In order for the mailman to deliver post to your home, they will naturally need your address. The Internet works in exactly the same way. Every time you visit a website or need to download a file the site server will need to know your IP address.
Without an IP address, you wouldn't be able to use the Internet, because the server wouldn't know where to send the files. With a VPN, you can hide your real IP address by tunnelling traffic through a private network back to yours.
VPN is an abbreviation for "Virtual Private Network" and its an encrypted direct connection between your computer and a VPN server. It is called virtual because the user sees a VPN connection as if it is a private connection, although it takes place over the internet.
This makes it possible to be anonymous on the Internet, and can be used to trick services into believe that you are somewhere else in the world than your actual real location. This in turn can be used to increase access to websites which would normally be blocked in your country.
How does a VPN work?
It creates a point-to-point connection over the internet, via a dedicated, encrypted line between two servers. VPN users a private network over the Internet, while maintaining the characteristics of a normal connection. Your computer will appear as if it belonged to the local network of a VPN server.
A VPN server is a anonymous way to use the internet, because no one can track you, or monitor you. Using VPN ensures that your Internet traffic is always encrypted.
The problem with VPN is that it is basically a commercial service that you pay to use. The good news is that there are several operators offering VPN service for free, but such services are often advertised based.
Free VPN services
There are several VPN services that are completely free, or offer their services on a trial basis before you make the decision to buy. These are some examples:
There are some extensions for browsers that makes the use of a VPN easier. Some extensions are totally free while others require a monthly or yearly subscription to be able to use all the functions, but even those provide you with a decent, if sometimes limited amount of locations.
Hola Unblocker - you get a little icon in the top right-hand corner of the browser, which shows whether the connection is on or off. Click on the icon to select a VPN server.
ProxMate - gives you full access to sites that have limitations in the UK. Supports sites like Grooveshark, Pandora, MTV, Crunchyroll, Turntable.FM, Songza and Netflix.
ZenMate is an extension that encrypts your surfing activities, and hides your real location.
ZenMate runs in the background, which appears as a small green icon at the top right corner of your browser. You can easily choose different server locations from different places in the world. Default is Germany, but this can be changed at any time. To change location, press the ZenMate icon and select "Change loacation". To install the ZenMate extension in Google Chrome browser, you must enter your e-mail address and register.
After low user engagement and the discovery of a software error, that potentially exposed the data of hundreds of thousands of its users, Google has decided to pull the plug on its social media platform.