Virtual Private Network or simply VPN is a connection that ‘securely’ links two networks, such as a public network like Internet and a private network, like your home Internet. In simple words, it enables your personal computer to send and receive data in an encrypted form, across a public network.
The reason why it called ‘virtual’ is because it protects the data through its virtual private network, over a physical public network. As far as the type of data is concerned, users can send and receive voice, video, texts, images and all other types of data.
Typically, a VPN is used in corporate environments where remote employees of a company use it to access confidential information, or share data with each other. With the use of virtual secure connections, a VPN lets a remote user to get linked to his company’s private network. So, it is much like a global Wide Area Network (WAN) that enables protected public and private communications.
Working of a VPN
Basically, VPN incorporates two features to ensure security of the transmitted data. One is Tunneling and the other is Encryption. Lets discuss these terminologies in detail:
Tunneling: Fundamentally, a VPN tunnel encapsulates the data transferred between two end points. It is like a ‘secure’ virtual or logical network connection, in the Internet cloud which encases the data packets using some network protocols, and transmits them between VPN client and the server. At the receiving end, the data is de-encapsulated.
Depending upon the source that initiates the connection, the process of tunneling is further divided into two categories:
- Voluntary, where the connection setup is managed by the VPN client
- Compulsory, where the connection setup is managed by the VPN provider, which means there is no user input requirement and user don’t have any control over the connection initiation
Encryption: It is the process of disguising transmitted information by encrypting it in a format so that it is not identified by any unauthorized person. This technique safeguards your online browsing from thefts and other attacks.
For tunnel creation and encryption of data, there are several network protocols, out of which the 4 most widely implemented are discussed below:
PPTP: Point-to-Point Tunneling protocol is used for both remote and site-to-site VPN networks. Being the first protocol in the family, it is considered to be very weak in terms of security as it offers low encryption; though it comes with an advantage that it is very fast and supports almost every OS including Windows, Mac, and mobile operating systems, as well.
L2TP: Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is a combination of PPTP and L2F (Layer 2 Forwarding) technology. As this protocol does not offers confidentiality, it is therefore used in combination with IPSec protocol (discussed next) and is applicable to both remote and site-to-site VPNs.
IPSec: This protocol mainly works towards securing the end to end communications occurring in a VPN tunnel. Not only it implements encryption process for the passing data, but also offers compression and authentication for complete safety of data.
SSH: Secure Shell Tunneling protocol makes use of secure shell protocol to create a tunnel for data transmission. Its biggest advantage is that it bypasses firewalls easily. For initiation of a secure connection between two end points, it makes use of HTTPS protocol.
What happens when You connect to a VPN?
As soon as your computer connects to your VPN, the remote server of the VPN connects with the Internet through an authentication criteria and lets you access the Web. At this point, you are connected to the public network (Internet) with the IP address according to the location of the remote server you are linked with. This simply means that your VPN server disguises your original IP address with its own IP address, which is visible to the rest of the world.
For more clarity, lets discuss an example. Suppose you are in New York, but are connected to a server in India through your VPN connection. This means that your computer will surf the Web using the server in India and all your Web traffic will appear to be coming from India only.
It comes to be of great use in situations where you are unable to access certain websites because of the restrictions applied by the network administrators. Usually, social media websites are blocked in some countries and for those who wish access such websites without being caught, VPN is a boon.
However, a VPN does a lot more rather than just faking your IP address. It is a great technology to secure your browsing data from hackers and online thieves. This means if you are connected to a public Wifi, where your online privacy is highly vulnerable, a VPN can be of great help. It offers data encryption to such a level that even your Internet Service Provider (ISP) won’t be able to track your browsing information.
How to create a VPN?
Whether you are an individual internet user or an organization, there are several ways using which you can create a VPN. Just explore the Web world for VPN services and you will find ample options to make your choice. VPN service providers offer complete information about configuration of a VPN network, according to your Operating System and choice of tunneling protocol.
Folks! Hopefully, this article has cleared all your doubts about a What is VPN and How it works; various technologies involved in VPN; it’s uses and the benefits it offers to the internet users.