categories:

  • Court-proven no-logs policy. These VPNs really have a no-logs policy and can be trusted. Examples include ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access.
  • Independently-audited no-logs policy. Some VPNs like NordVPN or Surfshark invest in having their no-logs policies audited by a third-party, which is a sign that they’re serious about your privacy.
  • Minimal logging. Some providers like PrivateVPN claim to do minimal logging, and we’re inclined to trust them for the time being because they rank high in other areas, such as security.
  • More than minimal logging. These services, such as TunnelBear, should be approached cautiously because they care less about your privacy.
  • Extensive logging. Finally, we have services that collect as much data as possible and probably sell it to third-parties. That’s why they have no problem with handing over your information to authorities if needed.

Anonymous sign-up

The other two important aspects of VPN privacy are the website and the sign-up process.

Most VPN websites rely on third-party services to improve efficiency. Therefore, users should be exposed to as few third-parties as possible. Furthermore, they should demand that VPNs disclose their data only to third-parties with sound privacy policies.

When it comes to signing up, some services require personal data that includes names and addresses. Meanwhile, others will only ask for an email, which can be a throwaway account. Additionally, anonymous payment methods, such as cryptocurrencies and gift cards, are also important.

VPN types

You can classify VPNs in a few different ways – by device type or where they are most commonly used (at home, at work, for entertainment, etc.). In the end, they are not fundamentally different from each other. VPN is a connection method, rather than an app or device.

With that said, let’s look at two VPN types – remote-access and site-to-site. Consumers mainly use the former while the latter is aimed at businesses.

Remote-access VPN

If you’re looking for a VPN for yourself, most likely you will end up with a remote-access VPN. It’s the most popular virtual private network type that got its name because it connects you to a remote server. Remote-access VPN hides your IP and encrypts the traffic, making it inaccessible to third-parties.

The majority of commercial B2C services are remote-access VPNs. Our website also focuses on these consumer-oriented providers. Since they’re not aimed at IT professionals, these VPNs can be easily installed and used by anyone without prior knowledge.

Some remote-access VPNs also offer business plans for small teams. However, they are unsuitable for large-scale business needs.

Site-to-site VPN

Site-to-site VPNs can be sorted into extranet and intranet-based VPNs. The intranet is used when organizations have more than one branch office and wish to establish a secure intranet connection via a Wide Area Network (WAN). Extranet enables companies to extend their Local Area Network (LAN) to another company, which they trust (for example, a supplier). In this case, they share resources without getting into each other’s separate intranets.

VPNs of this type are hard to implement and require many resources. That’s why you will probably encounter one only in a large business setting.

VPN protocols

Also known as security protocols or tunneling protocols, VPN protocols help establish a connection between two networks. They vary greatly in security, speed, and compatibility. Most VPN providers will offer you at least two tunneling protocols to choose from on desktop computers. When it comes to mobile, it’s more often the provider that decides which security protocol you’ll be using on your Android or iPhone.

Below you will find a list of most common VPN protocols and their short descriptions. For a more in-depth look, check out our dedicated page on tunneling protocols.

WireGuard

Deemed to be the next-gen tunneling protocol, WireGuard is relatively new. However, some providers like NordVPN or Private Internet Access have already implemented it. In the next few years, WireGuard should be available on most premium VPNs, because its speed and safety are unparalleled. What’s more, this open-source protocol is easy to implement and audit.

OpenVPN

Arguably the most popular tunneling protocol, OpenVPN, is supported by virtually every VPN. It’s open-source, very secure, and supports all major platforms. OpenVPN works with either UDP or TCP network protocols where the former is faster, but the latter is more stable. Unfortunately, it’s hard to configure and audit while also being easy to detect by Deep Packet Inspection (DPI).

IKEv2

Another common protocol, especially on mobile devices, IKEv2, brings security and speed. It’s usually implemented together with IPSec protocol, where IKEv2 does the transport part, and IPSec ensures safety. This protocol has native support on iOS, so expect to see it on the mobile versions of most VPNs. IKEv2’s biggest drawback is that it’s not open-source and cannot be audited.

L2TP/IPSec

Just like IKEv2, it’s made out of two protocols and is most often used on iOS mobile devices. L2TP/IPSec is still quite common but already outdated, so you should avoid using it whenever possible. That’s because Snowden leaks have confirmed that the US government may have hacked L2TP/IPSec.

