We live in the era of constant threat to personal security and privacy on the world wide web. In the world of internet, users are constantly under an unknown threat from hackers who steal personal data or the authorities who monitor online activities. VPNs have become the need of the hour. However, to jump-start without proper knowledge also leads to a great risk and financial loss. Hence, we present you with all the aspects of VPN services, features and benefits, along with a list of top VPN services. It’s time you decide whether you find it essential to protect your internet security or not.
What is a VPN?
A VPN or a Virtual Private Network is a secure network connection between two separate networks. In simple words, VPN is like a bridge that connects two islands (here, LANs) to establish an easy, secure and more reliable connection between the two islands (here, local networks). This helps tackle security and privacy issues; since the data transmitted over a VPN is encrypted and unreadable to the current technology. The encrypted communication, if detected, is unreadable, and conceals the user identity, since no logs will be saved for the user sessions. This allows the user to browse behind a vast number of IP addresses covering a wide range of servers.
How does a VPN work?
VPNs use signal encryption and network tunneling mechanisms to prevent from being detected by monitoring mechanisms. In tunneling mechanism, the traffic from the user’s computer and the greater network (Internet) is passed through a tunnel, thus preventing external or unauthorized access to the user’s private data that includes IP address, server location, user location or session logs.
VPNs not only protect user data and internet privacy, but also enable users to choose any locations, server and IP address in order to access data that is explicitly available for users residing in specific countries. It, thus, creates a false user identity to bypass any kind of monitoring mechanism. VPNs protects from hackers and helps avert internet censorship implemented by the government/ISPs.
Things to learn before opting for a VPN service
To be technically sound while choosing the right VPN provider, it is always essential to understand the technical jargon used to describe the features and potential of any VPN network. Hence, we present some easily understandable definitions for the widely used terms in the VPN market.
An Internet Protocol address (IP address) is a unique numerical label assigned to each device for the purpose of network interface identification and location addressing. It contains four numbers (ranging between 0 and 255), each containing three digits, separated by a single period (.). Internet Protocol is a set of rules that govern Internet activity and facilitate completion of a variety of actions on the World Wide Web.
A Web Server is a computer program that dispenses web pages as per user’s request over the internet. When a user enters the website URL in the internet browser’s address bar, then the browser sends a request to access the web page associated with the URL. This request is responded by a web server, which provides access to the webpage requested.
This methodology decides users’ internet access permission levels on the basis of user’s geographical location. Some websites can only be accessed in specific geographical locations, thus restricting users in blacklisted (or non-local) locations from accessing the respective content. The concept makes use of users’ IP address to detect the geographical location, in order to decide if the user can be allowed to access the content based on his geographical location.
Protocols specify interactions between the communicating entities, and exist at several levels in a telecommunication connection. In this context, a protocol is the special set of rules that end points in a telecommunication connection use when they communicate. VPNs use several protocols such as PPTP, IPSec, L2TP and OpenVPN among others, each with unique capabilities and strengths. Users can choose from a list of protocols provided by the VPN service provider based on their internet speed and security needs.
Internet Censorship is the concept of limiting or restricting access to certain web content, as well as preventing users from publishing or viewing certain material (in most cases, copyrights, defamation, harassment, and obscene material) on the internet. Internet Censorship is generally implemented by either the state government, private organizations or individuals (self-censorship) to support the national guidelines or organisational-level initiatives. In some countries, Internet Censorship also extends to the level of monitoring citizens’ internet activity, alongside controlling what is viewed or accessed on the world wide web.
As the name itself suggests, anonymous browsing implicates internet browsing under a false/fake or concealed identity to avoid being identified by any kind of monitoring mechanism, or to escape hacker attacks. This is generally possible with the help of either proxy servers and VPNs. However, proxy servers are considered susceptible to monitoring; while VPNs have proven to be most effective ways for anonymous browsing, till date. VPNs provide an option to browse the internet using a temporary IP address and a non-local server, thereby creating a false identity.
Who should use VPNs?
So far, the article has been explaining the terms associated with VPNs. Now, it is the time to decide who needs a VPN service and who do not. In the era of constant threat to personal data over the internet, there are several reasons why we need VPN services.
