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What is VPN?

A VPN (or Virtual Private Network, when it goes by its full name) is one of those terms that get increasingly more mentions as online security and privacy come under scrutiny.

It seems that many see a VPN service as the go-to solution whenever they feel their online activities are not quite private (or at least, not as private as they’d like them to be). Additionally, a VPN is a fierce tool when it comes to accessing restricted websites and media that are off-limits for a variety of reasons (government censorship, geographic restrictions, copyright regulations, etc) without as much as batting an eyelash, as well as preventing your ISP (Internet Service Provider) from throttling your speed based on usage (it happens).

Sounds neat, right? In this guide of a badass variety, you’ll learn what exactly a VPN is, how it can help you, and basically anything and everything else you need to know when it comes to VPNs: we have the scoop for you.

In a nutshell, VPN acts as a safe passage for your traffic (any type of online activity - browsing, streaming, downloading, etc.). It routes your traffic through a VPN server in a specific location of your choosing that spoofs your location (IP address) and assigns the location of that VPN server. Here’s what that looks like:

Establishing a connection is super easy. You first connect to the Internet through your ISP, then initiate a VPN connection to the provider’s VPN server by using their software (after you download it, of course), be it desktop or mobile. The (VPN) client software establishes a connection to the server of your choice, grants you access and you’re all set and ready. In the process, a VPN encrypts the traffic and thus provides an extra layer of protection, whether it’s traffic over your private home network or public Wi-Fi network, so your data stays away from prying eyes.

Who can use a VPN

Anyone, anywhere because it’s really simple to use and both mobile and desktop platforms are covered with this technology. Whether you’re working at home or on the road, or travelling around and want to connect in a secure fashion using the Internet, you’re literally only a few clicks away from a secure and private connection as most VPN providers offer a simple one-click interface.

Those would be some entry points on how a VPN service works. Let’s talk a bit about different VPN elements and what they mean to you.

Is it legal?

In short, yes. Using a VPN is perfectly legal around the globe with only a handful of exceptions (Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea), while other countries like Russia have strict guidelines on when and how you can use it. For the most part, using a VPN service is legal as long as you keep it within legal boundaries and don’t partake in illegal activities such as, but not limited to:

Trustworthy VPNs don’t condone any of the above-mentioned activities and have clearly laid out usage policies you’ll find in their Terms of Service pages. The general misconception is that VPNs are primarily made to encourage and facilitate illegal behaviour instead of providing an extra layer of online protection, which is where the question of legality comes from. As long as you don’t do anything illegal and against the Terms of Service (ToS), you’re good to go.