An IP, or Internet Protocol, address is a set of numbers assigned to a device that can access networks such as the Internet. Individuals or programs with the capability to identify one’s computer IP address can access information like its location, operating system, and used program. It is through this way some governments are able to restrict people in their country from accessing certain websites. Moreover, those with malicious intent can use this information to identify vulnerabilities in the device. If there are any present, these individuals can send malicious files that can create more vulnerabilities to steal sensitive information.
A VPN can help address the root of these restrictions and vulnerabilities - having a device’s IP address visible to a network. Essentially, a virtual private network would pass a device’s data through its encrypted network before passing it through the internet. A VPN uses a different IP address to exchange information through the Internet. It is this IP address that websites, advertisers, internet service providers, and other devices will see when the device connects to them. As a result, the network would record the VPN’s address and not the device’s.
Aside from this, VPNs can help in keeping one’s anonymity on search engines. Google, AOL, and Bing record the search terms of their users through IP addresses. From there, they can determine device information, timestamps, search history, and location. If the user logged-in using their e-mail address, search engines record these with their names. Although law requires them to protect the identities, search engines and their employees can still make mistakes and release, like AOL, the identities to the public. With VPN masking IP addresses, search engines can take control of what they release to the search engines when using them.
Of course, this does not mean that a user can freely do criminal activities with devices using a VPN. The IP address of the device is still known to the VPN provider. Authorities can trace these addresses to the providers and request the VPN provider to provide the IP address of the device used to do the crime. From there, they can identify the owner of the device through their database of registered users.
A VPN can also help those who would rather not have advertisers targeting their device. Online advertisers track the device’s browsing history and use it to send relevant ads to it. If another individual uses the device, the person can get an idea of the sites the owner visits through the ads they see. This can lead to some embarrassing situations. Having a VPN prevents this since advertisers would not know the IP of the device so they would not be able to send their ads to it.
Those who travel to other countries would need to have a VPN if they want to ensure that they can freely access the Internet. For some, this can be as simple as being able to use Facebook Messenger. If a person travels to China and it is the only app use to send messages over the Internet, they would not be able to talk to their family at home since Facebook is among the websites blocked by the Chinese government. The same benefits apply for websites and online services that restrict access to people within the country it serves. Using a VPN bypasses the restrictions and ensures that visiting individuals can still enjoy free access through the Internet for these services.
Moreover, since a VPN provides another IP address for a device, it can bypass restrictions imposed by a network. These restrictions usually block websites deemed to be unsuitable for places of work or study. This is a common practice in the networks of schools, libraries, and corporations. However, some blocked websites can actually be useful for schoolwork or someone’s job. With a VPN, one can freely access the blocked websites needed to get their tasks done.
In terms of security, a VPN provides a crucial safety measure for devices that access public Wi-Fi hotspots. It does not matter if an establishment’s Wi-Fi has a password or not since there are other individuals using it that can monitor for IP addresses. One does not have any idea if there are others using it to collect IPs for malicious purposes. Having a VPN will mask the device’s IP address from those connected to the local area network.