Guide to VPN Terms - A Glossary

Using a VPN can be a little bit complicated at first, especially if you are not tech-savvy.
However, a VPN is essential for every online activity that you do, especially if you want your data to be protected at all costs. Research reveals that 25% of the world's population uses a VPN to access the Internet and most users use it for malware protection and data protection.

Now, we will give you the beginner's guide to the important things that you should know when using a VPN.

What is a VPN?

Virtual Private Network (VPN) is an online service that allows you to access the Internet safely and privately by encrypting and tunneling your Internet traffic through its server. It can protect you from malicious activities like hackers, state surveillance, and even your internet service provider (ISP).

What are the three main types of VPN?

The three most common types of VPNs are remote access, extranet-based site-to-site, and intranet-based site-to-site. 

  • Remote access VPN is the most popular one. It works by connecting the user to a secured server, which is usually located in a different country, in order to access a private network.

Most commercial VPNs are using this type to allow you to browse through the Internet using their own network and encrypting the data you send and receive.

  • Extranet-based VPN has a connection with a different company to create an extranet VPN but eradicating the possibility of accessing the other shortly. 
  • Intranet-based VPN connects every local area network (LAN) to a single wide-area network (WAN). It is a type of VPN provider that has various remote locations that can securely interact with each other through an Intranet VPN.

How does a VPN work step-by-step?

Aside from giving you a changed IP Address, it works by:

1. Encrypting the user's data traffic and sends it to a VPN server through a secure connection.

2. The encrypted data from the computer is automatically decrypted by the VPN server.

3. The VPN server will send your data to the Internet and receive it only to be read by the user alone.

4. The data traffic is encrypted again by the VPN server and is sent back to the user.

5. The VPN on your device will decrypt the data ina way that you can easily understand and use it alone.

Does a VPN really work?

Yes! If you want to secure your online activity, make use of a VPN on all of your devices. It works well with Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS. It makes your data connection easier and will surely protect you online since people spying on your network traffic really goes beyond efforts.

Most VPN providers use OpenVPN, which is the ultimate standard for every privacy feature. 

What makes for a good VPN provider?

A good VPN provider has surely good and positive reviews from its subscribers or customers. Take note that these factors should be acquired by a VPN provider:

  • has no logs policy
  • does not censor the Internet
  • has numerous server locations
  • provides excellent customer support or customer service
  • uses OpenVPN, L2TP, SSTP, and PPTP
  • has unlimited bandwidth
  • has a reliable and fast connection speed
  • supports many devices
  • compatible with many software
  • is transparent about its jurisdiction, privacy policies, and technology
  • doesn't need personal information when subscribing

What makes for a bad VPN provider?

  • makes false promises
  • has countless negative reviews and feedbacks from its users
  • has DNS and  IP leaks

Are VPNs legal?

Yes. Virtual Private Networks are surely legal in most countries, most especially in the West. What makes it illegal is when you use a VPN to download and get a copy of copyrighted materials and engaging in cybercriminal activities like hacking and virtual stalking. 

Moreover, if you are currently in countries like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia, you can be sentenced to imprisonment for using a VPN since they have higher restrictions when it comes to broadcasting and communications.

What is AES encryption?

AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standards.

Reliable VPNs usually use 256-bit AES encryption, which is military-grade encryption commonly used by banks and surveillance agencies since it is the golden standard for security and privacy. 

What is BitTorrent?

BitTorrent is also called peer-to-peer (P2P) or file-sharing. 

It is a torrenting client that allows you to share files efficiently. Many VPN users make this a big deal when subscribing to a VPN to let them have an anonymous IP Address when downloading and sharing copyrighted files. And since Torrenting easily locates real IP Address, make sure that you get a P2P-friendly VPN. 

Moreover, when choosing a server for Torrenting, avoid choosing countries with strict copyright laws like the US, UK, Germany, Japan, and France.

What is Cipher or Protocol?

Cipher or Protocol is a mathematical algorithm that VPNs use to encrypt your data like OpenVPN, PPTP, and L2TP/IPSec.

What is a Connection Log?

Connection Log is also called metadata or usage logs. These are records of your online activity that VPN providers might keep from you. Most VPNs claim to have a no-logs policy. To ensure that what they claim is true, make sure to read their Privacy Policy and reviews. 

What is Data Authentication?