SSTP

SSTP is a less popular protocol, mostly because it was created by Microsoft and works only on Windows, with some exceptions. It’s hard to block by using DPI and can pass firewalls pretty easily. However, there are some concerns that Microsoft may have a backdoor for accessing SSTP traffic.

PPTP

PPTP is a rare, totally outdated, and not secure protocol that you shouldn’t be using. Just like SSTP, it was developed by Microsoft. The problem is that this happened back when Windows 95 was the latest OS. Although its quite fast, this comes at the cost of safety, which is simply too high.

What is Double VPN?

Double VPN is a branded name that NordVPN uses for its multi-hop feature. The point of it is to use two connections instead of one. So for example, if you want to reach a server in the UK, you will be directed to Germany first.

One may ask, what’s the point of this Double VPN in the first place? Well, if a regular VPN connection makes it hard to track you down, using Double VPN makes it as hard as winning gold in Olympics. Some people think that this feature means double encryption as well, which is not true – you traffic gets is decrypted at every server.

So are there any cons that Double VPN has? As one might expect, the speeds will be much slower, so you should prepare for streaming in lower quality and leaving the torrents active throughout the night.

Free VPN vs paid VPN – which one is better?

Free vs Paid VPN services

While paid VPNs are generally better, it’s hard to tell whether a free VPN wouldn’t be enough for you. It all comes down to your online hobbies and habits – chances are you don’t need to pay to get what you need. On the other hand, the majority of premium VPNs come with a month-long money-back guarantee, meaning that you won’t have to pay for something you don’t like.

Are there any problems or risks with using a free VPN?

In general, using a free VPN is riskier, although it depends on its type. There are two types of free VPN services:

  • Completely free (funded by ads and other means)
  • Paid service with a free version (funded by paying customers)

“If it’s free, you are the product” – this applies to the first type of free VPNs. Usually, this means ads, but it can also mean that the VPN is tracking your online activity and selling that data. Some might say, “so what?” but for many, that’s defeating the entire purpose of using a VPN.

The second free VPN type is less risky, but there’s a different issue. Because the business model of these VPN services is to sell subscriptions, the free versions are usually very limited.

The most common limitations are:

  • How much data you can download/upload
  • Speed
  • Servers
  • Simultaneous connections
  • Customer support

Finally, some shady free VPNs might inject your device with malware, steal your bandwidth, or sell your data on the black market to hackers and fraudsters. That’s why I recommend choosing from the top free VPNs.

Are paid VPNs better, and why?

Paid VPNs are not ideal, but they are generally a lot more powerful and trustworthy. For starters, they don’t come with the free VPN limitations, such as security, privacy, speed, or customer support. They don’t show ads, don’t sell your data, and actually put effort into keeping you safe online. This includes offering a reliable kill switch and leak protection – something that many free VPNs lack.

What’s more, free VPNs won’t be able to unblock Netflix and other streaming platforms. They might not support torrenting as well. Therefore, if you want to access your favorite movies and shows in addition to allowing P2P traffic, a paid VPN is the way to go. The best part is that you will be able to get your money back most of the time if the service didn’t live up to your expectations.

How to set up a VPN?

Most VPNs are easy to set up and use. In fact, all you need to do is pay, sign up for the service, install the app, log in, and start using it. Even if there’s no dedicated client for a particular device, most likely, you can manually configure it using a step-by-step guide.

If, for some reason, you don’t want to use the VPN app, you can download OpenVPN software and the configuration files from your provider’s website. Of course, you will be able to use only the OpenVPN tunneling protocol.

After you log in, you will be able to choose the fastest server or any other that’s available. Just have in mind that not all servers may be suitable for streaming or torrenting. Most providers mark specialized servers either in the app or on their website.

Finally, before you connect, make sure that the kill switch is on. Some VPN services have it turned off by default even though it’s crucial for keeping your IP address hidden in case the VPN fails.

Want to learn more? Read our ultimate guide on setting up a VPN.

Should I use a VPN for torrenting?

You should use a VPN for torrenting, even if it’s legal in your country. For starters, not only your ISP but also leechers can see your IP address and determine your location. This can result in a cyberattack against you or the government sending you a legal notice.

However, when you use a VPN, your traffic is encrypted, and third-parties see only the IP address of the server that you’re connected to. There’s also no way to tell what you’re actually downloading or seeding because data deciphering using brute force would take eons.

