As we have discussed previously, analyzing your computer's Internet (Protocol) address -- or IP address, for short -- is a method that can be used to track your activity on the Internet. It allows you to be tracked in two ways:
It uniquely identifies your computer on the Internet. This ensures websites that they are dealing with your computer and not someone else's, which may allow them to access cookies and other tracking data on your computer.
Certain parts of your IP address correspond to geographic locations. This means that websites can analyze your IP address in order to tell where in the world you're connecting from. This may cause them to allow you access to some types of content and not others.
To get around being followed on the Internet, or being profiled and restricted based on where one lives, some people prefer to access the Internet privately. This can include using a fake IP address to make it look like they are connecting to the Internet from another computer or country entirely. This can be achieved by using a virtual private network.
A virtual private network -- or VPN, for short -- is a system for connecting to the Internet while keeping your Internet activity secure and anonymous from anyone else on the Internet. Most VPNs are based on two main technologies: IP spoofers and proxy servers.
IP spoofers are programs that allow a person to temporarily modify their computer's IP address. This can fool websites into thinking that the person is connecting to the Internet from somewhere other than their own computer in their own country. To learn more, visit our IP Spoofing article.
Proxy servers are computers that allow you to route your computer's Internet connection and activities through them. This means that, to websites and others who track your Internet activity, what you do on the Internet appears to be coming from the proxy computer, and not your actual computer. Thus, your activity doesn't get tracked back to you as an individual. Our Proxy Servers article has more information.
There are many VPN programs available on the Internet. Some are free, while some require a paid subscription in order to access premium features, or to use them at all. As always, shop around and find programs that are popular and trusted to try. Don't just use any VPN program that you find; some may be fakes that allow their authors to track your Internet activity even more easily than usual.
Some popular and trusted free VPNs that we would suggest include:
AnchorFree Hotspot Shield -- www.hotspotshield.com
CyberGhost -- www.cyberghostvpn.com
TunnelBear -- www.tunnelbear.com
As for how to actually use a VPN, most are relatively straightforward:
Download and install the VPN program, and then run it.
Select which proxy server you wish to connect to.
Tell the VPN that you wish to connect, usually with the click of a button.
Once you're connected to the VPN, browse the Internet as usual!
Well, that's a quick overview of how to get private Internet access through a virtual private network!
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