About VPN

Like many other people, I am watching YouTube. And as everybody knows, in YouTube videos, you can see Google Ads and very often, creators promote some product or brand. And recently I saw quite a lot of promotions for VPN services.

And many such VPN ads promote the VPN as a means to protect your privacy and data. But it actually doesn’t do any of that. Well, to be 100% honest VPN can protect your privacy, but not for the average person because it requires strict discipline. But it 100% cannot protect your data.

VPN is short for Virtual Private Network. A typical use for VPN is a means to connect to your work environment from your home computer. Instead of exposing all your work computers to the whole internet, VPN exposes only the VPN endpoint. Then you can use some software to connect to that endpoint and authorize. After that, you can access all your work resources without exposing them to everybody else.

Typically company VPN forwards only certain traffic through a VPN tunnel and everything else goes the normal way. And it is the way it is supposed to be because there is no point in sending YouTube traffic via a corporate network. As a result, a VPN typically forwards traffic for a certain subnetwork to a VPN tunnel. For example 10.*.*.*

Also, all traffic is encrypted and even if you are using some work resources that require passwords as plain text, all your traffic will be encrypted when travels from and to your computer, and as a result person in the middle will not be able to see it.

This is basically what VPN was created for. But with time certain companies try to restrict content to certain countries. Some local governments try to block some resources and the easiest way is to not resolve resource name to IP address (block at DNS). For example, you cannot access any Google or Facebook services from China.

And then another type of VPN was born. Its goal was to forward all traffic through a tunnel and forward it to different countries and then access everything from that point, forwarding results back. That typically means that DNS will be also resolved using DNS in that country and as a result, it will be impossible to block.

This way, all websites will think that traffic will go from this country and will allow you local content. Also, this way governments cannot block you. They can block VPN endpoints but usually, companies that own VPN services will add them faster. Some governments try to block any VPN traffic but this usually ends badly, because all encrypted traffic looks the same.

So if you are using such a VPN, you can hide where you are actually from, and let’s say the typical website cannot distinguish a customer from the USA and a customer who ends up in the USA via VPN. So nobody will know where are you from and you can do whatever you want right?

Well, not exactly. While regular websites cannot ask the VPN where are you from, authorities can. If you commit any cyber crime in the USA, authorities will contact a company that owns VPN and they must provide all data about it. Sure you can use a fake name and a stolen credit card, but they will know your true IP address. You can use a chain of VPNs but it quickly became tiresome. Moreover, if your main VPN connection silently fails, you will access the website using your real IP address without even knowing. Of course, hackers are smart about it, but some of them get caught because of that reason.

But let’s say you don’t want to do any crime, you just don’t want big corporations to track you. But most people log in in their browser and log in to social media. And these days most websites allow you to log in via Google or social media. As a result, even if you are using a VPN, they still know it is you and they know what you are searching and what sites you are visiting.

So unless you are using private browsing or even a different browser altogether, the VPN does not make any sense at all. And even then, sooner or later they will connect that it is you. You may have forgotten to disconnect your VPN and access these sites from a normal browser, or your VPN will disconnect due to technical issues and big corporations immediately know it is you. And it is also quite tiresome to be always vigilant.

Lastly, typically using a VPN reduces the speed of your internet connection considerably because all your traffic will go through a VPN tunnel and traffic is not cheap. So unless you pay $20-%30 per month, your traffic will be slower than normal.

Is there any reasonable usage of VPN? Yes, there are many reasonable ways. For example, if you want to use Microsoft Office in the USA, you need to pay $10 per month. But if you are using a VPN and connect to some developing country, you can buy it for $1-$2. The same works for Netflix, YouTube Premium accounts, and many others.

As I wrote before, if your government blocks certain resources, it is also quite a reasonable way to use a VPN. For example, if you live in China there is no other option. And to my surprise, many other countries that don’t have a totalitarian feel also block certain resources. For example, to my surprise, Armenia was one of such countries.

Lastly, some servers simply deny you access if you are from a different county and a VPN can solve it very easily. It could be a game server, or it can be an online shopping. For example, you are on vacation and would like to order something in your home country.

In conclusion, while there are some legitimate reasons to use a VPN, most people don’t need any VPN because it will not protect your privacy and definitely will not protect your data. And 99% of those who need it, can use any of the free VPN services.

I hope it helps someone.