Data Authentication is a cryptographic hash used to verify data through one-way encryption on a secured VPN connection.  You will usually see this at the encryption feature with acronyms like SHA-1 for OpenVPN and SHA256, SHA512, or SHA3 for other data authentication.

What is Data Retention?

Data Retention is commonly used in countries that have strict regulations that require your internet service providers to keep user's data such as IP Address, data logs, online activity, and more. They usually store this up to 12 months to 5 years. So, it is essential to know your VPN provider's jurisdiction to protect your privacy from their government agencies.

What are DNS and DNS leaks?

DNS stands for Domain Name System.

DNS translates the website's text-based web addresses into numerical IP Address that is easily detected by computers and servers. Every device has its own IP Address and DNS translation that is handled by your Internet Service Provider (ISP).

When you start using a VPN, it now handles your DNS translation instead of your Internet Service Provider to give you online privacy. 

You will know if your VPN is reliable if they have DNS leak protection to prevent your online activities to be tracked.

What are 5 Eyes, 9 Eyes, and 14 Eyes?

This points to international agreements that allow the participating countries to share collected data from users around the globe. 

5 Eyes refers to countries like Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand, and Canada.

9 Eyes include Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Canada, the US, UK, and Australia.

14 Eyes include the 5 Eyes and 9 Eyes plus, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden.

So, when choosing a VPN provider, we recommended getting one whose jurisdiction is not based on the mentioned countries to get away from the government's surveillance. 

What is Geo-restriction or geo-block?

Geo-restriction or Geo-blocks is online censorship commonly used by streaming sites like Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and more. It blocks users located outside from its list of locations to access some online platforms. 

For example, BBC iPlayer cannot be accessed by users outside the UK. And Chinese users cannot access Netflix USA.

However, most VPNs have geo-unblocking features by changing your IP Address that matches the list of locations of the streaming sites.

What is an IP Address?

An IP Address refers to Internet Protocol Address, which is a unique numerical code given to a designated device accessing the Internet. The VPN's ultimate work is to change your IP Address to provide you anonymity while browsing through the Internet. 

It is typically split into IPv4 (default 32-bit IP) and IPv6 (less common 128-bit IP). 

What is an ISP?

ISP stands for Internet Service Provider. This is the telecommunication company that provides you internet connection, monitors your online activity, and usually limits your bandwidth. ISPs usually ties up with the government for surveillance purposes.

What is a Kill Switch?

This is another VPN security feature that will kill your Internet access once your VPN connection fails. This is important since it protects your real location, IP Address, and online traffic to be exposed publicly. 

Kill-switch is sometimes reinforced by a NAT Firewall to prevent unauthorized connections.

What is Network Latency?

Network Latency refers to the amount of time for your data to be sent over an online connection. Or, it refers to the delay of data transfer from one point to another. 

Lower latency means a faster connection.

What is a Proxy or Proxy Server?

Proxy is an intermediary between the Internet and your device. Its main job is to change your IP Address that can be used for non-confidential browsing. This is not suitable for a VPN replacement but can be used together with a VPN. 

What is a Server Location?

The server location is referred to as the location that you want to use when browsing through the Internet.

This is useful when you need to unblock geo-restricted sites when streaming or torrenting. 

What is SmartDNS?

SmartDNS is another feature from a reliable VPN that has DNS servers located in numerous countries worldwide. This will enable your VPN provider to bypass geo-block websites like Netflix. 

What is Tunneling?

Tunneling is also known as a VPN tunnel.

It is a term used for an encrypted connection between your device and the VPN server. This works by protecting your data and privacy from potential hackers. Some VPNs use a split-tunneling service to make your connection split in several directions, making it harder to trace your real IP Address or location.

What is Warrant Canary?

Warrant Canary refers to pages used by some VPN providers to warn users in case the company receives a gag order or data request from law enforcers.

Countries, especially those who are part of the 14 Eyes, make Warrant Canary illegal. Though this doesn't guarantee 100% protection, it is still considered to be good practice for VPN providers in case some things are compromised.

What is WebRTC?

WebRTC refers to the Web Real-Time Connection tool that enables P2P connection on browsers for file-sharing, browser games, video conferences, etc. A WebRTC may leak your real IP Address so, make sure to check your browser if it supports it. You can also test your VPN against WebRTC leaks.

Bob has worked as a sales and marketing manager for some of the worlds largest tech companies. He brings a real depth of knowledge and is simply passionate about the advances in security technology.
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