The Ultimate VPN Glossary (or Meaning of VPN)

Are you looking to learn more about the world of VPNs but find yourself stuck on a few buzzwords? VPNs can be challenging to grasp when you don’t understand what specific terms mean, that why we'll bring VPN meaning and other VPN related terms. Well, to help you, we’ve come up with this glossary to rectify the matter and provide a useful reference for newcomers.

In this glossary, we will go over the following terms:

AES-256

Stands for “Advanced Encryption Standard 256 Bits.” The latter is widely regarded as one of the most secure methods for protecting sensitive data. For this reason, it is widely used by the US government and its military for encrypting all forms of data and communications.

Since it was introduced by NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) in 2001, AES-256 has risen to become the gold standard when it comes to data security among governments, banks, and other financial institutions from around the world.

Android

Android refers to a type of operating system for mobile devices created by Google. It is currently the most popular of its kind with a global market share of 39.97 percent (as of July 2019).

Developed from a revised version of Linux, Android is an open-source software intended for touchscreen devices like tablet computers and smartphones. Today, its application has extended to that of laptop computers, smart TVs, and even cameras and gaming consoles.

Anonymous Proxy

A kind of server that serves as a middleman between users and a destination server. They are coined as such because they hide the personally identifiable information of users which include IP addresses and activity logs.

Many businesses run anonymous proxies to ensure confidentiality in the workplace or lease them out to private users. Similarly, there are also public anonymous proxy servers that people can use for free, albeit with poor performance.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth pertains to the volume of data transmitted over the Internet via a wired or wireless link for a given period. In computing, the latter relates to the rate of data transfer and not an indication of network speed, which is a typical misunderstanding.

In modern network devices, bandwidth is typically expressed in Gbps (gigabits per second) or billions of bits per second. The more bandwidth you have, the more significant the amount of data you can send or receive over a given period.

Browser Extensions

Small add-ons that can be installed to web browsers to add personalized functions such as ad-blocking, web monitoring, time management, and many more.

Browser extensions can also be used to remove unwanted features as is the case with content filters and extensions that prevent pictures and videos from automatically loading/playing.

Cookies

Cookies refer to small bits of information sent by website servers that are stored to a user’s computer via a web browser. Cookies allow websites to serve the same information faster without having to reload webpages from scratch. Cookies are also used for logging and tracking browsing activity.

Copyright

Exclusive rights granted to originators for controlling if and when their intellectual property may be used or replicated by others.

Copyrights remain in force throughout the lifetime of the owner plus an additional 70 years after death. That said copyright can be renewed at any time during the extension period by the author’s family or next of kin.

Cyberattacks

Any electronic form of attack that targets a computer (or a network of computers) to manipulate, destroy, or steal sensitive information from others.

Dark Web

The Dark Web (also known as darknets) refers to a part of the World Wide Web that is inaccessible to most users. This is because the latter exists as an overlay network that needs specialized applications and configurations to access.

Data-Retention Law

Data-retention laws describe the rules set for preserving user information over a specified period. These laws help ensure that law enforcement agencies will have access to user records and information in the future should the need arise.

DDoS

DDoS stands for “Distributed Denial-of-Service.” It’s a cybersecurity attack that seeks to overwhelm a targeted server with connection requests. The result is to make websites, apps, or shared databases inaccessible to regular users over a short or long period.

DMCA

DMCA stands for “Digital Millenium Copyright Act” and refers to copyright law passed by the United States in 1998. The latter is based on the treaties set by the World Intellectual Property Organization for criminalizing the unauthorized production and distribution of copyrighted material around the world.

DNS

DNS is short for “Domain Name Service” and works much like the Yellow Pages but for the Internet. DNS stores the IP address of websites and reconciles them with domain names like Google.com and Reddit.com, which is easier to remember.

Without DNS, you would have to remember a series of numbers (e.g.,66.220.144.0 – 66.220.159.255 for Facebook.com) to log on to your favorite websites.

