VPN What is it, what’s it for?

Ilustración de un servicio de VPN

Internet images

Así, entre nosotros, sin ser una cosa de expertos ni una gran empresa.

The answer to the question can be found, at leat partially, in the question itself. As the question was so unexpected, it caught me by surprise! I was unable to answer it in a  coherent and meaningful way. As stated before, that part of the answer is in the question itself, because one expects a personal response, not that of a corporation or company or “expert” (“paranoid”) in computer security.

I will now try to answer the question as precisely as I can..

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a type of  communications network. As I like to say. Let’s go step by step to explain the concept ». The term VPN simply stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure, private connection to another network over the public Internet and, using the resources of the latter (hence the word Virtual).

There are several ways to create such a Private Network, the  fastest and simplest being that using  a computer program in the form of App (iOS or Android) or Windows Program, MacOS or Linux (among others). They can also be created through the use of specific hardware (albeit this is more common in  the corporate environment). Furthermore, regarding the aforementioned computer programs, there exists complex programs that allow us to establish multi-destination networks; however the most common method used  is to establish a connection between two points only, these being the user’s device and the destination server to which we wish to connect.

Ilustración de un tunel VPN

What is the VPN used for?

As previously stated, the question provides part of the answer: you do not have to be a security fanatic or  a company (for whom the use of a VPN is mandatory and not a recommendation) to use a VPN. For any person “on the street”, like you or me, a VPN provides a series of interesting features in terms of security and privacy. 

To put it simply, the two most important reasons to use a VPN on a daily basis when connecting to the Internet, are: “Privacy”, being able to connect to the site, the page or the service you want, without third parties knowing your either your location or what you are doing; «Security» that in addition to the above, no suspicious third party can spy what you are doing, copy your passwords or discover what you are doing with, for example, your bank or your health service.

The last point, is perhaps the most important to emphasize and, in order to show it graphically, let’s give an example:

  • You are ready to go on vacation and are at the train station.
  • In order to reserve last minute  transport, you want to hire a car, for which you need to connect your device to the car hire service. 
  • As the train station has «Free WiFi », so as not to use your data , you connect to this network and are able to connect  to the car rental service. 

Unbeknown to you, whatever you do over this connection, can be seen, analysed, copied and reproduced by any other use of the same WiFi (and believe they don’t have to be an expert).

To avoid someone spying on us, taking over our connection and seeing the data we are using, we create a VPN (or we connect to a VPN service) which will permit us to create a tunnel over Internet, such that the connection between our device and the remote server (that of the car rental service)  is encrypted thus preventing the spy from knowing  where or how we connected  and what data we are using. 

This practice of connecting to a VPN everytime we use our device in a public place should become a habit.  We Incluso, estando en nuestra propia casa, si no queremos que el ISP sepa y pueda controlar lo que hacemos, deberíamos usar un VPN en todo momento en que los datos que usamos, sean críticos.

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