The Secret Language of Virtual Private Networks

Looking Under the Hood of How a VPN works

David Koff
8 min readSep 22, 2021

What Is A Virtual Private Network?!

When it comes to online privacy and security, few subjects are more important (or confusing) than Virtual Private Networks or VPNs. To better understand the technology, let’s begin with a simple definition:

A virtual private network (or VPN) is a tool — comprised of hardware and software — which allows specific people to have access to specific data stored on specific computers.

Think about your email for a second. Most people already know that their emails reside on fancy computers — called “servers”— which are owned and operated by companies like Google, Microsoft, or Yahoo. However, those servers don’t just keep your personal email account: they also keep the email accounts for many thousands of people. Therefore, to maintain everyone’s privacy, you only have specific access to those email accounts which are actually yours.

VPNs work in much the same way.

A username and password are required when logging into VPN software. That software can reside on your computer or smart devices. Once you’ve successfully logged into your VPN software, you are given access to servers in various locations around the globe.



David Koff

I’m a tech writer who focuses on digital privacy & security. Subscribe to my easy-to-read tech newsletter to learn more!