When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks most users are unaware that their personal information, location and entire hard drive is visible to anyone connected to that network. It is thus necessary to protect and hide yourself from other users on a public Wi-Fi network.
For instance, Edward Snowden’s viral message on how the NSA is forcing search engines and social networks to submit private data of individuals for screening. Similarly, the collection of customer data by ISPs which is then sold to third party advertisers to spam ads on web browsers is also no secret.
Most people would find peace behind a simple antivirus and firewall, but such remedies do not hide IP addresses and user files over public networks. The most ideal solution in this case would be using a Virtual Private Network or VPN. Windows 7 comes built in with VPN capabilities allowing users to manually configure their desired service.
How to Configure VPN on Windows 7
Configuring a VPN on Windows 7 is easy as eating cake since the process is built into the OS wizard that will guide you through the process. Settings that you need will be discussed as we progress. So let’s begin setting up your personal VPN
The first step, is to click on the start button and in the search bar type VPN
As illustrated, the option above should appear click the setup option and you will activate the VPN setup wizard. Move on to step 2.
Once the wizard has started you will be required to enter the server address and name of the VPN provider. The Internet Address can also be the IP address of the VPN. Windows 7 will connect to this address automatically as we will observe later.
Once you have typed in the details and clicked next, the next screen will appear as follows. Here you will be required to type in the VPN username and password. These usernames and passwords are usually defined by the VPN service provider that you want to use.
The domain name is optional so if one is not provided there is no need to panic, simply click connect and your VPN connection is ready. You can choose to save your password at this stage or you can choose to enter it every time you connect to the VPN.
Once you click connect, Windows 7 will automatically verify you username and password, establish a connection to the server and your VPN will begin masking your IP address and ensure your web activity is anonymous.
Every time that you wish to connect to the VPN, you can drag down to the bottom right to the System Tray and find the newly created VPN in network connections.
Simply click connect and you will be in the safe hands of the VPN, masking your IP and making your web browsing journey anonymous.
Changing Networking Settings
One important step in setting up your VPN in Windows 7 is altering the Networking settings as follows. Right click the VPN connection then click Properties
Go to properties and choose the Networking tab which will bring you to the window shown on the left (above). Uncheck the TCP/IPv6 option; this is the last step before you can continue using your VPN connection. Some VPN services do not route traffic through TCP/IPv6, so might as well disable this option and use TCP/Ipv4.
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Advance Security Settings of VPN Connections
Now, we know how to manually setup a VPN with Windows 7. One of the most amazing features of VPN setup in Windows 7 is its ability to provide four different security protocols. This simply means what level of security the user desires depending on the kind of ISP you are connecting to.
The 4 available security protocols are
- PPTP (Point to Point Tunneling Protocol)
- L2TP/IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol with IPSec)
- SSTP(Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol) , and
PPTP security protocols generally use 128-bit encryption of data, which has been used widely in Windows operating systems since dial up networking. PPTP connections are considered fast since they have a lower encryption and are also more stable with most Wi-Fi hot spots.
L2TP protocols use 256-bit encryption, the highest degree of encryption. Browsing and file transfer is hence much more secure with this security protocol. Although it requires more processing since it encapsulates data twice, it is a better option if security is your major concern.
SSTP protocol uses 256-bit encryption with the addition of 2048-bit key authentication certificates. It not only encrypts data on the highest level but authenticates user identity every time a connection is established. SSTP is considered the most secure protocol but is only available for Windows users. It also has the ability to bypass any firewall.
IKEv2 is a protocol designed only for the Windows 7 and Windows server 2008 operating systems. Considered the next generation of security protocols, it uses the highest grade encryption algorithms. IKEv2 is recommended for users who are constantly on the go connecting to various wired and Wi-Fi networks.
Choosing Your Desired Security Protocol
Depending on your VPN provider, you can choose between the security protocols available in Windows 7.
Go back to the system tray> network connections and then right click on your VPN connection. Click properties, this will take you to the connection properties. Choose the security tab as shown in the figure on the right and in the Type of VPN dropdown menu you will find the available security protocols to choose from.
For using different protocols it is recommended that you create multiple VPN connections as shown above in the How to Configure VPN on Windows 7 section. If your VPN provider allows it you can use multiple security encryption protocols depending on the type of activity you are undergoing.
Advantages of Using VPN for Windows 7
Using VPN for Windows 7 operating systems has its unique benefits as we have outlined for you below
The increased security that VPNs provide for the Windows 7 interface is important knowing that not just hackers but search engines and government agencies are spying on your location and online activity.
Hiding your IP address
By masking your IP address you can browse freely without having to be located and your web activity being tracked. You can check this by connecting to your VPN and then typing IP locator on Google, Yahoo! or Bing.
Bypassing filters and Unblocking websites
VPNs have the unique capability of unblocking geo-restricted content and bypassing filters, so you can browse with ultimate freedom without having cyber watchdogs sniffing around you. Streaming videos, listening to music and accessing media like BBC iPlayer are just a “VPN” away.
Anonymous web surfing
When connected to a VPN your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will never be able to track your browsing habits and surfing history. All they will see is a connection to a remote host, i.e. the VPN service.
Information sharing and Remote connections
Sharing information, sending emails and files becomes easier and highly secure courtesy of the encryption provided by VPNs. Remote business and home users can freely connect to social media, email and P2P services with a sense of maximum protection.
Today we know that all but police dogs are snooping on our internet connection may it be the governments, ISPs, search engines or hackers. Since Microsoft is all cushy with the NSA there is no doubt that your web activity is being monitored when using their operating systems.
Be sure that you are highly protected an invisible on the internet. A single firewall or antivirus is no more capable of keeping your identity and data safe. Invest some time and research more about VPN services and which ones can help you go invisible when online.
Until we meet again go secure, go anonymous, go VPN on Windows 7.
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