Is using a VPN for online streaming a good idea?

Using a VPN for streaming Netflix and other content platforms is a good idea. First and foremost, a good streaming VPN greatly expands your selection. Furthermore, a VPN can unblock Netflix libraries from different continents, in addition to streaming services that are unavailable in your country. These include Disney+, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and Hulu, among others.

That being said, you need a paid VPN to watch Netflix and other platforms. Free VPNs are easily blocked and often prove to be too slow to stream in HD quality.

To sum up, as long as Netflix libraries will offer different content and new streaming services will be popping up, using a VPN for streaming will be a good idea.

To learn which countries have the biggest Netflix libraries and which Netflix VPN to choose, head straight to our article on how to change Netflix region.

Popcorn Time without a VPN is a risk

Contrary to Netflix and other streaming platforms, using Popcorn Time without a VPN is dangerous. That’s because this free streaming service is based on P2P, which makes tracking your IP address really easy. This is especially important if torrenting is illegal in your country.

What’s more, if your ISP is throttling torrenting speed, you may have trouble watching anything in HD. Finally, a VPN will help you unblock geo-restricted content, significantly increasing the range of movies and shows available to you.

Not all VPNs are good for Popcorn Time. Therefore, I recommend you to check out our list of best Popcorn Time VPNs first.

What are the most popular VPNs on the market?

The most popular VPNs are not always among the best. Some of them gain audiences only because they’re free. That’s why the list below is a combination of quality and popularity, which, I believe, is the best way to show which providers are worth your time.

  1. NordVPN – starts at $3.71/month
  2. Surfshark – starts at $2.49/month
  3. VyprVPN – starts at $2.50/month
  4. PrivateVPN – starts at $1.89/month
  5. Private Internet Access – starts at $2.69/month

All of these services have a money-back guarantee, which allows you to test them without any risk.

VPN FAQ

Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?

Technically, you can be tracked if you use a VPN. Even using multi-hop or Tor over VPN cannot guarantee that you won’t be caught.

However, it can be done only by an organization that has a government-level power. And even then, doing so would require time and resources that simply won’t be allocated unless you’re a sought-after criminal or a political journalist in a country with restricted press freedom.

Is a VPN legal?

The answer depends on the country that you’re in. In most of the world, using a VPN is perfectly legal. However, there are some jurisdictions, such as Iran or Iraq, where VPNs are strictly prohibited. Then there’s a group of countries where it’s legal but regulated. This includes China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia, among others.

Want to see if VPN is legal in your country? Check out our list of 197 countries.

How do you get a VPN?

Getting a VPN is really simple. If you’re going for a free VPN, you simply have to visit its website and download the app. This can be done for your mobile device in Google Store and App Store too. You will probably need to sign up as well, which will require your email. Most of the time, it can be a throwaway account.

If you’ve chosen a paid VPN, you will have to add a payment method, unless there’s a free trial available. One thing to note is that you probably won’t get a money-back guarantee if you paid using cryptocurrencies or gift cards.

Is VPN safe for online banking?

Even without a VPN, online banking is pretty safe. However, you can make it even safer by adding an extra layer of security. A VPN will encrypt your traffic and hide your IP address before it reaches the bank server, which means that any third-party that might be snooping will have a tough time figuring things out. This can be very helpful if you’re connecting from insecure wifi in a coffee shop or an airport.

How much does a VPN cost?

You can get a VPN for around $10/month. However, if you decide on a long-term plan (two years or more), the price can go as low as $2 per month. The annual offers stay around six dollars.

Of course, one should look not only at a price but also at the quality of the VPN itself. Some services are both really cheap and really good. At the same time, there are really good but costly providers.

Which type of VPN is the best?

The answer depends on the type of client. If you’re looking for a VPN that would unblock Netflix and hide your IP, getting a remote-access VPN is your best bet. However, if you’re a CEO looking for a way to give remote access to your company’s resources, a site-to-site VPN is the only way to go. You can read about both VPN types in the dedicated section above.

Should I use a VPN on my phone?

Even though phones are less susceptible to hacking, you should still use a VPN on your smartphone. There are plenty of apps and websites that like to track you and gather as much data as possible. Encrypting your traffic and hiding your IP address will help your security and privacy.

What’s more, a VPN can give you access to geoblocked entertainment content and government-restricted websites. It may even help against bandwidth throttling should your ISP decide on such limitations.

