What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

What is a VPN (Virtual Private Network)

What is a VPN?

VPN services, or virtual private networks, allow users to connect to a virtual private network in order to protect their privacy and have a more secure and anonymous connection to the network . Furthermore, with the possibility of "masking" your IP address of origin, VPNs allow you to access services and websites subject to geolocation, that is, made available only for certain geographical areas, as we will explain below.

Overall, VPNs are one of the services that have seen the greatest growth in recent years. This is mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many workers have found themselves forced to work from home, with the need to access their company's network to perform their assigned duties. As you can imagine, many companies have implemented access via Virtual Private Network (or indeed VPN), for security and privacy reasons.

In addition, we have also seen a significant increase in use in schools and universities. of computer systems due to distance learning, as well as the need for teachers, especially university teachers, to access the networks of their faculties. Therefore, this situation too may have contributed to the increase in the use of VPN services.

As we said, another factor behind the growing popularity of VPNs, always related to the Coronavirus and the consequent lockdowns, is a greater consumption of streaming content. In fact, thanks to the quarantine, many have started to use more popular on-demand video streaming services, such as Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus. One of the characteristics of these services is the so-called regional block, which directs users in a given geographical area to a specific catalog, excluding content available in other areas. For example, the US Netflix catalog is not accessible to users who connect from Italy. The problem is that, often, catalogs from other areas offer exclusive content that is not accessible from other territories, not to mention that some series and films arrive first in a given area, and then be distributed elsewhere.

A VPN vi it also guarantees access to geo-localized content. One of the functions offered by VPNs is to “mask” your connection by passing data through a secure and anonymous tunnel. In short, a VPN activates a virtual network between different machines, and the data passes through this tunnel which makes it "invisible" to external parties. The data is therefore hidden, including the identity of the users, so it is possible to make an external server believe that the connection comes from an area other than the one in which it actually takes place. For example, you can use a VPN to make Netflix's US servers give you access to the US catalog, recognizing your IP address as an active one in the US.

So the need for more connections secure and the ability to unblock geolocated content are two of the most common selling points among users in the era of the COVID pandemic, but what is a VPN? In this article we want to explain broadly what a Virtual Private Network is, but if you want to deepen the question, we refer you to our article "VPN: what it is, how it works and what it is for" in which we deepen some more technical aspects that we will leave out. here for the sake of brevity.

Before we begin, however, we want to suggest some of the VPN services that we believe are among the best around. Below you can see our top 3, but if you want to discover other really interesting services, we recommend you read our guide to the Best VPNs.

ExpressVPN, the best of them all

ExpressVPN is the service n. 1 for us at sportsgaming.win! We've tried several, but ExpressVPN is the one that convinced us the most as a whole. If you want the security and privacy that only a paid VPN can offer, the annual subscription costs less than 6 euros per month and is valid for 15 months, plus it includes 1 year of unlimited backup on the Backblaze cloud! What's more, you can ask for a full refund within the first 30 days, without risk.


NordVPN, the best known in Italy

NordVPN is almost unbeatable for the quality / price ratio. If you are looking for a functional, safe and performing service, it could be right for you. You can try NordVPN free for 7 days.


Surfshark, ideal for beginners

Of all the VPNs we've tried, Surfshark is the one that caters best to novice users, thanks to interfaces user-friendly and quick settings. Plus, if you want to try it risk-free, a 30-day full money back guarantee is available, all for just over € 2 per month if you sign up for a 24-month subscription.


VPN - Historical background

Although VPNs have only gained some popularity in recent years, Virtual Private Network technologies have been around for over twenty years. 1996 saw the development and publication of the PPTP protocol (Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol), which we can consider as the basic form for transferring data securely. Protocols like this have evolved quickly, ensuring greater security and complexity, in order to ward off hacking attempts. 25 years later, the tunneling protocols available to users have multiplied, and the most popular are L2TP, IPSec and SSL, acronyms quite well known by those who have been using VPNs for some time.

Returning to what has been said in 'start, VPNs are born mainly for business use, in fact the development of technology has been strongly pushed by companies that needed a more secure system to receive and transmit data, avoiding potentially devastating news leaks and information theft. But even before the pandemic, increasingly massive access to the Internet and the proliferation of malware, viruses and other malicious programs further accelerated the drive towards VPN adoption, resulting in the development of new technologies and the enhancement of those. existing.

China imposes severe restrictions on users who want to surf the Internet Another aspect that has greatly stimulated the spread and adoption of VPN services is the awareness of a good portion of the public about the risks that are run by surfing the net: in fact, we are exposed to identity theft or other violations of privacy, especially in countries where individual freedoms are reduced and limited by the authorities, just think of China and Russia, in which online activities are strictly regulated. So, the idea of ​​breaking down, bypassing and neutralizing censorship is another factor that has made VPNs even more popular around the world.

But what is a VPN?

How we saw above, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which we can translate as “virtual private network”. So imagine several machines located even in very distant territories that communicate within a network that is not made up of physical wiring, and yet behaves just as if it were. Of course, to access the network you need credentials, i.e. username and password or other identification methods, protected by encryption, so that no attacker can get their hands on them. Furthermore, the most serious companies guarantee a so-called "no-log" policy, that is the commitment not to store information and data on users, such as browsing history, user-IP address mapping and, above all, the chosen credentials by users.

