Ok… the term stands for Virtual Private Network. If you work in any tech field, you likely have to use (should use) this technology to connect to resources at the office. It creates a secure tunnel from wherever you are, to wherever that office is.
So let’s say you often “work from home”, and need access to content on a work server. Whatever that content is at the office, getting to it can be done in several ways, but a VPN keeps the interception out of the equation. Very important when you are at a hotel, or have no control of the flow of information from where you are.
Important! If you thought typing in a password, or accepting an agreement at the free wifi at your local coffee shop makes it secure, you would be mistaken. All content you are transmitting through that connection can be monitored, and if poorly setup, freely accessed by anyone else also using that connection.
How do you use a VPN? So from a use point of view, you just need to launch a VPN application, and connection to your destination. The application’s job is to create a secure tunnel from you to that destination, and that keeps prying eyes and systems from seeing what you are sending and receiving. This secures your content from you to your connection, and vice versa.
What doesn’t a VPN do to protect you?
- It has nothing to do with protecting you from malicious software. It is just a tunnel from you to there. Think of it like a pipe. Keeps your connection secure and outside from seeing what is inside. For malicious software protection see my other post on protection software!
- It can be a split tunnel, or a full tunnel.
- Split means the only thing that is secured is your connection to resources at the other end. All web browsing is straight to the internet. No tunnel is used for internet surfing.
- Full means all your traffic goes through the tunnel. Web browsing included.
Many of the home networking routers have the ability to create your own VPN connection to home. In a pinch, this is a quick way to secure your connection when out and about and you could secure your information when using the free wireless at many businesses by connecting to the VPN. Alternately, you can pay for an VPN service that just take your connection to another place on their network that is secure away from the free wireless. Services like ExpressVPN are a good way to accomplish that. It is a monthly pay service and protects your privacy.
Hope this helps define the reasons why a VPN is used. Sure there are more technical details behind a VPN and reasons for using one, but the general idea is secure connection over the internet.