More and more people use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). This is a safer way to use the internet because users are assigned a different IP address and all their data is sent over an encrypted network. In short, that’s what a VPN does. But there is much more about it. How does a VPN actually work?
How does a VPN change my location and IP address?
You use an IP address to use the internet. You get this from your Internet Service Provider. Most people use only this number to manage their day to day business on the internet. An IP address is often linked to a location. Hence, website owners can know exactly from where you accessed the website.
With a VPN you can theoretically change your location because you can also “change” your IP address. We put change in quotation marks because in fact the traffic is redirected. Even if you use a VPN, your internet connection always comes from your provider.
A VPN does not really remove your IP address but redirects it via the chosen VPN. The chosen VPN then ensures that the data of the final destination (the website on a server) is reached and served. That’s how surfing the internet with a VPN works. So, you can be in Amsterdam, while a server thinks you are in California or New York.
How does data stay private?
The connection between the computer and the VPN server is encrypted. This means that no one can view the data, not even a provider. Only the computer and the VPN server have the encryption and decryption keys. As soon as the data arrives at the VPN server, it is decrypted and arrives at the website’s server. This allows users to view the website. Whether all information is still encrypted also depends on whether HTTPS is used or not.
An example: someone uses a VPN and visits Gmail. An email is sent via Gmail, of course via HTTPS. Then all information remains secret, for the entire journey. No one can view the information in between.
This is all done transparently and automatically. Data always remains private. That does come with a drawback: it is slower than if you are using your normal connection. The speed of a VPN is determined by several factors. That is why some providers can be very suitable for safe business work, while other providers are more suitable for watching movies.