As we said, one of the main goals of a VPN is to ensure the privacy and anonymity of its users, but how does it do that? In short, a technique known as tunneling is employed, whereby data is transmitted through a secure tunnel, in which the data is hidden through encryption. We can imagine tunnels as intermediaries between client and server, which by hiding the data transmitted from one destination to another, make them inaccessible and unreadable by other subjects.

Photo by Kevin Paster from Pexels On the Internet, the information transmitted from one machine to another (client-server, for example) is divided into packets, from which it is possible to easily trace who transmitted the data and who will receive it. Today the HTTPS protocol is very widespread and guarantees a certain degree of security, however some data attributable to the origin and destination of the data remain accessible, consequently it is not possible to guarantee the anonymity of those who surf the Internet without protection systems in place. br>
Through the virtual network and the tunnels, therefore, VPNs also obfuscate data relating to the identity and location of users, guaranteeing not only anonymity but also the possibility of changing the apparent geographic position from which us connects to the network. All this is made possible by the so-called encryption protocols. The encrypted data becomes absolutely illegible by those who do not have the relative decryption key, and today the available cryptographic technologies are different and with varying degrees of "armor". Usually, VPNs use protocols such as OpenVPN, IPsec, SSTP, and PPTP, in some cases, in addition to these are proprietary protocols developed by service providers.

VPN: which one to choose?

At this point, once you have a general idea of ​​how a VPN works, many of you may be wondering what are the criteria to adopt when choosing a VPN. As we said above, a good place to start is to take a look at the best VPNs that we think are worth considering. In general, however, there are some factors that should be taken into consideration when choosing the best VPN for your needs:

Price: The starting point is to know your budget, which can vary depending on to several factors, not least the ultimate purpose for which you are going to subscribe to a VPN plan. In any case, for those unwilling to invest, there are good free VPNs that could, at the very least, help you get a better idea of ​​the service before committing financially. Privacy and data collection: carefully evaluate the no-log policies declared by the provider, read the terms of service and try to be clear in mind what types of information, if applicable, will end up in the company archives. This is especially important if you are in areas subject to government censorship or where individual freedoms are restricted. Encryption, location, and number of servers - these elements help you understand how secure a VPN is and how much leeway it offers you. The locations of the servers and their number are essential to understand if and how many geolocated services you can unblock (if there are no servers in the US, forget the US Netflix catalog, for example) and the connection speed (to do it a lot but very simple, the greater the number of servers, the better in terms of performance. However, consider that a drop in speed compared to that guaranteed by your ISP is physiological when using a VPN). Compatible systems and devices, number of simultaneous connections: obviously you will have to choose a VPN service that offers apps and protocols compatible with your systems. If you are using a Mac, for example, you will need to make sure that the relevant app is present. Furthermore, if you have multiple machines or devices to connect (for example a laptop, a smartphone and a tablet) or if you want to share the service with the rest of your family, you will also have to evaluate how many connections are offered. Some companies only allow one, others 2 to 10, still others offer unlimited connections. Privacy is one of the most important levers in choosing a VPN. There is no single answer, there is no VPN that is the best ever. We have drawn up a ranking for you, based on general characteristics and also following the criteria outlined above, however, there will be excellent services but more or less indicated according to your requirements. For this reason it is important to think carefully about the purpose and resources available to you before adopting a VPN.

Is it worth using a free VPN?

Using a free VPN means having to accept some important trade-offs. Many of the best brands in the VPN industry offer a free plan, in some cases it is only a limited time trial, for example 30 days, in which you can use all the features included in the package. At the end of the trial you will have two options: to upgrade for a fee or uninstall the VPN. In other cases, there are real free tiers, such as the one offered by TunnelBear, with a limit of 500 MB of data per month. And here is the main aspect to consider: if you only need the VPN to connect securely from public networks or unprotected access points, perhaps to check your email or make a banking transaction, then a free VPN could do. to your case. If, on the other hand, you want to access geo-localized content or constantly protect your connection, you'll have to look elsewhere. In any case, some of the best antivirus brands offer a VPN, more or less limited, in the most advanced packages, so it might be worth taking a look at these proposals too, especially if you also need to get a security suite. br>
Still in terms of security, some of the best VPN brands are moving towards offering more and more integrated services. For example, Surfshark One is a package that includes VPN, antivirus and other protection tools, while NordVPN offers Threat Protection, a security feature created in collaboration with Surfshark. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that in the near future more and more companies will integrate advanced tools with their packages to protect user data and identity, as well as privacy and anonymity.

Among other services, some VPNs offer password manager too, for example NordVPN offers NordPass (together with the NordLocker cryptographic tool), and these are additional elements to consider, especially if you want to optimize costs and consolidate your security, privacy and password management packages.

We have dedicated various articles, guides and reviews to the Virtual Private Network topic, and we will continue to explore this interesting sector for you, so keep following sportsgaming.win to learn more about the world of VPNs.

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