DNS Flooding

DNS Flooding is a kind of DoS (Denial-of-Service) cybersecurity attack that interrupts the flow of traffic to a target web server. The attacker accomplishes this by sending an overwhelming number of data queries from hundreds of infected servers (botnets) that make websites or apps inaccessible to regular users.

DNS Hijacking

DNS Hijacking refers to a type of cybersecurity attack that targets and manipulates DNS queries. It is mostly done to redirect users to malicious websites that display unwanted ads or steal sensitive information.

To perform the attack, perpetrators either install malware on user computers, take over routers, or intercept or hack DNS communication.

DNS Leaks

DNS leaks pertain to the failure of VPN services to mask the activity of users from internet service providers. This defeats the intent of employing a VPN service for users who are concerned about their privacy online.

DNS Tunneling

DNS Tunneling refers to a type of cybersecurity attack that manipulates DNS behavior, including responses to DNS queries. It is primarily done to hack into remote applications and servers by injecting malicious data to an infected server.

DNS tunneling is often done by hackers to spread malware across compromised computer networks and extract stolen information through DNS servers. 

Encryption

Encryption refers to a method for encoding data or communications to render them inaccessible to unauthorized users. While encryption does not necessarily keep data from getting stolen, it does make the information indecipherable to would-be hackers.

Firewall

In network security, a Firewall refers to a web of safety functions that keep track of data coming in and out of a computer from an external network. Firewalls establish boundaries that separate trusted private networks from untrusted external connections like public Wi-Fi networks and the Internet in general.

Five Eyes Alliance

Also known as “FVEY,” Five Eyes refers to an intelligence alliance between five English-speaking nations which include the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. These countries share signals intelligence to aid in security matters.

Fourteen Eyes

Fourteen Eyes is the same signals intelligence alliance that comprises FVEY plus nine more members, which include Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Italy, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, and Norway.

Fourteen Eyes was initially established in 1982 to uncover information about the former Soviet Union. Today, its mission mostly lies in sharing military intelligence among member countries.

FTP

FTP is an abbreviation for “File Transfer Protocol” and describes the standards for transmitting and receiving information from one server to another. The latter was based on a client-server model architecture published by its author Abhay Bhushan in 1971. At the time, FTP was unique in that it featured independent control and data connections between clients and servers.

Geo-Block

Geo-block refers to a class of Internet technology that limits access to content according to one’s geographic location. This technology is generally used to enforce censorship and pricing differences of online services (Netflix, Spotify,  Apple Music, etc.) from one region to another.

GPS

GPS means “Global Positioning System” and refers to a satellite-based navigation system developed by the United States in 1973 for use by the Air Force. The system was initially comprised of 24 satellites orbiting Earth designed to help with military applications.

In the 1980s, GPS proved to be invaluable for all forms of radio navigation and was later declassified for civilian use.

HTTP

HTTP is short for “Hypertext Transfer Protocol.” It refers to how data is transmitted and used by the World Wide Web (www). The latter standardizes how information is formatted and sent over the Internet. The protocol also defines how browsers and server clients behave and respond to queries.

HTTPS

HTTPS means “Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure” and is an improved and more secure version of the old HTTP protocol. Most websites use them today to protect the information of users, especially for banking and eCommerce sites.

HTTPs is safer in that it uses an encrypted communication protocol that makes any stolen information illegible for hackers.

IKEv2

IKEv2 is an acronym for “Internet Key Exchange Version 2” and refers to a type of encryption protocol used by VPNs for handling and responding to communications requests. This protocol makes VPN traffic secure by authenticating all data coming in and out from the network.

Internet Censorship

Internet censorship pertains to any act of regulating or repressing what people can see, read, or hear over the Internet. Such measures are implemented by regulators like ISPs, governments, and international organizations.

Internet Kill Switch

A security measure found on some VPNs that automatically shuts down all forms of internet traffic in the event of failure. Such a feature can be helpful for users that depend on VPNs to keep their internet activity safe and private.

An Internet kill switch prevents users from maintaining an unsecured connection to the Internet and leaving their personal information exposed.

