VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network". A VPN uses a tunneling technology, such as SSL, through different tunnelling protocols to establish private links through the internet to other computers.

VPNs are typically used to avoid geo-blocking, passive surveillance or government filtering. A VPN may make you appear as if you're from a different country. Joe Schmo on the internet trying to backtrace your IP will lose the trail at your VPN provider. Hackers infecting your system won't be phased, and neither will law enforcement.

VPNs aren't a panacea when it comes to privacy. Even if your provider claims they don't keep logs, that doesn't mean you trust them, especially if they're located in a Five Eyes country. A VPN will improve your privacy, however it will not do much to improve your anonymity. For making yourself anonymous on the internet, see Anonymising Yourself.

Choosing a VPN

It is very important you do your research when deciding on a VPN. Remember, you're giving these guys your traffic instead of your ISP. Some VPNs are made for privacy, and don't log, while others are made just for getting past geoblocks. When choosing a VPN, you want to consider these things:

Also be careful when reading VPN reviews. The link you click on may very well be affiliate link. PIA, HideMyAss, and other mainstream VPN providers are known for their affiliate programs. When reading a review, make sure it doesn't sound like an advertisement. If you want user reviews, you're best off on /r/VPN, or /vpn/. Beware of /r/VPN, as many users are shills, or post fake reviews.

TorrentFreak runs a yearly survey to VPN providers, asking pertinent questions. TorrentFreak is however also sponsered by VPN providers, so consider this when deciding on a VPN provider.

Additionally two other resources exist that list VPN's that are of value:

Testing Your VPN Install

Basic tests:

Also consider:

VPN Pseudoanonymity

In order to attain a higher level of privacy, consider nesting VPNs. A VPN chain of length 2 will ensure the endpoint doesn't know your real IP address, and the midpoint won't know what you're accessing as it will only have access to encrypted traffic being transmitted to the next VPN in the chain. For 'complete' anonymity, but terrible network throughput, one would have you add a TOR node to the mix.

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