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What is a VPN and How Does it Work?

VPN stands for “Virtual Private Network” and is just one way people can keep themselves safe online from hackers, thieves, and other cybercriminals. Some people may think that they don’t necessarily need a VPN because they hardly go online or are very careful when doing so. However, while this may be true, cybercriminals can target anyone at any time. In fact, it is estimated that there is a cyberattack initiated every 39 seconds. If that doesn’t already sound scary, in 2015, it was reported that there had been 736 million security breaches across the globe, but then in 2016, that number jumped to 3.1 billion. That is a 321.2% increase. Moreover, cybercrime is becoming so popular, that it is now a more profitable industry than worldwide illegal drug trafficking.

Those are some horrifying statistics that, according to most, would totally justify getting a VPN. But what exactly is a VPN and how does it help keep you safe from cybercrime? Here’s a simplified version of how it all works:

For those of you that don’t know, when browsing the internet, you must be connected to an external network, usually a LAN (Local Area Network). You probably already have a home network, but in order to access websites, your computer connection must travel from your home network to a LAN. This “tunnel” that your information travels through is what we know to be “the internet” and is where your information is most at risk. There isn’t much protecting your information when it transfers through the internet so it’s pretty much fair game for anyone who wants it, which is the opposite of what you want.

A VPN, however, puts all of your sensitive information into a tightly sealed, virtual capsule and secretly transfers it from your home network to the VPN server. Not only that, but a VPN will take the information within the capsule and scramble it (otherwise known as encrypting) so that if anyone does attempt to steal your info during network transfers, anything they got their hands on would be unintelligible and therefore worthless. Don’t worry though, this does not affect the way your information would appear on your end. Only those who have not been given explicit permission to view your data (ie: everyone except for those using your computer) would receive the unreadable version. Sounds pretty good, right?

The only downside to all of this is that even with a VPN, security breaches can still happen. Cybercriminals are getting craftier and it is not unheard of to have your private information stolen even with a VPN, especially if the sites you visit in and of themselves are questionable (remember, a VPN doesn’t protect you from viruses that are on websites or in sketchy emails—that’s what antivirus software is for—but rather, it is merely a way to keep you safe when traveling between networks). Is it perfect? No, but it’s infinitely better to have one than to simply risk it each time you want to connect to the internet.

Now, it should be noted that there are different types of VPNs to choose from, the most common type of VPN for personal use being a Remote Access VPN. A Remote Access VPN is essentially an external network that is located remotely, which essentially just means the VPN server is not on your computer, but rather, connected to a commercial hub. A VPN company hosts this hub and lets its customers connect to it from wherever they are. Connecting to the VPN usually requires a form of computer software that is provided by the company, also known as a Standalone VPN Client, although they can also be found as a browser extension or software that is directly downloaded to one’s internet router.

And there you have it! This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to VPNs, but this should at least have given you a basic understanding of how VPNs work and the importance of having one for yourself. There are plenty of credible VPN services out there to choose from, including Salt IT Solutions’ very own Remote Access VPN server, Salt VPN. Salt VPN is a Standalone VPN Client that is affordable, reliable, easy to use, and can be installed for free by our eager technicians! Why not give it a try? Call 1-866-784-9660 or click the link below for more info on how to get started today!

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