What Are VPN Connections?

Virtual private networks (VPNs) let you establish a secure connection to other networks over the internet. This allows you to browse the web anonymously, which protects your computer and personal data from being discovered. The VPN is like a tunnel between your computer and the internet. When you conduct a Google search using a VPN, your inquiry is sent through the VPN connection. Google then sends the search results back to your computer through the VPN connection. It’s basically a middle man that does all the work so you don’t have to risk getting your hands dirty.

Are VPNs Secure?

VPNs are one of the best ways to secure your privacy while using the internet. A VPN protects private information by encrypting transmissions and requiring passwords and other authentication to access the network and any information transmitted over it. Only verified users can access a VPN, which makes it difficult for a hacker to breach. And if an attacker were to gain access, they would likely see only encrypted data. VPNs can use passwords, two-factor authentication, biometrics, and other cryptographic security measures to verify users.

Some VPNs connect multiple networks, such as a main office and a remote office. In these cases, passwords or digital certificates are often used. This allows the password (or key) to be stored permanently, which makes it easier for parties on either end to use the VPN without entering a password or other authentication every time they log in.

Common Uses for VPNs

Both individuals and organizations can benefit from the extra security of a VPN. Here are some of the most common ways people use VPNs.

  • Accessing remote networks while traveling (home and business)
  • Hiding browser activity 
  • Downloading files
  • Accessing region-restricted websites like Pandora while abroad
  • Securing private data while using a public Wi-Fi network
Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past eight. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime reports and spotting trends. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, NPR, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips.