Like a lot of computer and Internet-related environments, VPNs suffer from a tech-speak jargon. To the uninitiated, these can be confusing and the shutters come down and the brain turns off (like a kill switch!) but they are really very simple to understand.
Below we explain some of the more common terms.
BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer (P2P) protocol for downloading and distributing files over the internet. Instead of downloading a file from one central source, torrenting involves connecting to multiple users and downloading parts of each file from individuals. Once downloaded and combined, it forms the complete file. While this sounds useful, unless you use a VPN your home IP address is freely available for anyone involved in the process.
DNS or Domain Name System involves converting web addresses like vpnbriefing.net into a numeric IP address such as 188.8.131.52. Every website has an IP address but converts it to an URL/web address so you can easily remember it. DNS Hijacking is where hackers intercept your visit to a website, redirecting you to a malicious site under the guise of it being the one you were trying to visit. All good VPNs can prevent this from happening by creating a secure path between your device and the DNS server you want to visit.
DNS leaking is where your online road trip to a site ‘leaks’ out of the encrypted VPN tunnel that should be protecting you. A good VPN service offers DNS leak protection so that your connection drops before this happens. Unscrupulous VPNs use these leaks to capture and sell on your data. You can find out how to see if you have a DNS leak here.
Encryption converts data into an encrypted form so that potential hackers and threats can’t figure out what it means. It is part of the backbone of all good VPN providers to enable you to protect your security and safety while online.
Yup, more jargon! Streaming sites such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are available worldwide, but each country has a slightly different content catalogue? Using a VPN, you can get around geo-restrictions allowing you to watch shows and movies that wouldn’t ordinarily be available in your country. Georestrictions also relate to governments that have a high level of censorship so users in those countries opt to use a VPN to circumvent e-censorship and be able to browse sites that their government has previously judged as inappropriate or illegal.
An IP leak is when your VPN connection briefly drops, and your true IP address is exposed to the website you’re browsing. A reliable VPN offers IP leak protection preventing this and your entire connection drops for a moment if the VPN happens to quit for a brief time.
Similar to IP and DNS leak protection, a kill switch is when a VPN cuts out your connection any time your VPN connection is cut. By disconnecting you, your privacy remains secure until you choose to reconnect. This is vital if you carry out confidential online work that has to have the ultimate protection.
A full non-jargon explanation of VPN protocols and which is right for you can be found here.
A proxy server acts as a go-between between your computer and the internet to make it look as though your traffic is coming from a completely different source. Proxies aren’t encrypted, so a temporary temporary solution, whereas a VPN makes this process much more secure and encrypted.
Throttling is where your Internet connection is restricted for some reason, usually by cutting your download or upload speeds. ISPs may do this if they feel you’re downloading too many files from a P2P service or simply using too much bandwidth at a peak time. VPNs can work in some way to limit throttling issues.
A VPN tunnel is the encrypted connection between your computer and a VPN server. The tunnel protects your data and privacy up to the other server you’re trying to access. Some VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN allow a split-tunnelling service so that your connection is split in multiple directions, making it even harder for a potential hacker to see your original location.