Firstly, we believe that any internet user whose first priority is privacy and data security, needs to opt for a VPN connection. Secondly, users residing in countries with strict internet censorship rules or those who are victims of geo-restrictions while attempting to access global content are in great need of personal VPN services.
Two major challenges faced by tourists or business travels in foreign countries are geo-restricted sites and Internet Censorship regulations. Hence, we suggest a personal VPN service as the most effective method to overcome these restrictions on your internet usage.
Meanwhile, there have been several instances where users accessing public Wi-Fi services in airports, hotels and other areas have been attacked by hackers due to a lack of VPNs to enable secured internet access. If you are travelling a lot, or are on regular business trips, who relies on public internet services on a wider scale, it is very much essential to subscribe for a personal VPN service that not only keeps your data safe.
After all the information provided in this article, you are undoubtedly in abundant confusion on which VPN service you need to choose. There are several VPN providers in the market; however, not all of them provide the best level of security and user privacy. Hence, to make this job easier, we filtered three highly rated and best-in-class VPN service providers that have been successfully running over a consistent period of time. The three major criteria we considered to shortlist the best VPN service providers are user security and privacy, vast network coverage and reasonable subscription packages.
HideMyAss (HMA) is one of the most reliable and best VPN services in the present market. With a vast network of 932 VPN servers in 352 locations in 221 countries with over 126,051 IP addresses, HMA is user-friendly in terms of pricing packages, faster connections and user privacy. HMA supports OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), LLTP, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols for handling VPN internet connections, and supports Windows, Mac, iOS, Linux, and Android OS. The software’s impressive user interface allows the adjustment of preferences to change the IP address, either randomly, or manually for every minute or five minutes, without any restrictions.
HMA VPN works simultaneously on multiple devices, which also include devices without built-in VPN support such as internet-enabled TVs, games consoles, Netflix devices and Apple TVs among others. It also provides the option to install the VPN software application on the router, in order to protect the source of the wireless internet connection. It also provides round-the-clock customer service through Live Chat and Email support options.
HMA provides reasonable subscription packages with 30-day money-back guarantee. Subscription payment methods include credit cards, PayPal and Bitcoin. By accepting 3rd-party payment methods such as PayPal and Bitcoin, HideMyAss respects customer’s privacy and allow anonymous payments.
VyprVPN proclaims to be the have the highest level of speed and security for broadband Internet connections. Launched in 2009, it is one of the very few VPN providers offering free trial, VyprVPN comes with reasonable subscription packages, starting from as low as USD 5 per month.
VyprVPN has over 700 servers and more than 200,000 global IP addresses across 48 countries located in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Oceania regions. VyprVPN supports, as well as offers easy-to-use apps for, Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, TV and router. It supports multiple VPN protocols – OpenVPN (256-bit), L2TP(256-bit), PPTP (128-bit) and Chameleon (256-bit) – to allow the user to choose a preferred level of encryption, speed, and protection.
VyprVPN offers an additional layer of security to the VPN connections using an in-built NAT Firewall. Its exclusive Chameleon technology uses the unmodified OpenVPN 256-bit protocol and scrambles metadata to prevent DPI, VPN blocking and throttling. VyprVPN also claims to be the only company that does not use third-party companies to host its VPN servers; hence ensures end-to-end protection of user privacy and security. VyprVPN provides 24×7 customer support via email or live chat.
ExpressVPN network is SSL secured with 256-bit encryption, and extends across 100 cities in 78 countries. It allows the user to choose from more than 1000 servers with 15,000 IP addresses. ExpressVPN supports OpenVPN (TCP, UDP), L2TP-IPSec, SSTP, and PPTP protocols, and is rated one of the top VPN providers in the current market.
Established in 2009, Express VPN service promises unlimited bandwidth, unlimited server switching and internet speed, strong encryption, zero logging and 99.9% uptime. It also offers round-the-clock customer support via live chat and email, and also comes with a 30-day money back guarantee. ExpressVPN’s easy-to-use VPN software is compatible across Windows, Mac, iOS, Android OS and also provides user-friendly mobile apps for the same. It also offers configuration files for Linux OS.