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Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Protect the data you transmit online with a VPN.
Security – that’s the short of it. People use VPNs to secure their data from unwanted viewers when browsing the Internet. A VPN (Virtual Private Network) allows computers or networks to connect to each other securely over the Internet.
Traditionally, companies used VPNs to create secure, remote connections to an existing network. But now, many consumer users now utilize the technology to shield their personal data while exploring the Internet. While certain media providers may downplay it, there are many other sensible reasons why someone would want to use a VPN.
What is a VPN?
When you use a Virtual Private Network, also known as a VPN, you’re essentially relying on a network technology to establish a secure connection to the Internet. A VPN comes with the functionality and security of a private wide area network (WAN), but at a noticeably lower cost – which is why it finds favour with businesses, organizations and individuals alike.
To achieve this level of security, encryption protocols are used. Below are some protocols that VPN providers commonly use.
- IP security (IPSec). This protocol relies on transport mode or tunnelling to provide secure communication. Many in the industry refer to it as “security overlay” because it commonly provides an additional layer of security for other protocols.
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TLS). Both these protocols make use of a “handshake” authentication method. The client end and server end store certificates and cryptographic keys.
- Point-To-Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP). This protocol’s easy configuration and low maintenance have made it a popular choice as a remote client. You can use this protocol to connect to a private server via the Internet.
- Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol (L2TP). You might end up using this protocol if you wish to tunnel communications data between two sites over the Internet. The use of L2TP along with IPSec is common, in which case you can expect the involvement of shared keys or certificates.
Explaining VPN software
The online world comes with its share of hackers, viruses and eavesdroppers so protecting transmission of online data is of utmost importance, especially if you’re dealing with any kind of sensitive information. Common online activities that require you to handle personal and sensitive information include shopping, banking, social networking and running your business.
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) offers high levels of security while performing these kinds of activities. Just what you should look for in a VPN provider, though, depends on your specific needs.
Is using a VPN to access geoblocked content legal in Canada?
There are many legitimate uses for a VPN. However, the legality of using one to access geographically restricted content is a bit of a grey area. As of 2019, it is still legal to use a VPN in Canada, however the government are able to request user data from a VPN provider should they need to do so.
While you’re not likely to attract the attention of the government, you do run the risk of having your VPN or streaming subscription cancelled. There is also the chance that a copyright holder may want to pursue legal action if you’re found to be accessing that content in an unlicensed region.
Keep in mind that the very nature of a VPN masks your IP and hides your online activity, so it’s not for us to say if and how the copyright holders would be able to identify you if you do choose to access their content without the proper licensing. We do not encourage Internet browsing activity outside the law, we only aim to compare the services available.
When you sign up with a VPN provider, there is a possibility that the terms and conditions of the contract would absolve the provider of all responsibility if you end up accessing geographically restricted content. If you wish to access Canadian websites when outside the country, laws of the country you’re in would apply. When it comes to accessing Canadian Netflix outside the country, while it is possible using a VPN, Netflix’s official line is that doing so is in violation of its policies.
What is the difference between a VPN service and a SmartDNS setup?
A VPN service creates a tunnel that masks your IP address to make it appear that you are accessing the site from another location. Connection speed may be a bit slower with a VPN, but if you’re looking for encryption and security, VPN is the best option.
A SmartDNS service can be used to re-route traffic required for determining your geographical location. It works by changing your Domain System Name so the site thinks you’re in the correct area to access their content. Because a SmartDNS does not encrypt data, the connection speed will be much faster.
Will a VPN mask my identity while torrenting?
The simple answer to this is yes, a VPN does mask your IP address when you use torrents – but there’s more to it than that. For instance, some VPN service providers give their customers access to torrents in various countries, but not in Canada or the UK. Not all VPNs offer peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing capabilities and some service providers would reduce your speed if they detect you uploading or downloading a torrent.
The main reason behind the crackdown on torrent websites surrounds the legality of content, where while much of the content is perfectly legal to download and upload, there is much that falls under the purview of copyright infringement.
Frequently asked questions
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With so many VPNs out there, it’s not easy to choose the one that’s right for you. We’ve reviewed some of the best VPNs to help you stay secure from just US$4/month.