Every time a person logs onto the Internet, their Internet service provider assigns them a unique ID in the form of an IP address. Users typically have the same IP address every time they log on to their home computer. A user’s IP address can reveal information about them, including their location, browser selection, and ISP.

Users have the right to block or mask their IP address, and there are various reasons why they would want to do this. Masking an IP address can afford users privacy and help them avoid certain Internet restrictions. This can be achieved through the use of a virtual private network, or VPN.

How a VPN Works

A VPN protects a user’s personal information when they access the Internet through an unsecured connection. It does this by encrypting all data before transmitting it to and from the user’s device through a secure tunnel.

An added benefit afforded by VPNs is that they provide users with an IP address that masks their actual one. This new IP is what will be broadcast to websites and other third parties. Therefore, none of the user’s personal information will be accessible to them.

Benefits of Masking a User’s IP Address

Users who mask their IP address using a VPN get a variety of benefits, including:

  • Privacy: Websites, search engines, and other online third parties frequently use a user’s IP address to monitor and track their browsing habits. This is generally done for marketing purposes. In the case of search engines, it is done to provide more user-specific search results. These purposes are generally benign and often useful, but many people find them to be an invasion of their privacy. The use of a VPN eliminates this intrusion.
  • Bypassing geo-location restrictions Some websites are accessible only to people located in certain countries. Users working or traveling abroad may find it difficult or impossible to access some of their favorite sites due to these restrictions. By connecting through a VPN server in their home country, they can obtain an IP address that will mask the fact that they are abroad. They will then be able to access their preferred sites freely.
  • Avoiding Internet censorship Users may sometimes have to travel through countries whose governments practice strict Internet censorship. Users without a VPN may find it impossible to connect to social networking and news sites. They may even be unable to access their email and personal accounts. This censorship is usually upheld by the Internet service providers in these countries. By using a VPN, users can freely access websites. The ISPs will be unable to perform deep-packet inspections on their communications or monitor their browsing activity.

What to Look for in a VPN Provider

There are several VPN providers a user can choose from. They offer varying degrees of reliability and service. Some things users should look for when making a selection include:

  • Multiple servers in global locations
  • High or unlimited IP address availability
  • A choice of encryption protocols
  • A history of reliable service and availability
  • Available technical support 24-hours a day

There are many reasons that people choose to subscribe to a VPN service. For most, the main reason is to protect their personal information from hackers. For users who wish to maintain privacy online and avoid Internet restrictions, a VPN is also ideal.

Dick is a free-lancer writer, and he shares his knowledge on buying a VPN.