Q:

What is a VPN service?

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Quick Answer

Virtual private network services are designed to give people access to secure, anonymous connections to the Internet using client software. They enable access to services in countries where network services may be restricted.

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Full Answer

VPN service providers maintain servers and configure software for VPN connections, remove users abusing the service, and handle network congestion. For example, a person using a VPN service could travel to China and still be able to access sites restricted by the government, such as Facebook and Google, even though those Web pages are blocked by Chinese Internet service providers.

VPNs work by using tunneling, which allows users to access content that is not typically available on the immediate network by telling the network how to communicate with another network that can provide the content. Once the connection between the two networks is established, data shared between the two ends of the tunnel is encrypted, so it cannot be read by outside connections. A person in China who uses a VPN to access Google is viewed by the ISP as accessing the website from a different country.

These services also provide security for transmitting data over otherwise vulnerable networks, such as public Wi-Fi hot spots or unsecured home networks.

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