A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) is a connection over the Internet that helps users hide their browsing history, the internet IP address, geographical location, as well as their web activities.
How does it work?
When you activate your VPN connection, your information is then transmitted to an external VPN server first, which changes your IP address, making others unable to track you.
Assume you’re driving in your car. Your IP address is your vehicle’s license plate. Everyone on the road can see where you’re going and use your license plate to track you. This is the same as browsing the Internet normally — without a VPN. But when you use a VPN, you can hide this address.
Why do people use this?
- A VPN prevents everyone from the Government to cyber criminals from tracking you easily.
- Corporations use VPNs to minimize cyber-attacks on business operations.
- Better security for your online banking/shopping experience.
- Cybercriminals can intercept your data if you use a public Wi-Fi hotspot. VPNs can address this issue.
- Students use VPNs to access websites that universities or colleges might have blocked.
- Some online stores can inflate their prices if they believe that you live in a “rich” country. So, if you are purchasing something, you might want to connect to a VPN server to see if you are entitled to a discount.
- Sometimes while downloading large files, one experiences a drop in the speed. This is because your ISP can limit your bandwidth if it believes you overload your connection — this practice is known as bandwidth throttling. If you use a VPN, the ISP cannot read your traffic and your chances of avoiding bandwidth throttling get significantly higher.
- Many countries restrict access to various websites – e.g., in China, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google, and YouTube, will be out of reach. But not with a VPN. This way, one can access all kinds of geo-blocked content.
The growing number of cyber attacks will drive the growth of the VPN market in the coming years.
But what a VPN won’t do is protect your devices and data from viruses and other malware. Neither will a VPN stop you from handing over your login details in phishing scams: dodgy links in emails or messages that take you to a website that looks genuine but is actually fake. Good antivirus software can help here, warning you when you click on those links.
Another issue the customers can face is that they have no method of verifying VPN providers’ data protection claims, especially if they adhere to a ‘no-logs’ policy while processing user data. ‘No-logs’ VPNs are those that don’t store any data related to a user’s online connections or activities, as well as personal details, payment information and search history. It is challenging for someone to decipher which VPN service to trust.
But as it is useful to some, with VPNs government does find it difficult to track criminals that prevent law and order due to which they may come under Government’s radar.
Why Hasn’t China Blocked All VPNs?
VPN sites are blocked on Chinese soil, and in most cases, VPN apps are not even available for download.
While China can make every effort to prohibit VPNs, blocking them would be detrimental to their businesses and economy. So, at this point, the best they can do is ban them and hope that this reduces the number of VPNs used.
Many people want to access blocked sites from within China, such as their favorite streaming content, gaming sites, or addictive social media apps, businesses must use VPNs to conduct private and professional transactions with the outside world.
Companies in China are required to get clearance from the Government in order to use VPNs for their activity. For your VPN to be effective from within China, you will need to download the VPN apps to your devices before landing on Chinese soil. You will not be able to access the VPN sites from within China to download the VPN apps from there.