University of Wisconsin–Madison

VPNs- What Are They, and Why Should We Use Them?

A VPN, or virtual private network, is a tool you can use to help you protect yourself and your information while using the Internet. While you’re using the Internet, the IP address of your computer (aka, the string of numbers assigned to your computer, signifying the location of of your device-- the digital equivalent of a house or apartment number) tells where you are and allows your computer to communicate with other computers via the Internet. (Here’s more info about IPs in case you’re curious!)

Here’s where the VPN comes in to help you with privacy: instead of your IP pinpointing where you and your device are physically located (and potentially opening you up to hackers), the VPN masks your true IP address and makes it look as if you are connecting from a different IP address (usually somewhere else in the world geographically).

This also makes a VPN useful when you would like to access a website that is IP-address protected or blocked-- meaning only certain IP addresses can access the website. This is true of some University of Wisconsin sites, and so UW has its own VPN that you can download and use to access all campus sites even when you’re off-campus (and you could even be in another country, but the UW’s VPN will make it appear as if your IP is on-campus!).

For more information about VPNs in general, check out this article.

For more information about connecting to the UW’s VPN, check out the UW VPN website or this UW Knowledgebase article for help.


Submitted by Emma E Babler on October 9, 2017

This article appears in the categories: Law Library

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