As a regular internet user, you’ve likely heard the terms “virtual private network” (VPN) and “proxy” before but may not understand what they are, if they’re safe and how they differ. Moreover, now that Russia has announced it’s banning VPNs, you might like to know why it would do such a thing.

According to security firm Norton’s latest Cybersecurity Insights Report, only 20 per cent of internet users in the UK use a VPN when connecting to Wi-Fi.

At its most simple, a VPN lets you connect to the web via a server run by a VPN provider. Data from everything you send, searches you make and websites you visit travel between your device and the “VPN server” and are encrypted. In particular, a VPN creates an encrypted connection between two points over a network, one being the user and the other being the VPN server (the termination point). This network can include something as relatively small as a person or company’s private local area network (LAN), or the entire web.

A VPN is, essentially, a private network that uses a public network to connect remote sites or users, while encrypting all of a device’s internet traffic in the process, routing it through a middle-man server in a remote location, granting access to otherwise inaccessible network resources.