THE term VPN is most often spoken about in terms of security and data protection, but what actually is it?
Here we tell you all you need to know about the technology.
What is a VPN?
VPN stands for “virtual private network”. It is a tool which can change the assigned “address” of a computer, laptop or mobile device.
Software which uses VPN technology adds an extra layer of security to computers, laptops, tablets or smartphones.
It makes it much harder for snoopers to monitor your online activity, and it helps protect personal data and information.
Because of an increase in concern around protecting our own personal data – and keeping it from prying eyes – VPNs are spoken about and more common than ever.
What are VPNs used for?
As VPNs are used to improve security, they can be used in everyday situations where your browsing may be more vulnerable than usual.
If you ever access public wi-fi (in a shop, cafe, or on a train), or if you connect to wi-fi which doesn’t ask for a password, using a VPN service will increase your security.
Similarly, a VPN can help protect your browsing when travelling abroad; although their use is banned or controlled in some countries.
Is using a VPN illegal?
Using a VPN service isn’t illegal in the UK.
However, they can be used to get around geo-restrictions which stop you from watching videos in certain countries; using a VPN in this way is illegal and so it is important never to do so.
VPN services are currently banned altogether in some countries, including North Korea and Iraq.
Meanwhile only government-approved services are allowed in countries including Russia, China and Turkey.
Who are the best providers?
With so many VPN providers available, it can be tricky to choose the one which is right for you.
Some offer better services for desktop computers, some offer mobile apps and features can differ.
If you are looking for a mobile VPN app, check out our round-up of the best available. Otherwise, the most well-known VPN providers for use on smartphones and computers alike are:
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