How Does A VPN Work
When you sign up with a VPN provider, you first log onto that service before you connect to the internet. Once you are connected, others cant see your activity. Your VPN provider will encrypt your data, scrambling it so that hackers, government agencies, and businesses can’t see what websites you visit, messages you send, social media sites you use, or files you download.
What Does VPN Stand For On A Phone
Lets start by defining what a VPN is.
VPN stands for Virtual Private Network.
Its another way of saying that you will get online through a private connection. By that, we mean a connection that is secure in the way it is encrypted and hidden from other people on the network and your ISP . Your ISP can be AT& T, CableOne, Comcast, etc.
When you use your phone without a VPN all your browser history will be logged and saved by your ISP and they will know exactly which websites you have visited and much more.
More and more people are getting concerned with data privacy and with good reasons. There have even been examples where ISPs have sold information about their customers whereabouts to big advertising companies in order for them to direct ads based on your activity.
But more importantly than that, you can also get much better security when logging unto unsecured wifi networks in places like:
When doing so you are very vulnerable to attacks from hackers and people whore trying to sniff up your passwords, personal data, credit card info, etc. Thats much more common than people think!
But well get back to that in a second.
Lets first see what it looks like when a VPN is active on your phone.
Is Using A VPN Legal
Some people wonder whether its legal to use a VPN. After all, the service enables you to become a lot more anonymous online, which can be quite useful for hackers and online criminals. If those people cant be traced online, its much harder to punish them for their crimes, after all. Even so, this doesnt necessarily mean a VPN is illegal.
On the contrary: many official companies and businesses work with VPNs and recommend their use. The European Union, too, supports internet freedom, which a VPN can give you.
Many countries consider the use of a VPN completely legal. Conducting illegal activities while using a VPN, however, remains illegal. Therefore, using a VPN for legal activities, such as browsing, gaming, Netflix, and YouTube, isnt a problem at all. If you use a VPN to, for example, , however, youre most likely going against your local laws. While the VPN gives you more anonymity online and makes it a lot harder for officials to trace you down, the downloading in and of itself is still illegal.
There are a couple of countries that do consider the use of a VPN illegal. If youd like to know more about these countries and the legal and illegal use of VPNs in general, you can read this article. Using a VPN in most of the world wont get you into any trouble. On the contrary: wed recommend it.
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Which Different VPN Protocols Are There
VPN connections use an encrypted connection also called a tunnel. There are several ways in which such a VPN connection can be set up. These protocols ensure that your data remains safe and cant be read by others. The most common VPN-protocols are:
If youd like to know more about the different VPN protocols and how they work, you can find a complete overview right here.
Input VPN Server Information
Provide all the server details the current page needs. Normally, you will have to input some text in the Description field, Server field, Local ID field, User Authentication field, Remote ID field, and Secret Field along with the Account field.
For the Description field, use your VPN services official name. Use a domain name or IP address for the Server field. For Remote ID, use the appropriate hostname. You can leave Local ID empty.
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What To Do If Theres A VPN On My Childs Phone
Step one dont make assumptions. Yes, theres a 51% chance theyre trying to get around something, but, first, give him/her a chance to tell you why. Be a loving investigator.
Step two assuming the VPN was downloaded for nefarious reasons, delete it.
Step three remove the App Store or Google Play .
Related post:3 Reasons to Disable the App Store
Step four impress upon your child the importance of privacy, yes, but abusing that principle to hide online behavior from parents isnt honest. It isnt noble. Online secrets usually get us into trouble , eventually. And, the behavior will be punished.
Is It True That A VPN Is Completely Unhackable
No. No. Did I mention… no. Nothing is unhackable. As evidence…
In January 2018, Cisco Systems revealed that a critical bug was found in its ASA software that could allow hackers to execute code remotely.
This is a bug in enterprise-level VPN systems used by corporations, so it’s severe, indeed. Fortunately, responsible IT administrators can patch their systems to fix the bug. However, it goes to show how no system can be truly deemed absolutely secure.
Another example was a bug in Hotspot Shield, a popular VPN service. This bug allowed a hacker to expose private information, including originating IP. Hotspot Shield issued an update, which gives us an excuse to remind you that you should always install updates, especially on your VPN client software.
