Avast Secure Browser is a fast, feature-packed private browser that makes protecting yourself online easy.
VPN, or Virtual Private Networks, as any good wine, has evolved, and matured since the time it was originally envisioned. Back in the day, when it was proposed as an idea, it essentially was just a set of rules, a framework for a networking protocol to be acceptable as a VPN. Historically speaking, the original implementations were used to remotely (and securely) access resources on the internal network of an organization (sounds familiar, 2020?). In the past decade, this usage trend started to shift towards geofencing circumvention, privacy and anonymity preservation, and a general feel-good attitude towards online life.
Now, sailing to more practical waters, since a VPN is just an abstract concept, the industry has spawned many products that differ only slightly from each other, and by extension, aim to satisfy a slightly different need. In the spirit of this exact philosophy Avast Secure Browser introduces two types of VPNs in its arsenal, powered by Avast’s very own Mimic VPN engine; one, as is usually the case, encompasses the whole device, and all communication goes through it, and the second one has a reach only in the browser, leaving other network communication to flow freely.
Before delving further into the differences between the types of VPNs and their ramifications, let’s take a very quick detour to present how a generic VPN works, and how Mimic VPN took that very concept to the next level.
VPNs are sometimes called tunnels, so let’s use this analogy. Sometimes whenever I was driving long distances, I got frustrated by traffic jams, one-lane roads filled with slow-moving vehicles, and so on, every time I’d imagine a utopia where for every possible destination I’d have a private road that takes me (and only me) to that destination, or at least somewhere near it. Now, imagine this setup, where these tunnels or private lanes would be accessible to relatives coming to visit, delivery workers, et cetera. VPNs work exactly like this, a website is one vehicle on this road, an email application is another, and a movie streaming is another, albeit very long, trailer (pun intended). In addition to being accessible only to you, these roads also preserve the secrecy of the vehicles passing through them, so naturally, it should be an underground road, hence, a tunnel.
The first and foremost enhancement of the concept of a VPN what Mimic brings is the seamlessness of these tunnels. In our analogy, imagine these tunnels with bright neon signs saying that this is a private tunnel and public access is denied. In some cases that might spark some unwanted attention. In contrast, Mimic tunnels are nondescript entrances perfectly fitting into the scenery. The other equally important difference, again, through the lens of our road analogy, is the ease of travel on Mimic tunnels. While the neon-lit tunnels have unnecessary ID verification checkpoints every couple of miles, Mimic, in contrast, has only the necessary amount, leaving traffic to flow uncongested.
Naturally, there is room for more enhancements, and that is where Avast Secure Browser’s two types of VPNs come into play. One VPN encompasses the whole device’s traffic, and it is what most VPN products on the market offer; whichever application we use, we go through the tunnel first.
This is important in cases of heavily censored internet access or circumventing eavesdroppers' efforts to get a glimpse of our internet activity on all our applications. One might establish that privacy comes with the sacrifice of convenience. This is especially true for Device-Wide VPNs, all background traffic has to share only one private tunnel. In contrast, Avast Secure Browser VPN is aimed toward the same level of privacy and security, but only for the browsing activities inside Avast Secure Browser.
Knowing that traffic is only originating from the browser, opens up a whole array of methods to improve the experience; in our analogy, the private tunnel would be used only by one type of vehicle, and thus, we can tailor the road to the specifications of that particular vehicle, dramatically reducing travel times.
As a parting thought, we should consider VPNs as a tool inside our toolkit for preserving privacy and security in our everyday online lives. And with every tool comes a “right tool for the right job” mentality, which should be applied in our ongoing fight to uphold privacy and security.
by Barna Csukas, Lead Software Engineer, Avast Secure Browser