“What the heck is VPN?” Glad you asked! Just as we did with The Cloud and Encryption, we’ve scoured the web to find the very best way to present this topic in its simplest form; adding a few examples and fillers along the way. The discussion will be divided into two sections. Today, we’ll cover the basics: What is VPN? What are some real, recent examples of how VPN can help regular people (even non-techies!)? And finally, who needs VPN? In Part 2 we’ll talk about how to get started if you want to get in the VPN business – I promise it’ll be an easy read 🙂
So, let’s have at it! “What is VPN?” (for starters, watch the 2-minute video below).
Lifehacker sums VPN up as follows: “It secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes.” Now, I KNOW you’re thinking… in your post about Encryption, you told us that as long as the site has “https” in the title we’re ok??? What gives? Well…. Let me take an example from HowStuffWorks. Let’s say you are in the middle of the ocean on a fancy yacht with a hundred other boats. VPN will completely hide you from all the other boats — they wont’ even know you’re there! You could even make contact with another boat and only that boat would KNOW you did it. That’s different from HTTPS because even though a site is may transmit your data in a secure way, everyone else who is on the internet (secure site or not) can SEE that you are on the internet and WHAT you are doing! See the difference?
Now for a little application… You’ve heard that Turkey blocked Twitter, right? Well… if that’s the case, how have people in Turkey been able to send more than a million tweets since it was (technically) blocked (Mashable, Wall Street Journal)? Well, one of the answers was by using a VPN! #fail Want another real life example from yours truly? A few months ago I told you how I used a VPN to watch Neftlix while in Europe, see Travel Hacks.
So, who needs a VPN? In case you didn’t click the link earlier, the Lifehacker I referenced is titled “Why You Should Start Using a VPN…” In case it hasn’t sunk in yet… the article goes a little further to describes the type of people/situations that warrant VPN:
The student/worker: You log in to your school/work email (they’ve probably already provided you with this service.)
The downloader: You want to protect yourself in the unilikely case that you accidentally downloaded illegal music, movies or files.
The privacy minded and security advocate. You’re a privacy nut/geek/guru and don’t want anyone infringing on your right to privacy!
The globetrotter: You travel around the world and want the same conveniences you enjoy at home (data/files/services).
Some combination of the above.