What is a VPN? What is a hosting provider?

A VPN is short for a Virtual Private Network, but you can think of it as simply as a tool to mask your IP address.

What does a VPN do exactly?

When you're browsing the internet, your computer's IP address can be recorded by the website you're viewing. This piece of data is very small, but it can be used to determine your general location.

To get around this, a VPN essentially funnels your internet traffic through another device. You can think of it as a man in the middle between you and a website. All it's doing is acting on behalf of you.

The website simply records the IP address of the VPN instead of your IP address. That's how you anonymize your IP address with a VPN.

Are VPNS always associated with criminal or nefarious activity?

Not necessarily. Just like all technology, it just depends on the person's intent behind it.

VPNs can be used to protect your browsing data when using a public Wifi network like a coffee shop or airport. VPNs are also used extensively by journalists and whistleblowers to protect their identities when reporting sensitive information.

For ecommerence specifically, there are perfectly valid scenarios when a customer would like to make their purchase confidential. VPNs give that extra piece of mind when shopping online.

Should I block VPNs from accessing my website or Shopify store?

Most of the time it's a good idea. Unless your store is selling sensitive goods or services that your customers would like to remain discrete for. Your customers might use VPNs to protect their identity when shopping for items they might want to keep secret from others.

However, VPNs are also abused by criminals to cover their tracks when using stolen credit cards to make illicit purchases. Or perhaps to conceal their identity when looking at your content to copy your intellectual property or products.

How can I block VPNs from visiting my Shopify store?

You can block VPNs using Blockade on the Shopify App Store. Just enable the VPNs blocking filter and your store won't be accessible to all known public VPNs. It's really that easy.

What's a Hosting Provider?

A hosting provider is simply a company that provides web servers for rent. You've probably heard of names like GoDaddy, BlueHost, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud, AWS and Azure. These companies allow you to rent hosting so your customers can view your website.

These servers can also be rented for running bots & scrapers that crawl websites for all sorts of reasons, popular uses include fetching pricing data for analysis on competitors pricing.

Hosting providers can also host VPN software. In that way a technical person can create their own person VPN service. So a hosting provider isn't mutual exclusive to just website hosting, they can be used for hosting bots & VPNs as well.

How can you detect if an IP address belongs to a Hosting Provider?

Hosting providers typically register sections of IP addresses for their servers. This information is listed on their websites. By checking if an IP address is listed in one of these lists, you can determine if the IP address belongs to a hosting provider.

Some of the most common hosting providers in the U.S. for bots & VPNs are: