Latest posts by Alvin Bryan (see all)
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The simple answer to the question, “Does a VPN Stop ISPs from Knowing Downloads?” is Yes. But not all VPN setups can in reality provide the service quality you need to shield your activities. Let’s go through how a VPN works to hide your traffic. Then we’ll take a look at what it’s good for.
How Does a VPN Work?
A VPN encrypts the traffic that is sent through your ISP to the VPN server that you are connected to. This prevents your ISP from being able to see in plain text what you are doing online. This includes the websites you open and any data that you send and receive. Some websites use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt your traffic. But a VPN ensures that everything is secured. Your ISP can see your IP address and therefore knows who you are. The VPN connection will hide your IP so that the only IP they can see is the VPN server IP.
VPNs create private tunnels that are encrypted. This ensures that no one can see what websites or servers you were exchanging data with. This is important to avoid suspicion if you are using questionable file sharing sites. Many of these sources have bas reputations although they do house legitimate content. You don’t want to be monitored as a potential content pirate even though your activities are completely legal.
To summarize, when you visit HTTP sites, they and all the data passed between them and you can be clearly seen. If the sites use HTTPS, their domains can still be seen, but the data is generally encrypted. There are still holes in HTTPS, however, so it is not totally safe. When you use a VPN, nothing can be seen between you and the VPN server. Between the VPN server and the open Internet, the traffic can be seen but nothing can be traced back to you. If you want total Internet privacy, you need to use only sites that are protected by TLS.
VPNs for Download Privacy and Security
VPNs were designed to allow companies to securely transmit data. Today they are also widely used by individuals for personal data privacy and security. Serious VPN providers help people keep your data and Internet activities private from everyone else. Your ISP, websites, attackers, and even the government, cannot know who you are if you use a VPN that is unyielding about user privacy. You can trust a VPN to keep your activities private from your ISP if they do not keep VPN usage logs and records of your personal data.
Your VPN provider should be using the best VPN protocols available to give you maximum privacy and security. The best VPN protocol being used today is OpenVPN. For the best privacy for downloads, you need a VPN that offers OpenVPN. L2TP/IPsec is a good alternative for devices that do not support OpenVPN. Avoid VPNs that give you PPTP or plain L2TP VPN server connections. You should also be looking for a VPN that offers top level encryption. Some offer 256-bit encryption which is good but can be very slow. 128-bit encryption on OpenVPN is a very good balance between speed and security. You will need this most especially if you are downloading from a country that practices Internet censorship. This will protect you from your ISP finding out and reporting that you are downloading content that your government doesn’t like.