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How a VPN Works: Simplified

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

As VPNs are becoming more mainstream, you might be aware of the security VPNs provide but unsure of how they actually work. The risks of using unsecured public networks are high with respect to data privacy. This is why many individuals opt to use VPNs to connect to public networks in a secure manner. If you’re curious as to how the technology runs in the background, take a look at the breakdown of VPN technology below.

1. How does your computer interact with a VPN server?

Generally, when you use your computer to access the internet, you are accessing a public network from a private network. The addition of a VPN, which can simply be a downloaded software, adds an extra destination for your data in between your private network and your destination network – whether it be your company cloud, online banking infrastructures, or just the interact. The VPN software encrypts your information before it reaches a public domain so that even your internet service provider will not be able to see your information. In addition, hackers will only be able to see your information in the form of “packets” of data, rather than what is in each.

2. What is VPN encryption and how does it work?

Even before data is sent over the internet through encryption, all data is first secured by hiding data before transmitting it through a network. To expand, data is usually sent in packets of information that your internet service provider (ISP) will protect with a layer of data that is hidden or “encapsulated” from plain view. This data however, is not secured in the sense that it is readable by anyone who has access to the information. To account for this risk, encryption is then used by a VPN to protect and secure data sent over the internet by codifying the data. This cryptography is mainly done by algorithms that will encode data in a manner that is only decipherable by a key that is held by the VPN user and the VPN server. This encryption process is the core of VPN security, and is the value the technology adds to the users.

3. How does your VPN server interact with the public server?

Typically, when a public server receives your information, the server can see the IP address from which the information originated. Unfortunately, this typically means the public server can also see the IP addresses associated browser history and location. However, with the addition of a VPN, public servers will not be able to directly trace the information flow. Due to the direct structure of a VPN, public servers will see the information as having originated from the VPN server’s IP address. This helps to shed the personal information and allows users to stay more of the anonymous.

All in all, the addition of a VPN is simple, yet immensely beneficial. From hiding your location to securing your personal information, a VPN can effectively add an extra level of encryption to all of your network activities.

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