VPN privacy: What exactly does a VPN hide?

Published March 10, 2021   |   

These days people turn to VPN services for various reasons, such as unblocking entertainment content on streaming platforms such as Netflix, accessing networks and websites that are restricted by governments, and more importantly, ensuring safety and privacy when browsing the internet.

Over the last decade, the use of virtual private networks has skyrocketed, mainly thanks to increasing internet censorship laws and the worrying rise in cybercrime attacks across the globe. In fact, it’s estimated that around one-third of all internet users now use a VPN while connecting to the internet, which begs the question, what do they actually hide?

What does your VPN hide?

In short, a VPN masks your IP address due to the added level of encryption created between your device and the VPN server. This then hides your physical location, browsing history, and all of the activity that you carry out on your device.

This way, it prevents anybody who attempts to snoop on your data from being able to decipher any of the information you send and receive, as it will all be encrypted from the moment it leaves your device. Let’s dive a little deeper into how that works.

Your IP address

Your Internal Protocol address, otherwise known as your IP address, is the number that is assigned to a network equipped piece of hardware so that other devices can identify it. Each number is unique, and this is what gets linked to all of the online activity you carry out. Think of it as your digital fingerprint, if you will. It’s for this reason that your IP address is linked to your geographical location, your internet service provider, and your online browsing activity.

However, when you use a VPN, it hides your IP address and changes it to the VPN server’s IP address instead. So if you’re logging into a server-based in Japan, the websites you visit will assume that is where you are browsing from. Due to the encryption between your device and the server, there is no way for the website owner or anyone looking at your connection to see where it truly originated from.

Your location

Even though your IP address gives up your geographical location to some extent, it’s not 100% exact. However, most devices these days have built-in GP features that give away your precise location so that you can use third-party apps for things such as navigation and movement tracking.

Even though this is a great feature, most people aren’t comfortable revealing their current location to the world, and thankfully, a VPN can help mask it. Most VPN encryption services override your device’s physical location and make it appear as if you are browsing from somewhere else. Even if you use third-party apps on your mobile or desktop, you should be able to keep your location hidden at all times.

Here’s a little known tip for you that most VPN users aren’t aware of. Next time you go to buy a plane ticket or sign up for a digital service, change your location to a different country and see if you can find cheaper results. You see, most companies use geographical pricing tactics to adjust the cost of their service based on your location.

For example, a plane ticket from London to New York may cost $700 when browsing from the UK, but only $400 if you browse from India. The price difference is mainly based on what amount the people in that location are willing to pay, so it’s worth playing around with a few countries to see if you can find a good deal.

Your personal data

Your data is valuable. That’s why there are thousands of hackers out there who make it their full-time job to steal your private information so they can either use it against you or sell it on to someone else who will. Yet, the risk of someone intercepting your personal data varies depending on how and where you connect to the internet. Although, if you use unsecured public wifi hotspots, you’re almost certainly putting yourself in the high-risk category.

The reason for this is because public hotspots provide the ideal setting for a hacker to employ various techniques to steal your data, such as man in the middle attacks, rogue (fake) networks, packet sniffers, and evil twin attacks.

Fortunately, you don’t need to know the ins and outs of each of these threats, as your trusty VPN will do all of the hard work for you. Even if you log into a network that is littered with hackers, your privacy will remain uncompromised as all of your browsing data is encrypted before it leaves your device. Even if they do manage to grab some of your data, it will be completely unreadable due to the encryption.

The bottom line

If you’re serious about your online privacy, it’s hard to find any real drawbacks with using a VPN on your internet-connected devices. They do a fantastic job at protecting your personal data, and more importantly, they give you peace of mind knowing that no prying eyes are viewing any of your private information.