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The Middle Ground: Use Openvpn
As mentioned above, OpenVPN is one of the most trusted protocols. Its used by many VPN provider apps, such as AVG Secure VPN, because of its high level of security and stability, as well as its ability to bypass firewalls. Its also open source, meaning the source code is readily available for anyone to view and inspect. Though its not native to any platform, third-party VPN client software makes it available on both iPhone and Android mobile phones.
Using a VPN app may be less of a hassle in terms of setup, but if it isnt providing you with the security, features, or power that you want, you should consider OpenVPN. It allows you to configure your VPN the way you want so you can customize your settings, optimize your connection, troubleshoot, and more. The downside is you will lose any advanced extra features your current VPN provider gives you. However, as long as your VPN provider supports the OpenVPN protocol, you can use it in tangent with your existing VPN client and switch between the two as needed.
Advantage : Anonymity Online
Without a VPN your location and even your identity can be traced without too much hassle, thanks to your IP address. This IP address is unique to your internet connection. It is like an online postal code that tells people who you are and where you are at. It enables people to connect your online behavior to you.
A VPN hides your IP address and location. When you use a VPN, your internet traffic is rerouted through an external server and your online activities can only be traced back to the IP address of the VPN server, but no longer to your IP address and you.
By using a VPN, websites, marketeers, streaming services, governments and cybercriminals can no longer identify you with your IP address, because they only see the IP address of the VPN server youre connected to. Moreover, they wont be able to find out your real location, because to others it will look like you are where the VPN server is.
So by using a VPN your online activity will no longer be linked to your own IP address. This way you can browse the internet with more anonymity.
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Secure Your Data Over Public Wi
The convenience of free public Wi-Fi often comes with a loss of security. Since anyone can hop onto an unsecured Wi-Fi network, theres no way to know exactly whos connected at any given time, or what theyre doing. Its easy for a hacker to sit on a public Wi-Fi network and intercept all the traffic flowing across it.
If you log into your bank account, check your email, or hang out on social media, a hacker can snap up your login credentials. Any messages you send or personal data you transmit can be intercepted and used for blackmail or identity theft. The risks of public Wi-Fi are almost endless.
Because a VPN connection encrypts your communication with its server, anyone trying to eavesdrop on the public network will see only gibberish. Thats a big part of what VPN protection is: ensuring that no one can access your data.
Do I Need A VPN On All My Devices
Yes, you will need to install a VPN client on each device you want to connect to the VPN. For the most part, VPN clients offer the same features across platforms but that’s not always the case.
For mobile devices, the situation is a little thornier. Most companies offer VPN apps for Android and iPhones, which is great because we use these devices to connect to Wi-Fi all the time. VPNs don’t always play nice with cellular connections, but it takes some serious effort to intercept cellphone data. Law enforcement or intelligence agencies may have an easier time gaining access to this data, or metadata, through connections with mobile carriers or by using specialized equipment.
Note that you can skip client apps altogether and connect to the VPN service simply using your computer’s network control panel. It comes with major drawbacks, however. For one thing, it’s tedious. For another, client apps give you access to more features. Since you’re paying for the bells and whistles VPN companies offer, you may as well be able to use them. VPN apps will also always be up to date with the latest server information, which will save you a lot of trouble.
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Do I Need A VPN On My Iphone
If youre questioning whether you need a virtual private network on your iPhone then theres a good chance that you already value your privacy. Your data is the hottest commodity in the world and while privacy is beginning to get the attention it deserves, you need to protect yourself using the tools available to you.
Internet Service Providers track everything that you do online and often share this data with government agencies. In addition, the websites that you visit track your IP address, meaning that they know where you are and can figure out who you are. You cant even escape using public WiFi, as this increases the risk of hackers and corporate surveillance. Fortunately, VPNs can protect you from all of this as long as you are connected. If you want to know more, read on…
Unusually High Data Usage
Has your monthly data usage spiked recently? Is your device using more data than normal, yet you havent changed your online habits? That could indicate that someone has installed spyware on your device.
Lower-quality spy tools will try to send as much data about your device back to their home base as they possibly can. This can use large amounts of data.
On the other end of the spectrum, some of the spyware makers are quite skilled at it, and their sneaky apps are much more selective with what info they look for and send back home. This makes detection a bit tougher.
It all comes down to making sure that you stay aware of your monthly data usage and pay close attention to any sudden spikes in usage that you might see.
