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What is a VPN? | Mashable


What is a VPN? To simply scratch the surface, a virtual private network (VPN) spoofs your location, makes you anonymous online, and gives you the keys to unlock the full breadth of the web. 

With all the third-party advertisers snooping on your personal data and scammers trying to steal it all, the best VPNs have become an easy way to protect your digital privacy. But what exactly is it? And how on earth can it make your internet service provider (ISP) believe you’re streaming in Japan when you’re actually sitting on your couch in another country? 

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What is a VPN?

A VPN is an encrypted internet connection between your device and a remote server. By encrypting your traffic through a private tunnel, often through military-grade AES-256 encryption, all your online activities will be hidden from prying eyes. Unlike Incognito mode, this means your ISP, hackers lurking on public networks, and even government entities can’t see what you’re doing. 

Connecting to these remote servers, which are provided by VPN services like ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and Surfshark, will also mask your real IP address and location. This unique identifier is given to you by your ISP to track your location, but a VPN server offers its own IP address. Therefore, when you connect to a server in another country, you can effectively fool websites and online services into thinking you’re in a completely different destination. 

It’s a neat trick, especially when you’re trying to access geo-restricted websites or streaming services with country-specific content libraries to binge-watch your favorite shows. Better yet, many VPN providers have thousands of servers placed around the globe, giving you an ample amount of ways to browse through the multitude of international streaming platforms out there. 

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Another perk is ignoring ISP throttling. This is a nasty way for your internet provider to limit your bandwidth, but if your ISP can’t recognize you when using a VPN, then it can’t restrict your internet speeds. That’s a big bonus for online multiplayer games and anyone who experiences excruciatingly long buffering times. 

It isn’t just about streaming and boosting speeds, as a VPN’s main purpose is to offer anonymity when browsing on public Wi-Fi, bypass region-restricted websites, and keep your online activity encrypted. 

Essentially, no hacker threats, no government eyes snooping about your business, and no problems accessing the site of your choice — even if you’re heading to countries with heightened internet censorship including the UAE, Cuba, or China. 

So, why are there hundreds of VPNs to choose from if they all basically do the same job? Each service can provide different perks, from the number of servers it provides and its various locations in select cities and countries to its compatibility with laptops, PCs, smartphones, and gaming consoles, along with multiple security options.

If you’re ready to give your device a security (and streaming) upgrade with a VPN, our list of the best VPNs (and best cheap VPNs for the budget-conscious) will point you in the right direction. 





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