The answer to this question depends on what is meant by a VPN. Typically, when somebody refers to a VPN - which stands for virtual private network - they mean a service provided by a company that allows one to securely and anonymously browse the web, check email, stream video, share files and much more.
However, a VPN can also refer to the private network put in place by a business or institution to grant users remote access to local files and computers.
In this article, we first look at the latter type to explain how it differs from commercial VPN services. Then, we discuss these services and the security advantages that dedicated third-party Mac VPNs provide.
- See also: get your company sorted with a business VPN
The Mac VPN Interface
You can access your Mac’s built-in VPN capabilities by going to System Preferences » Network. To add a VPN interface, click on the + sign in the bottom-left of the screen, select VPN from the Interface drop-down menu, choose the VPN type, and enter a name. Once created, you’ll have the opportunity to enter a Server Address, Remote ID, username, and password.
This interface allows you to connect to the virtual private network of your employer, school, or other institution, which will have provided you with all the details you need. Once the VPN is active, all your online activity will be rerouted through the host’s servers. For businesses, this is used to ensure secure remote access and facilitate file sharing and collaboration.
VPNs are also commonly used by colleges and universities to provide access to on-campus services, such as library databases, for researchers, professors, and students working remotely.
Using a VPN to securely and privately access the internet
When most people talk about VPNs, they are referring to VPN providers that enable users to securely and privately connect to any one of their servers located throughout the world.
VPNs offer a number of advantages to users. It works by providing a highly secure, encrypted connection between your device and the provider’s servers. All the information that passes between the VPN and your computer is encrypted and cannot be easily read by external parties, including hackers, your ISP, or the government.
There are a few advantages to this. First, it enables you to access sensitive information, like bank accounts, private emails, and personal files, in a more secure fashion, especially when doing so over public Wi-Fi. In fact, with a good VPN service, public Wi-Fi can be just as secure as your home connection.
Second, with a VPN, your online activity stays private and anonymous. Providers like ExpressVPN go one step further with audited zero-logging policies. Not only do they hide your identity and location from any websites you visit, but they also never make any record of it. If they are coerced by governments or hackers to share their logs and servers, the former will find nothing of value. Browsing the web, sending emails, and torrenting are all much more secure this way - there are dozens of VPN uses that a third-party service can help you with.
Do Macs have their own built-in VPN?
Macs do not have their own built-in VPN. While the System Preferences interface enables you to establish a connection to a VPN server, the actual services are delivered by VPN providers.
But if you’re looking for a secure way to browse the internet, share files, and check emails and bank accounts, read our buying guide for the best Mac VPNs available today.
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