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The Virtual Private Network: Travelling Around the World in Milliseconds

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become an indispensable tool for secure internet use. VPN is a technology that allows secure, encrypted connections in a user-friendly way. To the uninitiated, it can make it seem like you can be anywhere in the world in an instant. But VPNs are much more than that. This article will give a general introduction to VPNs and the most common uses of VPNs.

Background on the technical development of VPN

A VPN is an easy-to-use, accessible tool for external users. One click and you are connected to the internet from anywhere in the world, but this is the result of huge technical development. The technological foundations for VPNs were laid in the 1990s, when the need for a secure Internet was first raised. The initial solution, however, intervened in the relationship between the user and the public internet, rather than acting as an intermediary data controller, furthermore, this solution was not considered cost-effective at the time. With the development of protocols such as Point-to-Point Tunnelling Protocol (PPTP), a cheaper alternative for secure connectivity emerged, which also enabled the widespread use of VPN. While at first this form of secure Internet access was only available to businesses due to the high cost, the advent of cheap protocols has allowed individuals to use VPN services to protect the security of their own connections.

How a VPN works

After connecting to the VPN, it creates an encrypted channel between the VPN server and the user, which is what the user perceives when connecting to the internet from “another country”. This creates a secure channel between the user and the Internet that does not allow the user’s data to be seen by outside observers and attackers. The way it works is that the data is decrypted on the VPN server side, rather than directly on the internet, which would allow hackers and other malicious sites to access your personal data. [1] The VPN server, which decrypts user data and sends it to the destination, a specific part of the internet, is completely secure. In practice, you can think of it as a filter between the user and the internet that only allows the data that the user wants to be transmitted to third parties, the rest of the data will only be visible in encrypted form that cannot be interpreted by external access, thus keeping personal data completely secure.

The key to the security provided by a VPN: The Protocols

VPNs use different protocols to establish and maintain encrypted connections. These protocols determine the level of security provided by a given VPN. For reasons of excessive technical information, the following protocols are commonly used: L2TP/IPsec, PPTP, SSTP, and OpenVPN. [2] Based on the encryption protocol, each VPN provider can be grouped according to the level of security they provide to the user. This is what basically determines the quality of the service, and the protection provided to the user.

Common uses of VPN

VPNs are not only important for users in terms of protection, but they can also help out the users in numerous ways, so the ability to access specific content from all over the world, is not only important for the protection of our data. Of course, it is clear that the most common use of a VPN is to protect our data, but it can also help us in other areas. Examples include accessing restricted content, working from anywhere in the world, shopping on the Internet, and protection on public Wi-Fi networks. [3]

Restricted content is content on the internet that is not accessible to certain countries. Such a situation can arise for a variety of reasons, on one hand, a country may make certain sites or content inaccessible to its citizens if it believes that this could have a harmful effect on users. But with VPNs, these restrictions can be circumvented, because if you connect from a country where the content is available, you can view it, since from the point of view of the external service provider, you are not actually at home.

In the workplace, the use of VPNs has become widespread as technology has advanced. The main reason for this is that employees work with confidential data that should not be accessible to malicious actors throughout the internet. For example, it is extremely important for a large electronics company that the newly invented technology cannot be accessed by competing companies due to a common hacking attack. VPNs thus not only protect the privacy of individuals but also protect companies by ensuring that encrypted company data cannot be accessed by others through the secure channel established by the VPN. Meanwhile, the employees can work remotely, which helps them to work efficiently.

For online purchases, the VPN allows payment in other currencies. When you connect to the internet from another country, prices will be displayed in that country’s currency, giving you the opportunity to potentially buy the same items cheaper. Some currencies are known to have cheaper exchange rates for certain services and subscriptions because of the favorable tax regime. This allows users to save money by using a VPN while keeping their data secure.

The biggest threat to user data: the public Wi-Fi network

It is the public Wi-Fi network that poses the biggest threat. This is due to the fact that no encryption process is in place to protect user data on these networks, meaning that they are the most likely to fall into the wrong hands. In such extreme, dangerous cases, a VPN may be the best choice, as it can replace the necessary encryption while still allowing you to enjoy the benefits of public Wi-Fi. Encryption allows external users to access our data, but only in encrypted form, making it unintelligible and unusable to external users. Public Wifi networks often do not provide encryption, which means that the data handled over them can be intercepted and stolen. [4] All our activities on public WiFi networks are easily accessible to any third party and can therefore be easily traced.  Public WiFi networks are also at high risk of attack by hackers. Hackers can create fake networks, deceiving users and stealing their data. Users who connect to the fake network can be exposed to phishing in seconds. Such networks are so sophisticated that all the information and data on the computer is in the hands of the hackers, without the user’s knowledge, even without using the Internet or the computer. Connecting to such networks is the biggest threat to public WiFi use, as all your data can fall into the wrong hands in a matter of seconds. The most common form of such phishing activity is the “man in the middle” attack, where the phisher impersonates one of the parties, here either the user from the server’s point of view or vice versa, thus entering into a connection between the two parties. Once logged in, they are able to copy and steal the person’s data in a matter of seconds.


Security is one of the most important fundamental elements of 21st-century internet use. Security can be achieved in many ways, one of the most common of which is the use of VPNs. VPNs provide a fast and user-friendly way to secure the internet by acting as a link between the external service provider and the user, encrypting the data flow and preventing external users and hackers from accessing your personal data. But beyond security, VPNs can also help us in many other ways, such as their role at work, helping us to work more efficiently and securely by providing remote connections, or their role in shopping, where users can save money by using a VPN. It is inconceivable to the uninitiated that we can be anywhere in the world in seconds from an internet perspective, but this is the result of decades of development.

Márk KABAI is a student of law at the Faculty of Law of the Eötvös Lóránd University, Hungary, and a scholarship student of Aurum Foundation. His research focuses on the interconnections of artificial intelligence and human rights, such as free speech.

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