Does a VPN hide your activity?

VPN is probably the best way to hide your activity online. It encrypts your traffic using military-grade encryption, which is nearly impossible to decipher. Furthermore, a VPN hides your IP address from your government, your ISP, and other snoopers.

That being said, there’s no such tool that could guarantee your activities will remain hidden. If the government is really interested in you, it can do what’s necessary to track you down, although that wouldn’t be easy. Therefore, if you’re not a criminal or a revolutionist, you have nothing to worry about.

Can I use a VPN on any device?

You can use a VPN on most popular devices and operating systems, including Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, and iOS. Quite often, you can find dedicated apps for Android TV and Amazon Fire TV & Fire Stick as well. When it comes to routers, only a few providers offer an app, but you can manually configure most VPNs on them by following instructions.

Does the VPN log user data?

Best VPNs log only minimal user data required to keep their accounts running. However, some allow you to create an anonymous profile with a throwaway email that’s paid with cryptocurrencies or gift cards. Of course, some VPNs log more than minimum and are also located in countries with data retention laws. Finally, most free VPNs try to log as much as possible so they can sell that data to third-parties.

Top VPN providers
NordVPN
9.6 / 10
30-day money-back guarantee
Military grade encryption
Friendly support
Surfshark VPN
9.4 / 10
Strong encryption
Great performance
Unlimited simultaneous connections

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51 comments
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  1. frank79

    Here’s a bizarre scenario – if someone is connected to my computer what happens if i use a vpn? Lets say they’re connected with TeamViewer. Will they lose the connection? Because it may be funny prank on my coworkers, but also a way to defend myself against hackers who gain control of my system.


  2. Lars

    hey this might seem weird considering that it’s outdated tech, but what port is required to be open for pptp vpn to be successful?


  3. amosX

    ok so i get how vpn works but then why do so many different providers exist? What’s the difference between them anyway? Seems like they all do the same function but at different prices. I’ll just pick the cheapest one and be ok with that.


  4. Haruna Yumi

    The vpn industry is expanding like crazy. There are so many things to know and to be up with. which vpn protocol is the oldest and least secure of the vpn protocols? I’m just curious, as you know, some companies might say that they offer only the best when in reality it might be outdated


  5. Jonathan

    i’ve been using vpns for a long time and most of the time they work ok, occasionally they disappoint, but nothing I can’t handle. however there is one thing that i can’t seem to figure out and i’d really like to know because i’m planning to upgrade to a fiber internet connection and i wouldn’t want to get bottlenecked by my vpns. so my question is what is the max speed for a vpn? lets say I get 10gbps connection – can I expect a vpn do keep up?


  6. Lely

    Great article! I’m a little confused about the encryption part… So what is better to protect your data – vpn or encryption? Do I only get encryption with premium vpns?


  7. cliff

    you mentioned different vpn protocols, but what is the best vpn protocol for china? or it doesnt matter?


  8. Billy D.

    hello,vpnpro team!i recently started my new job, and i think that my company is sometimes checking what i’m doing during my working hours.i’m not slacking or something, i’m just curious what is visible to my company when i use a vpn. i completely undestand what ia a vpn used for, but have no clue, whethear it hides my activity or not. please help


  9. curious me

    Using vpn is quite expensive ( I’m talking about decent providers, not crappy free ones), So, I wanted to ask what are alternatives to vpn? Similar apps? Or maybe proxies? Proxies are super expensive and slow, and they are used for other stuff (scraping, for example). Let’s take the Netflix library change, for example. Can I change it with anything other than vpn?


  10. Chris

    I’ve browsed a lot of different websites and I guess this is the most detailed and informative article explaining what is vpn ever. Kudos for that! I’m a newbie in tech, and I came across a lot of articles with good, but very difficult explanations with tech wordings 🙁 Maybe you could help me, and answer -what is the best vpn i can use on both my laptop and my android phone? Like an ultimate combo. Maybe you could even suggest a couple of providers? I want something not very expensive.


  11. Martha

    Is VPN dangerous? I have heard about certain things that I don’t like about VPNs in general and I would like another opinion. From what I can tell a part of the VPN companies are good or very good and others are scammers.


