In recent years, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) have become increasingly popular on the internet, being a great way for people to protect themselves while browsing in a secure fashion. If you’re unfamiliar, VPNs are downloadable applications that allow people to obscure their IP address, one of the tools used to identify where a computer is geographically. It is typically taken as a security measure to make oneself secure from hackers.
Despite this seeming like a modern phenomenon, there’s actually a good deal of history behind the notion dating back to 1996. This was the year that a Microsoft employee created the term PPTP, otherwise known as a Peer to Peer Tunneling Protocol. This was a tool used to make the connection between devices and the internet more secure, preventing the data being transferred to be vulnerable. Though this is very similar to a VPN, both technologies are different from each other in a few ways.
This technology would prove to set the groundwork for what we know today as VPNs, eventually progressing via the need for more advanced forms of security on the internet.
It’s worth noting, though, that these types of extra protection weren’t necessarily on consumer levels. Many of the early VPNs that were made available were for the explicit purpose of helping businesses.
However, in the past 10 years, there has become more of a consumer demand for having secure ways to browse the internet. Though there are anonymous tools such as Tor that make it easier than ever to browse the internet without a trace, the general stigma of Tor being used for criminal activities along with the lack of security on the dark web have made VPNs more popular.
There are also many consumer benefits to using VPNs that aren’t usually mentioned when talking about the technology. For example, services such as Netflix that block access to certain content depending on the user’s country have caused controversy in online circles due to many people not being able to access their favorite content from abroad despite having paid for the service in their home country. This has caused a surge in VPN usage, with Netflix banning various VPNs and causing subsequent discourse.
Aside from those who want to use VPNs to circumvent service restrictions, there is still a majority of VPN users who use the technology for strictly security purposes, allowing themselves to not be as traceable or vulnerable to hackers. Given how advanced hackers have progressed since the invention of PPTP in 1996, that’s a valid concern. VPNs are only set to become more advanced in the future, helping us transition into a world where information is truly private and not vulnerable on the internet.