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What Is A VPN And How Does It Work
29 May 19

You’ve probably heard a lot of people singing the praises of IP-camouflaging VPNs. But what is a VPN? Well, for starters, this three-letter acronym folds out into "Virtual Private Network” and has very little to do with your network provider (although Vodacom is currently offering a VPN for business). Phonefinder wants you to get the best out of your mobile phone contract and that includes keeping your device and your information safe. 

Phil will take you through the basics of what is a VPN and why you need one for all your internet-connected devices, so you can surf the web without worrying about marketers and hackers taking a bite out of your information.

What is VPN?

A Virtual Private Network does everything it says on the tin, so to speak. After all:

  • It is Virtual– you have a direct connection to any website or device you’re connected to.
  • It is Private– your search history remains between you and the websites you visit (it’s essentially Incognito Mode on steroids!).
  • It’s a Network– a VPN makes use of multiple servers that span the globe, ergo a network.

To put it simply, a VPN can make your internet connection more secure, keep you anonymous online, and allow you to access censored sites (you know which ones I mean). If you really want to get technical, your VPN hides your IP address – i.e. your computer’s signature on any internet browser – and creates a temporary IP every time you go online.
Think of your IP address like your naughty bits – best keep it to yourself. 

If your IP address is on display, it can give away your computing location, keep you stuck on a website’s blacklist, and make you a prime target for hackers. Best cover it up with a reliable VPN.

What is vpn

Why do you need VPN?

There are quite a few perks that come with using a VPN. In a word, a VPN simply offers "more” for your internet browsing experience:

  • More privacy – With your encoded IP address, your adventures on the worldwide web cannot be traced back to your computer or to you. No matter what sites you visit, your internet service provider would be none the wiser.
  • More security – Since your IP address is not just encoded but is also pinging off several proxy servers around the world, hackers will find it impossible to snap up your IP while it is encrypted and unreadable in transit.
  • More access – Geographic blocks and censorship restrictions won’t stand in your way any longer. In order to block you, a website has to block your IP address; can’t block what they can’t un-encrypt.
  • More anonymity – Again, with an encrypted IP address that’s always changing, you are essentially in the online version of the witness protection programme. In fact, to anyone looking in, you look like you’re in a different part of the world every time you go online using a VPN.

Free VPN vs. Paid VPN

Although it’s easy to use, it takes a lot to keep a VPN running and nothing’s for mahala at the end of the day. Before you download the first free VPN Google throws up on your search results, consider what compromises the developers may have had to make to offer this service for "free”. 

Are your trusty VPN friends logging your online activity for their own reasons? Is your data being sold to third parties? Isn’t that what you were trying to avoid by downloading this thing?

The monthly fee for your average VPN is actually incredibly affordable. You can enjoy improved online privacy for as little R50-R70 each month – not much in exchange for your peace of mind, is it?

Are VPN's legal in South Africa?

Despite (or probably because) of all the cool things you can get away with using a VPN, some countries still have their doubts whether this technology is really a good idea. And when a government sees something that could interfere with how it does things, they usually put their foot down on it in some form. 

However, South Africa falls under one of the many countries, in which VPNs are entirely legal. Some countries like China and Russia allow some government-approved VPNs, while others like North Korea have banned them completely – because it’s North Korea, so of course they have!


Final word from Phil

Virtual Private Network software is available for just about any smartphone, tablet or computer and there are plenty of great options out there. 

For more tips on protecting yourself online, check out Phil’s guide to unhackable antivirus apps for your mobile phone.

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