    1. Joe233

      “Is VPN dangerous?” Well, it depends which VPN were talking about. ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surf shark vpn and others are good and are not dangerous. You just have to go for the best, most trusted vpn out there because other VPNs can be dangerous. Some will downright sell your email and contact info to other companies and you’ll start getting spam mails or worse. You don’t want to risk getting all sorts of emails that contain links leading to malware or ransomware. You want to be safe, working with companies that are trustworthy and will do good by you. Don’t just go with the next, cool looking VPN that you know nothing about. Always make sure to do a lot of research before choosing a VPN because it’s a very important choice to make.


      1. Julie Cole Author

        Yup, Joe pretty much covers it. Some VPNs are dangerous, many VPNs are quite safe. Industry leaders are generally the best for this purpose, including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, and others.

        In general, we always recommend avoiding free VPNs, as they’ll often give you something free in return for something else — your data perhaps.

        You can find our list of the best VPNs available.

        Good luck!

        Julie


  12. Matthew

    Does VPN harm your phone? Are there vpns (or maybe all of them do this) that hurt your phone? Should I be looking for certain ones that are more trustworthy? What is the best vpn to use?


    1. Oli10

      I would say the lack of a vpn will harm you phone in the long run. And also, the lack of an antivirus. Many people seem to think that a smartphone is impervious to malware or viruses, but they are so wrong. Smartphones are the first ones targeted nowadays so you need to take measures to protect yourself. Every device you have needs to be protected against viruses, malware and hackers and the phone is no exception. Are VPN worth it? Not all of them. But the best are worth their weight in gold.

      So, does a vpn harm your phone? Of course there are bad ones that can do this but most won’t do anything bad to your phone.


    2. Teo

      Most VPNs will not harm your phone; quite the opposite. But there are also those that are unreliable or can contain malware. To be safe, just use reputable VPNs and you will be fine. It all depends on why you need a vpn, what does a vpn do for you? Do you need it to unlock certain content in specific countries? It all depends on what you want to do with this vpn because there are vpns that are good for some things above others. Can you give us more details about what you need it for? Just for browsing? Torrenting? Anything else? Depending on what you need it for, I would recommend NordVPN, ExpressVPN or SurfShark. Either of these is a good choice.


  13. Amir

    Hey, does anyone know: can VPN steal your data? I’ve heard someone mention this and I would like more info on it. Is it true? Which VPNs are bad or/and are known to steal data and so on. What is the best vpn to use so you can stay safe? Thanks a lot.


    1. Randy99

      There are plenty of VPNs that are known for being secure and trustworthy and there are also those that are really shady and downright bad. “Can VPN steal your data?” Yes, and some do. Just sign up with a few free vpns and give each a different, real email you have and the wait. See on which email you start receiving spam messages (in 1-3 weeks from the moment you signed up). This will show you which of the free vpns you joined has just sold your email address to anyone willing to pay. This is how you can easily spot the bad or evil VPNs out there and avoid them. You can test this with paid VPN as well. You might be surprised at what you’ll find by doing this. There are those VPN companies that seem great on the surface but they are not; not at all.


    2. Jonas

      Unfortunately, that is true. Some VPNs are very unreliable or even evil and will steal your data, keep logs and generally do things they shouldn’t. You should always do your research and make sure the VPN you want to pick is a reputable one. Some of the most trusted vpn are: ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Surfshark, CyberGhost, Windscribe. Have a look at these and see which ones you like and can afford to get. I would recommend you test a few of them out for a month and see which one is better for your needs. It all depends on what your needs are. If you need the best vpn for torrenting then that could be NordVPN. If you need the most secure vpn that would be ExpressVPN and so on.


  14. Cesara

    Is VPN safe for online banking? I want to secure my online transactions and I’m looking into how vpn do this and if they are to be trusted in such important cases. I’ve had my account broken into twice in the last 4 years so I must be doing something wrong and it’s time to improve on this.


    1. Annie

      “Is VPN safe for online banking?” the question is what vpn is safe for doing this? ExpressVPN, NordVPN or Surfshark are just 3 of the ones I would say are among the most trusted vpn out there and thus safe for online banking. I would never use an unknown vpn, a cheap one or one that is not rated well. Just look for the top ones and you should be just fine. And since you’ve already had problems, make sure to change your password often.


    2. Robert

      The most trusted vpn out there like ExpressVPN for example are perfect for online banking needs. Express VPN is very secure (probably the most secure vpn in the world) so you can use it without any worries. I’ve been using it for years without any issues or problems. It’s worth every penny.


