It is a fact in the world of information security today that a VPN can help you bypass restrictions. VPNs also do much more than that. Such as encrypt and cloak your connection from both sides; the internet-facing side and the ISP-facing side. Thus helping slow down cybercrime, stop ads, malware, and tracking. To put this into perspective, cybersecurity tools like antivirus and malware (which you probably have heard of) have existed before VPNs. Most specifically to protect file data. But, it is even more important to protect the source. This means the internet connection itself is where cyber-risks come from -and this is where a VPN comes in. As more and more people become aware of the privacy and data security dangers we face daily as internet users, VPN usage continues to grow globally.
With this in mind, it would be a good idea to look at a great, practical feature of the VPN. This is what allows you to bypass online censorship and restrictions. So, let’s take a look at what a VPN is, and what online censorship and restrictions are. Finally we'll cover how a VPN can help anyone circumvent these hindrances.
A VPN or Virtual Private Network is one of the most indispensable cybersecurity tools available to all of us today. It is on every operating system, for both civilian and industrial purposes. The technology itself dates back to the mid-90s when computer tech was just starting to bloom. Internet connections were not guarded by a host of safety protocols like today. Big, innovative businesses at the time especially, were very vulnerable to hackers. To address this, back then, developers from Microsoft developed a tunneling protocol known as PPTP or peer-to-peer tunneling. This is still in use today among the more modern and complex internet cloaking encryption algorithms available. The early years of ‘hacking’ in the 90s and 2000s would pave the way to the commercially available modern VPN that millions of use today.
Technically speaking, a VPN or Virtual Private Network is a cybersecurity software that runs in the background of your operating system. It ‘treats’ your connection with a layer of encryption (whether that be Linux, Windows, or a Mac.) A VPN can also be a hardware type; used in corporate systems, routers, the military, you name it.
To paint a picture with an analogy; A VPN is the middle-man bodyguard between your internet connection and the rest of the internet, your ISP (internet provider), and even the government. A VPN allows you to connect to specially crafted external VPN ‘servers’ all over the world. Thereby obfuscating your location (IP address), digital fingerprint, and more. With this software, you become anonymous online (your physical location is modified). Your data transmission is encrypted (garbled). All of this is a plus for your cybersecurity. Secondly, a VPN gives you the ability to access geo-blocked (geographically restricted) content that you otherwise would not be able to.
Apart from a host of wonderful security features, VPNs are versatile tools that have even more uses than just outright network security. With a VPN, you can bypass censorship and restrictions allowing you to access geo-blocked content. Or, bypass software restrictions that can apply to applications like WhatsApp or Facebook. Especially, when you are in a country that has blocked these applications.
Online censorship and restrictions refer to when online content is suppressed or completely banned by a nation. Some nations have harsh governance as well as traditions, or political turmoil, which in turn can result in surveillance and security measures blocking software and applications.
This is most often due to political reasons and has happened in countries such as Turkey, Egypt, China, Saudi Arabia, and even the UAE (among others.) Popular applications such as Twitter, TikTok, WhatsApp, Facebook, and more have been known to be blocked or restricted in some countries (sometimes permanently.)
The ‘Great Firewall’ of China is a good example of this. As the nation being notorious for strict restrictions and censorship in favor of its homegrown communication channels. Even VPNs themselves can sometimes be deemed illegal in such nations, for obvious reasons.
Another topic of interest for VPN users who enjoy streaming programs on Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and many more is that a VPN can help lift geo-blocked content. Say if you want to watch a Netflix series that is geo-blocked to the United Kingdom, and you are in Germany (the UK is out of the European Union). You can connect to a British server to make it look like you are not in Germany. This way, the server hosting the content will not geo-block your stream. The same process goes for sports events, which are watched by billions of people worldwide.
It is very important to note that free VPNs should generally be avoided. Premium paid options are best because you do not want to put your privacy or cybersecurity at risk of dubious third parties. A VPN will greatly strengthen your cybersecurity. Especially when used along with a privacy-focused browser. Finally, sticking to common sense internet hygiene best practices is always the number one aspect of safe computing that everyone must practice.