A VPN is used to protect online internet activities and data from unwanted eyes. But it could also be used to access information what isn’t available based on geolocation or government censorship laws.
But is it always 100% secure? If not, what are the restrictions of a VPN?
In this article, I’ll explain why people use a VPN, the different types of security but also highlight some restrictions of VPNs.
Reasons to Use a VPN
There are various reasons to use a VPN. I’ve listed three of the most common reasons why internet users install VPNs.
- Hide Internet Activity – One of the most common reasons to use a VPN is to hide internet activity. For example, in the U.S., Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are allowed to monitor your online activities and sell that data to the highest bidder. (Yes, it’s legal!). A VPN is a perfect solution to hide your online activities from your ISP.
- Access/Bypass Blocked Content – A VPN allows users to connect to the server of the VPN service first, before connecting to the internet. This provides the ability for users to choose a specific geo-location in order to access geographically censored content.
- Torrenting – Many people use torrent software to download (and distribute) the latest movies, series, TV shows, music, and more. A VPN is a great tool to hide your real IP address, especially because the ISP won’t be able to identify you. You basically can’t get caught by your ISP or government for copyright infringement, if used correctly.
Types of Security
A VPN protects data through various secure tunneling protocols. That means that the network traffic is encrypted and protected from unwanted snoops. Encrypted data is in an unreadable format, which is useless for anyone who intercepts the network packets.
The quality of protection of a VPN differs per type of security. Find the different security types below:
- OpenVPN – OpenVPN lacks in speed in comparison to other security protocols, but it provides the best protection. For most available VPN providers such as ExpressVPN or NordVPN, OpenVPN is the default protocol. In any case, I’d highly recommend to opt for a VPN service which uses the OpenVPN protocol. The OpenSSL encryption and SSL v3/TLS v1 protocol can be configured on any port. Thus, the traffic is fully encrypted and protected against ISPs and government institutions.
- Secure Shell (SSH) – SSH establishes the VPN tunnel as well as the encryption to protect the data. This type of security allows the users to transfer unprotected data through an encrypted channel. That means that in this case, the data isn’t encrypted but the entire channel which is transferring the data is encrypted, hence the name “shell.” The data is only moving from one server port to another specific port, which is encrypted.
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) – SSTP uses the HTTPS protocol for security and it runs over a TCP port 443. This means that the traffic can pass through firewalls and proxies that block the L2TP/IPSec and PPTP protocol. The advantage for SSTP is mainly geared towards Windows users because the SSTP protocol is integrated into the Windows operating system as of Windows Vista and later versions. Thus, it’s a stable solution for Windows users.
- Layer Two Tunneling Protocol/IPSec (L2TP/IPSec) – The L2TP and IPSec combined reach a pretty decent level of security for a VPN client. Both protocols have their individual function to protect data. The L2TP only creates a tunnel but isn’t able to encrypt any data packets. And that’s where IPSec comes in. The IPSec protocol encrypts the data packets. However, the L2TP protocol uses the UDP 500 port, which makes it easy to block.
- Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) – PPTP is a rather “aged” VPN security protocol that has been around for a long time. The protocol can be installed on a wide variety of different systems. Furthermore, the PPTP protocol only encrypts the traffic and then encapsulate the data and then sent it across the internet.However, the PPTP protocol is best to be avoided because it lacks heavily in security features. The encryption models used by other protocols are way more developed and advanced.
Restrictions of VPNs
- Anonymity – It’s not 100% guaranteed that using a VPN is anonymous. For example, if the VPN provider is collecting user-logs, it basically means the VPN provider holds your internet activity in a file. If they sell the data or experience a data breach, your internet activities can be made public.
- Internet Speed – VPN users first connect to the server of a VPN before connecting to the internet. Also, the VPN encrypts the data. Both of these security precautions cause a slower internet connection. If you want to download large amounts of data or do a lot of streaming you’ll need to pay special attention to it’s speed.
- Mobile VPNs – VPNs are rather limited when it comes to data security of smartphones, especially when you begin to use applications. The VPN must be able to provide cross-platform support for smartphones.
- VPN Servers & Data Leaks – VPNs with lack of experience and security are vulnerable to hackers and data leaks. Also, insufficient server capacity leads to slow connections and servers might not always work in every country.
Bill here from PixelPrivacy.com. My blog is all about making the world of online security accessible to everyone. I pride myself in writing guides that I’m certain even my own mom could read! Be sure to head over to my blog if you’re interested in keeping your private information just that: Private!