VPNs are one of the most misunderstood technologies in the world. And it’s due to VPN providers’ fraudulent claims, such as “a VPN is a one-click solution to internet security” or that they’re the only way to encrypt your online communications. In time, the truth has come out. Type VPNs into YouTube and most videos are negative, telling you there’s no need for a VPN in 2022 because their claims aren’t true.
People have been scared away from VPNs and these exaggerated claims have even prompted lawsuits.
As it almost always is, the truth is in the middle and the devil is in the details.
Although VPNs aren’t everything that advertisers promised, they are not a waste of money. Let’s get back to reality and talk about why people use VPNs in the first place.
How VPNs Work: Simply Explained
Consider your ISP to be the post office. A packet is sent from your computer, with an address on it, received by your ISP, and your ISP routes it to the final destination.
All a VPN really does is put its address on all the packets leaving your computer. It’s like a mail forwarding service. Your ISP sends all the packets to the VPN because that’s the address on the internet.
Then once the packets arrive, the VPN opens them up (unencrypts) them and sends them to the real destination. This real destination is what you entered into your url bar. https://www.it’sawebsite.com
The client, which is software on your computer, knows how to gather all the data leaving your computer and address it to the VPN in an encrypted envelope.
The VPN server receives this envelope and it knows how to send it on.
The same thing happens in reverse. The site you’re requesting sends a response which arrives at the VPN server. It’s then routed to your computer, with no information about where it came from left on the envelope.
By breaking the chain. Turning: your computer -> ISP -> end destination
Into: your computer -> ISP -> VPN ->end destination
Nothing on the left of the VPN knows anything about what’s on the right and vice versa.
Let’s Tackle Some VPN Misinformation
1). VPNs are the only way to encrypt traffic
Encryption technologies other than VPNs don’t just exist, they are wildly popular and used all over the internet. Around 80%, is already encrypted using HTTPS. Whenever you see a little padlock in your URL bar in your browser, it indicates that you’re using HTTPS.
Your online bank, crypto exchange, and even your favorite porn site use HTTPS by default.
Since HTTPS encryption takes place on your computer, the whole VPNs keep you safe on public Wi-Fi spiel is overplayed.
2). VPNs guarantee your data isn’t collected
Make no mistake about it, all the faith and trust you were putting in your ISP is getting shifted to your VPN.
The VPN can decrypt its own encryption. They have to when they route the traffic. allowing it to see everything you do online.
If the VPNs provider creates a history or leaves any metadata unaccounted for, there’s a risk that the server could be hacked and all your online activity is exposed.
Don’t use a free Virtual Private Network if you’re concerned about this.
Try to find a provider with a no-logs policy and frequent audits.
Why Do People Use VPNs in 2022?
The cybersecurity claims are more or less baseless. You can add another point of vulnerability, another attack vector, to your internet connection and call it security.
So why do people use VPNs? Turns out there are some great reasons and the fear-mongering was completely unnecessary.
Security and privacy are different things.
Most people using a VPN don’t want their ISP to collect their browsing history, which is fair enough.
Surely this is something that you only need to worry about in Pakistan or Mongolia?
Nope! In 2017, Trump passed historic legislation that made it easier for ISPs to sell data without asking for permission.
It might surprise all you freedom lovers to learn that India has some of the strongest net-neutrality laws in the world. Something worth knowing is that net neutrality typically stops ISPs from blocking access to sites and collecting data, but countries with net neutrality have clauses for law enforcement or state censorship. Russia has net-neutrality laws that prohibit ISPs from blocking sites and collecting data unless the government asks them to.
Some net neutrality has nothing to do with privacy. In South Korea, VoIP is blocked on high-speed FTTH networks except where the network operator is the service provider. Does South Korea’s law make sense? Blocking VoIP services when Netflix uses 10x more data. Absolutely not! 0% logic. That’s why a VPN is a good investment. Governments are full of old men who don’t understand the internet and they are really bad at regulating it.
2). VPNs Unblock Content in your country, school, or workplace
VPNs allow you to access content that is prohibited in your region. The site you’re visiting thinks you’re from the nation the VPN server is located
All Netflix, Hulu, SkySports, Disney+, and Amazon Prime, can see is the IP address of the VPN server.
Netflix has a lot of titles that aren’t available in other countries. Certain cryptocurrency exchanges have been shut down or limited service for US users due to SEC regulations.
In Vietnam, Medium.com, a prominent blogging site used by marketers is blocked. China has the entire internet under lock and key. If you’re an ex-pat living in any of these countries, you’ll need a VPN.
3). Stop cease and desist notices
BitTorrent is about 10% of internet usage. Torrenting is one of the most popular reasons for why people continue to use VPNs in 2022. When you torrent, your IP address is public and visible to trackers.
The issue with this is that rights holders create monitoring software that sends out mass cease and desist letters to all IP addresses downloading or seeding a file. They notify your ISP, who then passes the message on to you. They might threaten legal action against you or send you a bill for the commercial rights to the program or film you downloaded.
A VPN won’t forward the cease and desist to you. They may protest that they have no idea who downloaded the file since there are so many people on the server. If they delete their records, it’s impossible to link that activity back to you.
Although they aren’t the one-size-fits-all answer to internet privacy that many providers claim, VPNs let you watch geo-blocked media, hide web browsing data from your ISP, and avoid cease and desist letters while torrenting. Isn’t that enough?
There’s really no need to exaggerate what they’re capable of since these are all extremely useful applications for a virtual private network. If you’re intrigued, click here to learn more about a VPN.