[intro]When you have completed this Guide, you’ll understand what a VPN is and how it works. [/intro]

What Is a VPN?

VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, which is used to join a network based in another physical location, such as your office. A benefit of joining another network is that it offers additional protection to protect users’ privacy whilst they’re online, by masking the actual address of your device (laptop, desktop, tablet or phone).

How Does It Help Me?

A VPN is used to make a secure connection to another network online. VPNs can also be used to hide your browsing activity when using public Wi-Fi and accessing country-restricted websites.

In the simplest of terms, a VPN can connect your desktop/laptop/tablet/smartphone to another server (networked computer) online and lets you browse the internet using that server’s connection. As an example, this would allow you to be online during your holiday in Spain but still be able to log into your UK Netflix account by connecting to a UK-based VPN and watch your favourite shows. In short, by using a VPN, you can appear to be located in a completely different country. 

VPNs are also used to protect you when using public Wi-Fi, such as the kinds found in airports, restaurants, coffee shops and on public transport.

How Does a VPN Work?

When your desktop/laptop/tablet/smartphone is connected to a VPN server, it will behave as if it is that server (computer). When you surf the internet using a VPN, your computer contacts the websites you visit using the encrypted VPN connection. The VPN will then forward the request and return a response through the secure VPN connection.

The network traffic between your computer and the server is sent over a secure connection, and if the server is in a different physical location you can securely access local network resources even if you’re in another country. For example, if you are on holiday in Spain, you can still log into Netflix and watch your favourite shows without them being blocked by Country Restrictions. 

Essentially, using a VPN adds an extra layer of security to your device, and makes it harder for your online activity to be monitored. This is especially useful when you’re using public Wi-Fi in cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, and on public transport.

Will a VPN make me entirely anonymous?

Not entirely. Using the internet completely anonymously is a difficult feat to achieve as information about you can be revealed to third parties in a variety of different ways, including your browser (which will also gather information from your searches, the websites you visit and the actions you take online). Using a VPN can reduce the amount of information gathered, but will not eliminate it entirely.  

Is using a VPN illegal in the UK?

No, but they are regulated in some countries, so only government-approved VPNs can be used. This includes Egpyt, India, China, Russia and UAE. In other countries, VPNs are banned entirely; including Iraq, Belarus, Oman, Turkmenistan and North Korea. It is also worth noting that using a VPN to access content restricted based on location may be against the terms of use of the content provider.

What else can I use a VPN for?

Using a VPN, you can access your own network if you’re away from home. For example, this allows you to access a Windows Remote Desktop when you have it configured correctly. You can also access a business network, so you can work remotely from your office. A VPN allows you to hide your browsing activity from both your ISP (Internet Service Provider) and your local network.

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