As concern surrounding online data theft, unsecure websites, geo-restricted content, and privacy continue to grow; many people are turning to a VPN service for the first time. Anyone unfamiliar with this type of service undoubtedly has a number of questions which need answering. Users on smartphones and tablets often face the greatest threats. The best place for anyone to start is by learning about VPNs and what a VPN service provides.
What is a VPN?
To understand what a VPN service provides, it is important to learn more about what a VPN is. In its most basic form, a VPN is a secure connection between two devices. When using a VPN service, the connection will be between the user’s device and the VPN server. This connection is kept secure by a technique known as tunneling. For smartphone users, a VPN connects their phone through a VPN server to websites and online services.
What is Tunneling?
Tunneling is a method of separating a specific data stream from other web traffic. In this case, the data stream is kept separate from the rest of the data transferred through the Internet service provider. VPN tunnels have only two access points – the server and users device. This means no one else can add any data to the data stream. As a form of protection, this ensures hackers do not insert malicious code which could harm the server or the user’s device. VPN tunnels rely entirely on encrypted data packets. The information being passed between the two points is broken down into smaller packets and then encrypted. The type of encryption varies based upon the protocol being used.
What is a Protocol?
A VPN protocol is used for authentication and determines encryption levels applied to the connection. There are a variety of protocols to choose from. The most popular include PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, and OpenVPN. Each protocol has a set of unique characteristics which users utilize to determine which one is right for them. PPTP is considered to provide the fastest data transfer speeds, although it is the least secure because it relies on 128 bit encryption. L2TP/IPsec is one of the most secure because it uses PPP authentication methods and IPsec encryption. OpenVPN is one of the newest protocols available. In many circles, it is considered to be the best overall option. It can provide data transfer speeds equivalent to PPTP and high levels of encryption like L2TP/IPsec.
What is a VPN Service?
A VPN service is a service users can sign up for, which allows them to create secure connections with servers (provided by the service provider) across the globe. As with all services, there are varying levels of quality. This is important to consider because lower quality services are slower, may share personal information with third parties, and do not own their own infrastructure. Higher-quality services are faster, protect personal information, and maintain their own infrastructure. All of this leads to a better user experience.
After signing up for a German VPN service, a protocol must be chosen and set up on the user’s smartphone, tablet or computer. The setup process is different for each protocol. Quality services provide in-depth tutorials and configuration instructions. Some also provide their own software which will take care of all of the setup and configuration automatically.