Internet Privacy

Also synonymous with “online privacy,” Internet privacy pertains to the level of ease and confidence that anything a user does is private and indecipherable to others. Privacy can be obtained through a combination of factors, strategies, and technology for protecting sensitive and personally identifiable information over the Internet.

iOS

An operating system developed and owned by Apple Inc for their range of mobile devices which include the iPhone and the iPad. iOs is currently the second most popular mobile operating system in the market, and second only to Android.

IP Address

IP (Internet Protocol) address refers to a unique numerical designation assigned to internet-enabled devices. The latter serves two functions — location marking and identifying computers that communicate using the Internet Protocol.

IP Cycling

IP Cycling is a VPN security feature that automatically cycles users to a series of IP addresses. This makes it incredibly difficult to trace the activities of VPN users and provides an additional layer of privacy and security.

IPSec

IPSec stands for “Internet Protocol Security” and is commonly used in VPNs. This protocol protects VPN users by encrypting and authenticating packets of data coming in and out of an external network (Internet).

IPv6

IPv6 is short for “Internet protocol version 6” and is currently the latest version of the Internet Protocol. IPv6 is a significant upgrade over its predecessor (IPv4) and offers several benefits. This includes more efficient routing and data packet processing, easy network configuration, better security, and support for new services.

ISP

ISP is short for “Internet Service Provider” — a company that provides customers access to the Internet. Such a company can be privately-owned, community, non-profit, or a commercial organization.

L2TP

L2TP stands for “Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol” and one of the most common protocols used by VPN services.  While it does not encrypt data on its own, it does work with other encryption protocols that help ensure the privacy of users.

Latency

In network and computing, latency refers to the pause before data can be transmitted following a data request.

Malware

Malware refers to any software deliberately made to inflict harm to a targeted computer, network, or server. Hackers also typically use them to obtain unauthorized access to compromised devices.

Nine Eyes Alliance

Nine Eyes is an expansion of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance plus four more member countries which include Norway, Denmark, France, and the Netherlands.

No Data Logging Policy

Many VPN services keep records of their users’ online activity (especially free ones). This includes IP address, timestamps, bandwidth use, traffic data, and many more. Such information is then sold to advertisers for revenue.

Most reputable VPN companies implement a no data logging policy. This means that they do not keep any records concerning the activity of users.

See Also

Open VPN Meaning

OpenVPN refers to a business open-source software that executes VPN protocols to establish a secure connection for users. The latter is notable in that it offers the highest level of security for a VPN thanks to a wide range of security features like peer authentication, pre-shared keys, and data packet authentication.

P2P

P2P is short for “Peer-to-Peer” computing, which describes a type of networking architecture wherein tasks are equally divided among participants (peers). There are no hosting fees as all peers work as both server and client. This makes P2P a seamless and cost-effective means for distributing large amounts of data online.

Phantom Domain Attack

A Phantom Domain Attack refers to a type of Denial-of-Service cybersecurity attack that aims to drain a target server’s resources.  It works by targeting what is known as phantom domains (pages on a site that don’t exist) by sending thousands of invalid DNS queries to the targeted server. This forces the latter to keep thousands of data requests in an open-loop which eventually drains server performance.

Phishing

Phishing refers to any fraudulent activity designed to trick users into giving up sensitive information online. This includes email addresses, passwords, credit card numbers, and other financial information.

Hackers that engage in phishing often try to disguise themselves as a reputable organization using any electronic form of communication such as emails and messaging apps.

PPTP

PPTP is an acronym for “Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol”, which is one of the earliest methods for establishing a Virtual Private Network. Due to a wide range of known security vulnerabilities, the latter has long been considered obsolete. Today, PPTP has been replaced by more secure and modern alternatives like OpenVPN and IKEv2.

Proxy Server

In networking, proxy servers refer to a type of server node that functions as a go-between for users requesting for information online and the servers responding to the request. As a result, destination servers don’t see the information of users; only that of the proxy server.