  15. Karen Krueger

    Do you have an article on how to get a VPN too? And do I need a VPN for at home and different VPNs to use for traveling to different places? Some VPNs are better for different countries, I’ve seen, so would that be a good idea?


  16. Cestor

    Could anyone tell me what is the best free vpn? I want to use a vpn and see how it goes and then maybe get a paid one if needed. I need it for browsing online while staying safe. I don’t need it for torrents or anything like that. I just don’t want others to spy on me or know my browsing history and habits. I hate the lack of privacy we have nowadays and would like to do something to make sure I’m not so unprotected when online.


    1. Kody

      “What is the best free vpn?” I don’t know which is the best one but you should try two of them for sure: ProtonVPN and Windscribe. They are both very good options and they are free. When you see what they can do you might not even believe that they are actually free. Just try them out and let us know how it goes. They won’t work for torrenting but for anything else, they will do just fine and they have plenty of servers for a free vpn.


      1. Jasper

        If you ask me, I think ProtonVPN is the best free vpn (although some people say Windscribe is better). I’ve tried both and Proton did a little better plus it has a lot less limitations than Windscribe. ProtonVPN has a free and a paid option. Their free option is just a watered down version of the paid one and I like these kinds of tools because I can get a feel of how their paid plan will look like.


  17. Graham

    Is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal? I can’t find a clear answer for this. While I don’t think using a VPN should be illegal I do know that Netflix doesn’t like this at all. They don’t want us to see content meant for other countries, do they? Anyway, I hope someone actually know the answer to this.


    1. Dnn

      “Is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal?” – no, it’s not illegal BUT you do have to have a Netflix account. When you have an account that you pay for, you aren’t technically breaking any laws. While Netflix might want you to only see certain content, it isn’t illegal to connect to Netflix US or UK for example. I for one, hate the fact that I can’t see certain shows that US citizens get to see and I unlocked Netflix US so I can see everything.


      1. Cosley

        It doesn’t seem legal either. At least not to me. I mean, even if you do have a Netflix account you are still using content from another country (US, UK, etc) that you don’t normally have access to. Doesn’t this mean it’s not ok? Doesn’t that make it somewhat illegal? Anyway, is VPN legal in this case? I mean, if it clearly breaks the rules of Netflix, is that ok? And I for one wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t use a VPN to unlock content on Netflix US or UK. I understand copyright laws in certain countries and I wouldn’t want to break them. I understand the appeal for some people to get access to extra content that is restricted. I mean, just the word restricted makes some want to break rules and get access to that content. On one side, it’s not ok to break these rules but on the other hand, you are paying for a service and aren’t getting the same service/content as other people, from other countries. I don’t know. Just my 2 cents I guess.


        1. Graham

          @Dnn – Thanks for the reply. I also hate the fact that you can’t watch certain shows just because you’re from the “wrong” country. Is wanted to know if is using a VPN to watch Netflix illegal or not and you answered that question.

          @Cosley – I totally understand what you’re saying. I go to the cinema a lot and I actually like (and feel it’s fair) to support people that are creators of movies or games/etc. For example, I like to torrent new games to see if I like them or not and once I figure out that I like a game, I will buy it. I think a lot of people do things this way and transformed torrenting in a way of testing games before deciding on them.

          Sometimes there are instances like with Netflix where there’s another way just because they are blocking us from other countries.


  18. Aarna

    Is VPN legal? I wonder if using a vpn, free or paid, is actually legal or illegal? I mean, can you use it without fearing jail time? I apologize if this is a stupid question but I am new to this thing and do not know much. I want to stay on the safe side and would like to be protected when I am online but can I do that? A week ago I was searching for things like “what is a vpn connection” or “what does a vpn do” just so you can see my current level of knowledge about this. I like to learn new things so here I am. I appreciate all the answers and thank you for your patience and guidance.


    1. Justin

      No matter the country you are from, you should check this page:
      https://vpnpro.com/vpn-basics/are-vpns-legal-in-my-country/– it’s a goldmine for people living in all the countries of the world.


      1. Aarna

        Hernan – thank you for your assistance. I’m starting to understand why vpns are so important. And yes, I am from India and yes there are certain things that you need to be careful about.

        Justin – thank you for sharing that article. It was very helpful to see how things are both in my country and in other ones. I have another question: is a free vpn an option? And what is the best free vpn out there?


