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What is a VPN and How Does It Work?

A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a digital network which enables users to protect their privacy whilst online. VPNs do this by routing the internet connection on a device through its private server, instead of the ISP (internet service provider), so the data transmitted to the internet comes not from the user’s computer, but instead the VPN.

A VPN essentially does the user’s browsing for them, enabling people to access sites freely whilst stopping providers from tracking what they visit. When a VPN is activated, it creates an encrypted tunnel between the device and the internet, hiding users vital data by making it essentially incomprehensible without a key/password.

When using a VPN, users’ data is turned into unreadable code, traveling between the VPN server and the computer. This will also mask the device’s actual IP address with one of the VPN provider’s servers. With a VPN, people can browse the internet with ease, knowing that their personal information is effectively protected.

Why Do People Use VPNs?

People use VPNs for a range of different reasons, however, arguably their key benefit is to protect users’ personal information when browsing the web.

Think, for example, when you’re connecting to a public WiFi network in a café, train station, or otherwise, do you ever wondered whether someone could be looking at your browsing activity? Whilst many may not give this a second thought, it’s reasonable to entertain this concern, considering the array of forces that could be out to get your data.

Particularly in this online-centric world, where almost everything is done digitally, connecting onto a public WiFi network could expose your private information to thieves and other untrustworthy eyes – whether this is your banking data, or other bits of personal information you’d prefer to keep private.

VPNs are used to help prevent this from happening, turning users’ personal data into incomprehensible, encrypted code.

When Should I Use a VPN?

You should use a VPN to help protect your privacy whilst browsing, whether this is in public or in the comfort of your own home. It’s important to note that whilst using a VPN service in the U.K. isn’t illegal, you must adhere to certain guidelines whilst using it.

Experts advise always using a VPN for services such as online banking. This is especially important when accessing onlie banking out of your house, although even when home you should use a VPN for increased security. Online banking on your phone and mobile banking apps are additionally susceptible to security risks. When using a VPN on all devices, you are limiting the exposure of your information to cybercriminals.

How Much Do VPNs Cost?

The cost of a VPN service will vary depending on the plan you go for, as well as the provider. Below are a few of the prices you can expect to find when exploring VPNs:

TorGuard$9.99 (charged monthly)$19.99 (charged quarterly)$29.99 (charged semi-annually)$59.99 (charged annually)
NordVPN£9.20 per month (1-month plan)£5.38 per month (1-year plan)£3.84 per month (2-year plan)£2.69 per month (3-year plan)
VPN Area$9.90 per month (1-month plan)$9.90 per month (12-month plan)$2.99 per month (36-month plan)/
ExpressVPN£10.39 per month (1-month plan)£8.01 per month (6-month plan)£10.39 per month (15-month plan)/

Are VPNs Safe? 

VPNs are actually known for increasing safety. If you use a VPN, you are not determined by geographic location. Thus, the chances of your activity being observed or tracked is largely reduced. Trustworthy and reliable VPNs offer high-security services, ensuring your privacy as you browse the internet safely.

Is it Legal to Use a VPN? 

In the UK and other countries VPNs are totally legal and there are no laws against using  a VPN or changing an IP address. However, using a VPN will not protect you from engaging in criminal activity online.

Although VPN services aren’t banned in the U.K., in certain countries they are, including Iraq and North Korea, whilst the likes of China and Russia are only able to use VPN services that have been approved by the government.