Random Subdomain Attack

A Random Subdomain Attack is a type of Denial-of-Service cybersecurity attack that targets a server’s DNS resolver (the subdomains in particular). This forces the server to drain its resources resolving invalid queries, which reduces its performance and can make a website unavailable to real users.

Shared IPs

Shared IPs refer to a pool of IP addresses that VPN users utilize to mask their activity over the Internet. Any of these IP addresses can be used by hundreds if not thousands of people. Hence it can be tough (if not impossible) to trace certain activities to a specific user. 

SOCKS5

SOCKS5 refers to the latest version of an Internet protocol designed to run packets of data between a client proxy server and the destination server. This means that any information sent through a proxy server is tagged with a false temporary IP address that hides the real one from the destination server.

SoftEther

SoftEther refers to a free, open-source VPN client/software developed by the University of Tsukuba (Japan) as part of their Master’s Thesis Program.SQL injection

In networking, SQL injection refers to a type of code injection cybersecurity attack that targets data-driven applications. Its goal is to primarily add malicious entries to SQL statements  (Structured Query Language) and manipulate databases for any purpose that an attacker sees fit.

Split Tunneling

In computer networking, split tunneling refers to a networking protocol that enables mobile devices to connect to multiple network domains simultaneously. This includes public networks, Local Area Networks, and Wide Area Networks.  The link can be established using one or multiple network connections.

The idea of split tunneling offers improvements in network performance by preventing bottlenecks and conserving bandwidth used by spreading them out across multiple networks.

SSL

SSL is short for Secure Sockets Layer and refers to the next generation of cryptography protocols devised to secure communications over the Internet. The latter superseded the now-obsolete Transport Layer Security protocol by introducing better security features and support for modern applications such as voice over IP, instant messaging apps, and video streaming.

SSTP

SSTP is an abbreviation for “Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol”, which is a technology that VPNs use to transport data over a virtual private network. The latter works with SSL and TLS to provide users with an array of safety features that hides one’s internet activity from prying eyes. This includes data encryption, authentication, and monitoring internet traffic.

TCP

TCP is short for “Transmission Control Protocol” which serves as the underlying protocol for sending information over the Internet. It works in conjunction with IP (Internet Protocol) which is why both are often referred to as “TCP/IP” in network computing.

Throttling

Throttling refers to the act of intentionally speeding up or slowing down bandwidth by Internet Service Providers. The latter is done to prevent network congestion and regulate traffic over the network.

Users can experience bandwidth throttling anywhere on the Internet, although it is most common for high-data applications like torrenting and gaming.

TOR

TOR stands for “The Onion Router,” which is a free and open-source program devised to enable anonymous communication over the Internet.

Torrenting

Torrenting is a type of P2P technology that focuses on file sharing among users. With torrents, people can download the files they want while allowing people to do the same. This makes torrent files independent of any single source.

UI

UI is short for “User Interface” and serves as a collective term for all areas where human-machine interactions occur.

VPN Client Meaning

VPN clients can be described as an independent software or networking device that is purposely built to help users seamlessly connect to a VPN network.

All VPN companies have their proprietary VPN meaning client that users need to install and run on their device. In some cases, the VPN client comes pre-installed to a hardware device. Either way, the latter grants users access to a VPN network but only after providing the proper credentials and authentication.

VPN Extension Meaning

VPN extensions are browser add-ons or plugins that can be added to popular browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. These extensions provide a compact and convenient means for turning a VPN on and off when browsing.

VPN Protocol Meaning

Refers to the processes that a VPN meaning service follows to provide users with a safe and private connection to the Internet. At the core, VPN protocols are comprised of a combination of different encryption and transmission protocols. These protocols work together to provide a haven for VPN users.

WebRTC

WebRTC refers to an open-source project that users can access to add real-time communication features to browsers and mobile apps. This platform is free to use, which makes it a popular interface for programming applications.

Wi-Fi

A networking technology that enables computers, smartphones, and other Internet-capable devices to connect wirelessly with one another or to the Internet over a limited area.

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