Although VPNs have been around since the 90s, they gained consensus much later. It was the recent pandemic that opened the gates to this VPN era. However, corporates have always embraced this technology. Even the generic audience on the web was aware of the existence of VPNs, as a few prominent providers were almost a decade old. Despite that, the waters of the consumer market have always been shallow. Vendors tend to compete severely to encroach the user base, hence the need for advanced VPN features.
It’s no wonder—every VPN provider wants to come out and stay on top, which makes the competition cutthroat. Although VPNs have just recently made an appearance on the global scale, the consumer VPN community has long since advertised them as a forerunner of internet security and privacy. But with streaming on the go, VPN also became the new emerging champion of entertainment technology. All due to the most advanced VPN features they offer. But what are those, exactly? Let’s find out together!
What do you need in a VPN?
A VPN is a virtual and private network that utilizes tunneling to connect a client to a remote VPN server to facilitate encrypted communication over a public channel. The tunnel is the core of a VPN and is a result of security protocols. Encryption also takes place in this tunnel. For a VPN to be a top-grade product, it needs to have a certain standard. There are a few features that are deemed necessary for a VPN, such as:
- Plentiful servers: A VPN needs sufficient servers to facilitate uninterrupted and faster service.
- Availability/Accessibility: Although used predominantly on desktops, the emergence of smartphones has created a demand for mobile clients. Furthermore, a VPN needs to have clients for the most popular systems.
- Intuitive and easy-to-use UI: A simple UI is the way to go.
- User-friendliness: If a VPN is not user-friendly, it defies its purpose.
- Kill Switch: Previously niche; The kill switch is now mandatory for a VPN.
- Leak prevention: A VPN needs to prevent leaks.
- No-log policy: If the VPN logs data, it is unsafe. The only acceptable practice is a no-logging policy.
- Latest security protocols and encryption: Protocols and encryption are the bread and butter of the VPN. Outdated tech can ruin the service.
- Support for routers: Although not a necessity, router support is always welcome on a VPN.
- Effective pricing: All this needs to be in a well affordable bundle.
The most advanced VPN features
Due to the market competition or the rat race, providers have developed advanced VPN features. However, these advanced VPN features are not there to provide an edge. They also exist to diversify the usage of a VPN. Furthermore, some features are rapidly approaching a necessity. Some of them are proprietary, while others are generic. Although they may seem overkill, some users currently need them. These most advanced VPN features are:
Auto-connect and PFS (Perfect Forward Secrecy)
Auto-connect is a VPN feature that automatically initiates a VPN connection on system startup. It is a fail-safe employed to prevent human error. Furthermore, it can get combined with a kill switch to prevent unintentional leaks.
PFS, installed on a VPN server, will generate a unique encryption key per session. It bolsters the encryption and prevents any issues from cropping up.
Most VPNs have servers in the thousands. However, they do not offer any additional benefit other than being geographically located. Although recently, many vendors have developed a branch of exclusive servers hopeful towards users. Some servers are optimal for P2P, while some are adept at torrenting. Thus, many such servers are exclusively employed to provide further assistance in geo-blocking.
These are good for bypassing VPN blocks. They can prevent DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) and bypass firewalls effectively. When you connect to an obfuscated server, the intermittent traffic remains ordinary in the view of many observers. These serves scramble your encrypted traffic to make them appear commonplace, as opposed to gibberish. Also known as stealth VPN or stealth protocol, they are becoming more common in VPNs.
Static IP address
Unlike the dynamic one, static IP allows your VPN server to allot an ordinary IP address to prevent IP blocks. Many websites block specific well-known VPN servers by marking their IP. Thus, providers offer static IP in hopes to circumvent such events. Furthermore, a static IP also helps prevent data leaks.
Auto location is a feature present in exclusive VPN clients, often those paid services offer. Utilizing it lets you connect to a server of your preference automatically. It helps prevent several common VPN errors. Auto location will always choose a server with the lowest latency and highest throughput while considering bandwidth limitations.
Now double VPN, as the name suggests, is a feature that routes your data traffic through two VPN networks instead of a single one. Using a double VPN is similar to employing two VPNs simultaneously, without compromising speed. It is similar to VPN chaining and works on the principles of multi-hopping. Double VPN absolves the worry of an IP leak and allows users to come as close to online anonymity as possible.
The services that offer multi-hopping also offer double encryption. When your data travels from two different VPN servers, it will automatically undergo multiple rounds of encryption. The first one will occur when the data travels from the client to the first server. Next rounds of encryption will follow the consequent servers.
Split tunneling is a feature that lightens the load of a VPN. It identifies interesting traffic and employs encryption on them. It leaves the rest of the data untouched. Generally, a VPN encrypts traffic on a network level. Any outgoing traffic from the client would undergo tunneling—be it from web browsers or apps. However, this can effectively slow down some services. Thus, split tunneling separates the data traffic and tunnels only the intended ones.
A VPN vendor with an exclusive DNS (Domain Name System) server can spoof DNS. It can prevent IP blocks as well as argument geo-unblocking. Smart DNS not only prevents DNS leaks but also masks your DNS, thus providing further privacy.
Tor over VPN
Tor is an overlay network that runs on a volunteer system with multiple nodes. It utilizes onion routing to hop data traffic through numerous nodes. Additionally, that data undergoes encryption at each node. Tor is one of the best technologies that can provide anonymity. However, the entry and exit nodes of a Tor can get detected. That’s where a VPN comes in. Running Tor over a VPN can contain such issues while also providing a more secure network.
Automated (Passive) Kill Switch
A kill switch works both actively and passively. We value the passive kill switch that operates on a network level. In the case of VPN failure, the passive kill switch will terminate the internet connection throughout the device. It will prevent IP leaks and other issues. Those who value their privacy, or engage in a high-pressure job, advocate the kill switch.
Anonymous (cryptocurrency) payment
The primary concern that a VPN redresses is anonymity. However, utilizing a credit card for paying the foretold provider defeats all purposes of this technology. Your credit card is full of PII (Personal Identifiable Information). Thus, sensitive users look for other avenues of payments, such as cryptocurrency. Nowadays, providers have started accepting crypto as payment to address this issue.
Although VPNs can’t prevent the infestation of adware/malware, they do try to employ certain blockers that can work on the issue. Many leading vendors have come out with their blend of blockers. A blocker can somewhat reduce the risks from adware/malware.