While you can contact your wireless carrier to check on how much data youve used, you can also check on your device. This means you can quickly check data usage without the need to search around on your providers website or app for data usage information.
How to Check Cellular Data Usage on Android
To check your cellular data usage on an Android 9 device, do the following. :
How to Check Cellular Data Usage on an iPhone
To check your cellular data usage on an iPhone running iOS 14, do the following. :
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A Hide Browsing Activity On Public Wi
One of the most popular uses of VPN is its ability to secure and hide your browsing activity from your local ISP network or when youre on unsecured Public Wi-Fi networks, such as airports or cafés. Most of these public Wi-Fi networks are offered for Free and in return, snoop on customers’ privacy by reading their browsing habits, ecommerce purchases, social media activity, etc. In order to safeguard yourself and your data from such ISPs and networks, you can enable VPN on your iPhone.
Once VPN is enabled, your iPhone creates a secure and encrypted tunnel to the fortified VPN servers and all traffic between the two is kept hidden from the local ISPs and Public Wi-Fi networks. As the connection is encrypted, they are unable to intercept any data or invade your privacy.
Check For Any Issues With Your Account
Try to log in to your VPN through the providers website. If you cant log in, it is possible that you are using the wrong password in the VPN app and need to reset it. If the password is fine, check that your VPN account is still active. If the account is no longer active, you may need to renew your subscription or contact the VPNs customer support to find out why.
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What Do Net Neutrality Changes Mean For My VPN Usage
Net neutrality has been severely under fire in the US. The Federal Communications Commission has eliminated many of the consumer protections against internet service providers harvesting traffic data and selling that data to advertisers, or worse.
This could be bad. I’m not terribly concerned if Comcast discovers my secret passion for muscle cars and I get more ads for car customizing kits. It might be annoying, but I’m not doing anything I want to hide. The problem could occur if ISPs start inserting their own ads in place of ads by, say, ZDNet. That could cut off the revenue that keeps websites alive, and that could have very serious repercussions.
As for personal use and whether you should use a VPN at home because of net neutrality, I don’t think we’re there… yet. Certainly, if you’re working on confidential information and connecting to work, you should use a VPN. But we haven’t yet seen any evidence of ISPs being so intrusive that always-on VPNs are required at home.
Stay tuned to this guide because if that changes, we’ll let you know.
The Downsides Of Using A VPN
Like everything else, there are downsides to using a VPN. And we shouldn’t gloss over them because we want to tout the privacy factor.
Operating a VPN is difficult so make sure you choose a good company.
The biggest is the technical hurdle. Effectively operating a VPN requires an understanding of network security issues and a way to make sure it is effective against them. All the privacy and security of using a VPN goes out the window if the administrator doesn’t know exactly how things like the Same Origin Policy or CORS work and what they need to do to work around the issues they present where cookies are involved. This stuff is pretty complicated.
VPN service for as little as $6.49 per month!
This is why you have to know you are using a VPN service you trust. The company must be honest and open with its policies concerning privacy and be fully competent and up-to-date on how computer networking is constantly evolving. Don’t try to rent an online server and run your own VPN if you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t jump on a friend’s home-brewed VPN unless they know what they are doing. Stick to recommend companies that have been scrutinized and audited by the pros.
A couple of other things that might not be great about using a VPN:
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So Should I Or Shouldn’t I
While not everyone wants or needs to use a VPN if you do there’s no reason not to use it with your phone. Most VPN companies have an easy to setup app that gets you connected and has an easy way to turn things on and off. Some even have extras like bandwidth monitoring so you know how close you are to any data limits. A properly configured VPN should work for all data that moves in and out of your phone, whether you’re on Wi-Fi or using your data connection.
A VPN works with your web browser and every app on your phone.
You will have a little bit of extra overhead, as an app that encrypts and decrypts the data and properly routes it through the VPN is running in the background, but the impact is minimal with a properly coded VPN app or a manual setup. You probably won’t even notice a proper VPN app is running unless you look for it. Google itself uses a VPN for users who connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots. You won’t know anything extra is happening.
The downsides still remain, but as long as you’re using a recommended company that has a safe and secure VPN service, you’ll probably never run into any of them. We hate to say “probably” as much as you hate hearing it, but it’s true. Customers who would cause themselves to be blacklisted from a service or draw the attention of law enforcement usually aren’t using consumer VPN services.