    2. Hernan

      I am guessing, from your name, that you live in India, correct? From what I know, VPNs are not illegal in India, although the government has banned some sites (especially porn sites) and trying to bypass this may lead to prison time and fines. So, basically using a VPN is legal but you need to be careful what you use it for. Torrenting copyrighted things like movies or music is illegal. The question, in you case, is: are VPN worth it? Meaning depending on what you want to do, you should think if it’s worth it to risk getting caught. I would probably not risk it but I don’t live in India and don’t know exactly what people do there and how they get around such bans.


  19. Ronny8

    Can you be tracked if you use a VPN? Are VPN worth it? I wonder if you are really safe when under the protection of a VPN. And if it’s a matter of picking more expensive options then what is the best vpn to use?


    1. Christian

      Are VPN worth it? YES! Like Clem said, you can be tracked and it’s well worth it to have a paid vpn on your side. You don’t want to be on the receiving end of a fine or worse, some jail time when you’re found downloading torrents. And/or you don’t want to be spied on by who knows who. Find a good vpn, that has a good price, get a 1-2 year plan so you can get the costs down even further and stop having doubts or fearing who knows what. Let me give you an example: get an account, for 2 years, with Surfshark. They’re a reputable vpn that work well for anything you might need from regular browsing in safety to torrenting. 2 years will cost only $48!!! Can you believe it? Just that little to stay safe? I mean, what more can you ask for man?


    2. Clem

      “Can you be tracked if you use a VPN?” Yes, you can be tracked if you use a bad VPN or a free one. By a bad vpn I mean a shady one, one that is super inexpensive or has bad reviews or no reviews at all. Do a bit of research before picking one. Just use a reputable one and you’ll be very safe. I would recommend NordVPN, ExpressVPN or Surfshark. Any one of these 3 is very good and will keep you safe when you’re online. “Are VPN worth it?” yes, of course they are. They keep your identity secret, don’t allow anyone to spy on you, offer you protection when/if you want to use torrents, can unlock Netflix US or any other country, etc. The benefits are countless and I wouldn’t stay online without a VPN nowadays. I just feel so much safer to have one looking out for me.


      1. Ronny8

        Thanks Clem and Christian. I appreciate you taking the time to reply back. Considering you can get a good vpn for as low as $24 yearly it makes no sense not to get one. It all seems great but what are the disadvantages of VPN? Doesn’t it have any? I want to make sure I am doing the right thing and picking a good vpn and what I should be looking for when trying to pick one. Thanks again.


        1. Oleg

          “What are the disadvantages of VPN?” A vpn may decrease your internet speed and most of them do this. The best ones have servers that are super fast and will not reduce your speed. But, most VPNs don’t have offer great servers so your speed will go down. Another disadvantage is that it’s very hard for regular consumers to check the quality of a certain VPN.


  20. Julie

    Thank you so much for explaining, step by step, what is a vpn connection and how it can be used. Also good to know the differences between paid and free options and the risks you have with each. It’s great to know more about these things and I will be back to this article whenever I can’t remember something. Will try to learn even more about VPNs. I now want to know what is the best vpn to use so I’m off to read that article. Thanks, Julie – great name, by the way ;).


  21. Chandra P

    Thanks you for this beginner VPN guide. I’m still new to VPN and I’m still hesitating on which VPN provider to choose. I feel Nord VPN is good choice as it’s one of the best.


  22. Cobolt101

    “Paid vs Free – which is better?” – this was funny because it’s pretty clear (at least for me) that a paid vpn provider is much better than a free one. I’m a beginner to all of this and this is still clear to me. If I want quality I get a vpn like NordVPN or ExpressVPN. Thanks for explaining things for us beginners.


  23. Nick

    I am a newbie in the computer world and have never tried any VPN connection. I was searching though web (google) regarding basics of VPN when I landed on your page. This looks very informative and comprehensive. Thank you for the great guide and I will keep visiting your website.


  24. Robert Gates

    Awesome guide related to configuring out a VPN! I do agree that the most important things to look at are definitely the country where the VPN provider is registered and the Privacy Policy. Along with using a VPN, some additional tools you should use are secure email provider, password manager, and anti-virus software.


  25. Mandy Robinson

    I have been wondering how to get a VPN for some of my employees. You really explained it all to me now. I get it and I am so glad to understand. This can be really overwhelming if you don’t know what to do. This really explained it all.

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