What Does a VPN Do? For One, It Keeps Your Data Secure

finjanmobileBlog, Mobile Security

What Does a VPN Do

What does VPN mean? What does VPN stand for? What Does a VPN Do?

These are common questions. For internet users worldwide, a Virtual Private Network or VPN has become a virtual necessity – particularly in the light of recent developments such as a vote by the U.S. government’s legislative arm to suspend the principles of “Net Neutrality”, effectively giving Internet Service Providers (ISPs) the green light to trade in subscriber information with third parties.

Other reasons for the growing popularity of VPNs include attempts to bypass the censorship rules of restrictive governments, gaining access to online content which would otherwise be unavailable, or simply thwarting the efforts of advertisers and application developers to use personal information for who knows what – or from bombarding users with unwanted messages and targeted promotions.

So, they’re popular. But many users still left wondering what does a VPN do exactly, and how it is that a Virtual Private Network keeps their data secure. That’s what we’ll be exploring, in this article.

What Does a VPN Do? Here are Some VPN Basics:

The key to understanding what a VPN does lies within the name. It’s a Private Network connecting an individual user (which could be a person or an entire organization) to various points – even though that network itself may be operating within the environment of a larger, public network.

The Virtual aspect lies within the way that a VPN is created and maintained. Domestic or business networks such as LANs (Local Area Networks) may be secure because they’re physically separated from the internet at large. A VPN operates through the internet – so the methods used to keep it “separate” must be digital or virtual.

What Does a VPN Do? It Creates a Private Tunnel

As far as the user is concerned, a VPN consists of a point-to-point connection between their own system (computer or mobile device) and a server run by their VPN service provider, known as a remote access server (RAS). The RAS calls upon the first level of security for your data when it requests and authenticates the credentials you need to log onto the provider’s network.

The VPN client software installed on your system (such as the InvinciBull™ app from Finjan Mobile) fits every data packet sent from your machine into another packet, before it’s sent out over the internet – a process known as encapsulation. The outer layer of data provides some protection for information within and keeps it safe from public view. This forms the VPN’s “private tunnel”.

To increase the level of protection, this encapsulated data is then encrypted, using strong (typically military grade) encryption, so that packets can only be read by your VPN software and the provider’s own server. The encrypted data is typically wrapped with a header containing routing information (which also hides the sender’s identity), so that it may travel securely over shared or public networks.

VPN encryption may be accomplished using a number of secure protocols. Common ones include OpenVPN and Internet Protocol Security or IPSec.

What Does a VPN Do? It Creates a Foundation of Trust

In this new global era of increased government censorship and the suppression of Net Neutrality, internet users are keen to keep as much of themselves and their online activities out of the hands of ISPs and their supply chain partners, as possible.

VPNs are the natural choice for those looking to conceal their browsing habits from their Internet Service Provider because the only activity that an ISP can readily trace from a VPN user is their record of connecting to the VPN server itself.

But not all Virtual Private Networks (or VPN service providers) were created equal.

You may have heard horror stories about VPN apps which are little more than conduits for funneling user data through to advertisers and third-party buyers – or worse, simply malware, wrapped in a privacy software package.

And VPN providers of necessity must have access to the same kind of information streams that an ISP would typically have. Whether they choose to maintain records or logs of your online activity is entirely up to the VPN company concerned – as is whether or not they choose to tell you about it.

Establishing a foundation of trust and transparency with their subscribers is, therefore, a definite plus, for a VPN provider. In its Privacy Policy for InvinciBull, Finjan Mobile, Inc. gives a noteworthy example of how to lay out in clear and unambiguous terms exactly how subscriber data is handled, and how user activity is safeguarded and monitored.

What Does a VPN Do? It Provides Nuts and Bolts Protection

The encapsulated and encrypted private tunnel linking you to your VPN service and then to the world at large effectively hides your identity and activities from ISPs, public Wi-Fi networks, and any third parties that might be attempting to listen in. Even if someone succeeds in intercepting your data packets, the strong encryption poses a serious obstacle to their being able to make any sense out of it.

Beyond this, a VPN can also mask your location, as the remote access servers deployed by your service provider may be located anywhere across the globe – and it’s the IP addresses of these systems that are substituted for yours. For instance, InvinciBull maintains servers in dozens of different nations and gives users the option to choose the location they’re virtually connecting from.

Many VPN services also offer a “kill switch” facility, which monitors your internet connection and terminates the online activity of any app that’s connected if your VPN link goes down. This reduces the chance of data leaking out from sensitive applications into an open (unprotected by VPN) connection.

Safely Navigating the Web With a VPN

Browsers and web portal applications are among the easiest targets for eavesdroppers and data harvesters, as they provide a wealth of clues and traces as to your online activity – things like cookies, histories, and activity logs.

InvinciBull is the only mobile app which integrates a VPN with a secure, feature-rich web browser. The app provides Touch ID security, private tabs, smart bookmarking, and complete control of your browsing history. It can also tell you if the web pages you visit are safe, suspicious, or dangerous, as well as informing you of which sites are tracking you, and how they’re using your data with ad partners.

And the InvinciBull browser gives you a complete view of every third-party site or service that’s watching you, gathering your information, and reporting on your every move, categorizing them in terms of Advertising, Analytics, Content, or Social.

Unifying the Widespread Enterprise

When the individual subscriber takes the form of a business organization or other institutional body, a Virtual Private Network has the power both to unify widely spread enterprises within a single encrypted umbrella, and to allow workers within those enterprises the freedom and security to access their corporate network from their desktops, laptops, phones, or other mobile devices.

Besides remote access for home-based or traveling workers, a VPN offers enterprise users the option to maintain encrypted intranet connections between fixed locations such as branch offices, “extranet” connections with supply chain partners and customers, or as an alternative to a wide area network (WAN) for geographically spread organizations.

Finjan Mobile’s InvinciBull offers Unlimited Usage plans, which give paying subscribers unlimited usage for all of their devices – a real boon for enterprises wishing to give VPN protection to their workers across all platforms.

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