A VPN connection is a popular way to surf anonymously, send encrypted data over the Internet or to bypass barriers such as geoblocking.

The feeling that your own data is no longer as private as you want it to be and that something is always read or tracked has become almost normal in everyday online life. In a very casual way, content is faded out, censored or delivered according to one’s own preferences, as if we didn’t notice it. To get back at least a little bit of Internet autonomy and adequate privacy, we introduce you to some VPN providers that can help you hide and encrypt your online activities.

The most important facts

  • A VPN disguises your own IP and thus contributes to your anonymity on the Internet
  • By encrypting the data transfer a VPN increases your security
  • A VPN can also be used to stream movies that are blocked in your own country
  • VPN clients are not only available for desktop computers but also for smartphones and tablets.

What is VPN and why do I need it?
VPN stands for “virtual private network”. Virtual Private Network). A virtual private network is a self-contained network that is used for encrypted or anonymous communication and transmission of data over the Internet. With a VPN connection, your own PC, laptop or smartphone or tablet serves as a VPN client. A VPN client is connected to a VPN server of the respective provider by means of a VPN software. In this way, the IP address used to identify each end device or user on the Internet (and also in local networks) is replaced by the IP of the VPN server. The request of a VPN client is thus sent through a tunnel to the actual destination, i. e. a website, another network or a certain service. The actual user is thus veiled and the transmitted data is encrypted within the VPN tunnel and therefore cannot be viewed from outside. Most VPN providers also leave the choice to the user to which country the IP address should be assigned.

First and foremost, a VPN is used to move anonymously on the Internet and thus protect your own privacy. All data sent and received over a VPN is encrypted and anonymized, so that senders and receivers are very difficult to detect. The anonymity of a VPN user is also increased by the fact that all users of a VPN provider – or more precisely, all users of a VPN provider who move over the same assigned or selected VPN server in the Internet – share the same IP address pool. This means that this IP cannot be assigned to a specific user. The only conclusions that a VPN connection allows are based on the number, frequency and size of data packets sent. These parameters can be used to draw conclusions about the type of data.

In addition, a VPN can also be used to avoid geoblocking. Geoblocking is a technology that is used to block content on the Internet regionally. This applies in particular to media content such as films and music. Although the geoblocking for streaming within the EU has already decreased noticeably and EU-wide streaming has even been agreed for 2018 under the EU regulation, there are still many countries from which there is no access to Netflix, Spotify, Sky or iTunes. If you use a VPN service to access a streaming page, you can simply pretend via IP that the provider who has blocked the service in the respective host country is not in Hungary (content blocked) but in Germany (content released). As a subscriber of payment services, you can access content in countries where it is otherwise blocked by geoblocking.

Another field of application for VPNs are companies, public authorities or universities that want to give their employees or students access to an internal network from outside via the Internet. This means that you can access company applications from your home office or access your own university’s intranet from a public WiFi.
Other ways to use VPN
For the use of a veiled and encrypted VPN connection, it is not necessary to use the software of a VPN provider. An alternative is the Tor browser, for example. Over Tor you move in a self-contained network, virtually in a VPN. When you enter the Tor network, a list of all available Tor servers is downloaded. This list then determines a random route across the Tor servers, each of which spans three servers. The connection route is also changed every ten minutes to ensure maximum anonymity and security. A “disadvantage” of connecting via Tor is that cookies, Java and Javascript are disabled by default. The surfing experience is a bit bland in comparison, since dynamic content is not visible. In addition, the Tor network makes it much slower on the Internet.

Another way to access the Internet via a VPN connection is the Opera browser. Opera has a VPN on board as standard, which can be switched on or off if desired. Although you only have a choice of five server locations, this is quite sufficient if you only want to avoid geoblocking and use your regular Netflix subscription abroad in the EU. In addition, the Opera VPN is free of charge and there is no limit to the data volume used. There were also no speed losses in the test.

If you want to have access to your home network while on the move, you can also use a Fritz! box and Fritz! remote access, for example. AVM’s software has been available since the 7490 model, which can be installed and configured as a VPN client on the computer with which you want to access your home network.
The integrated VPN of the Opera browser is just as surprising as it is convincing. If you want to surf and stream for free and unlimited, you can do it with Opera. But only with this browser – applications and actions outside of the browser do not run via the browser VPN. Users of Firefox and Chrome look into the tube – or access a paid VPN service such as CyberghostVPN or Avira Phantom VPN. These two candidates were the most suitable for the use of a VPN in the private sector due to their price/performance ratio and the range of functions.

Finally, a note: no VPN provider can guarantee 100% security for anonymity and data protection. With the right know-how and the appropriate technology, it is possible to draw conclusions about the data transmitted and, under certain circumstances, the identity of the user. Nevertheless, we wish you a safe and anonymous journey through the WWW.

Do you already use a VPN connection? Are there VPN providers you can recommend? Tell us about it in the comments!