A VPN (Virtual private network) allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. VPN is a secure tunnel between your device and the internet.
VPNs (Virtual private networks) are used to protect your online traffic from snooping, interference, and censorship. VPNs can be used to access region-restricted websites, shield your browsing activity from prying eyes on public Wi-Fi, and more.
VPN service allows you to change or ‘spoof’ your IP address to a secure server. That helps to make you more anonymous online and lets you effectively trick your laptop or mobile device into thinking it’s in another location.
VPNs essentially forward all your network traffic to the network, which is where the benefits – like accessing local network resources remotely and bypassing Internet censorship – all come from.
Most operating systems have integrated Virtual Private Network support.
VPN technology was developed to allow remote users and branch offices to access corporate applications and resources.
To ensure security, the private network connection is established using an encrypted layered tunneling protocol, and VPN users use authentication methods, including passwords or certificates, to gain access to the Virtual Private Network.
A VPN ensures that the information traveling between your connected device (computer, smartphone, tablet) and the VPN’s server is encrypted — and therefore secure from hackers, cybercriminals, and data thieves.
As an added bonus, with your VPN connection, you can also access restricted websites and apps from anywhere in the world.
The encrypted connection helps ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted. It prevents unauthorized people from eavesdropping on the traffic and allows the user to conduct work remotely.
Types of VPNs
1. Remote access VPN
A remote-access VPN securely connects a device outside the corporate office. These devices are known as endpoints and may be laptops, tablets, or smartphones.
Advances in Virtual Private Network technology have allowed security checks to be conducted on endpoints to make sure they meet a certain posture before connecting. Think of remote access as a computer to the network.
2. Site-to-Site VPN
A Site-to-Site VPN is also called as Router-to-Router VPN and is mostly used in the corporates.
Companies, with offices in different geographical locations, use Site-to-site VPN to connect the network of one office location to the network at another office location.
When multiple offices of the same company are connected using Site-to-Site VPN type, it is called as Intranet-based Virtual Private Network.
When companies use Site-to-site VPN type to connect to the office of another company, it is called an Extranet based Virtual Private Network.
Basically, Site-to-site VPN creates a virtual bridge between the networks at geographically distant offices and connect them through the Internet and maintain secure and private communication between the networks.
Since Site-to-site VPN is based on Router-to-Router communication, in this Virtual Private Network type one router acts as a Virtual Private Network Client and another router as a VPN Server.
The communication between the two routers starts only after authentication is validated between the two.
3. Mobile VPN
In a mobile VPN, a Virtual Private Network server still sits at the edge of the company network, enabling secure tunneled access by authenticated, authorized VPN clients.
Mobile Virtual Private Network tunnels are not tied to physical IP addresses, however. Instead, each tunnel is bound to a logical IP address.
That logical IP address sticks to the mobile device no matter where it may roam.
An effective mobile Virtual Private Network provides continuous service to users and can seamlessly switch across access technologies and multiple public and private networks.
4. Hardware VPN
Hardware VPNs offer a number of advantages over the software-based VPN.
In addition to enhanced security, hardware VPNs can provide load balancing to handle large client loads.
The administration is managed through a Web browser interface. A hardware VPN is more expensive than a software Virtual Private Network.
Because of the cost, hardware Virtual Private Network are a more realistic option for large businesses than for small businesses or branch offices.
Several vendors, including Irish vendor InvizBox, offer devices that can function as hardware VPNs.
5. VPN appliance
A virtual private network appliance is a network device that is equipped with strong security features.
It is a router that provides load balancing, firewall protection, authentication, authorization, and encryption.
A Virtual Private Network appliance may also be called a secure socket layer (SSL) VPN appliance.
Virtual private network (VPN) appliances use public telecommunication infrastructure such as the Internet to provide remote offices with secure access to proprietary data. They offer central management and multi-platform functionality.
Virtual private network appliances are installed to provide better performance and low-maintenance operation.
They are scalable and can provide the features that specific market segments require without additional installations.
VPN appliances improve performance and throughput while reducing overall cost.
6. Dynamic Multipoint VPN
DMVPN (Dynamic Multipoint VPN) is a routing technique we can use to build a Virtual Private Network network with multiple sites without having to statically configure all devices.
It’s a “hub and spoke” network where the spokes will be able to communicate with each other directly without having to go through the hub.
Encryption is supported through IPsec which makes DMVPN a popular choice for connecting different sites using regular Internet connections.
It’s a great backup or alternative to private networks like MPLS VPN.
How a VPN works
When you connect your computer (or another device, such as a smartphone or tablet) to a VPN, the computer acts as if it’s on the same local network as the Virtual Private Network.
At its most basic level, Virtual Private Network tunneling creates a point-to-point connection that cannot be accessed by unauthorized users.
To actually create the Virtual Private Network tunnel, the endpoint device needs to be running a VPN client (software application) locally or in the cloud.
The VPN client runs in the background and is not noticeable to the end-user unless there are performance issues.
The performance of a Virtual Private Network can be affected by a variety of factors, among them, the speed of users’ internet connections, the types of protocols an internet service provider may use and the type of encryption the VPN uses.
In the enterprise, performance can also be affected by the poor quality of service (QoS) outside the control of an organization’s information technology (IT) department.
Types of VPN protocols
1. Internet Protocol Security (IPSec)
Internet Protocol Security, known as IPSec, is used to secure Internet communication across an IP network.
IPSec secures Internet Protocol communication by verifying the session and encrypts each data packet during the connection.
IPSec runs in 2 modes:
- Transport mode
- Tunneling mode
The work of transport mode is to encrypt the message in the data packet and the tunneling mode encrypts the whole data packet.
IPSec can also be used with other security protocols to improve the security system.
2. Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
L2TP or Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol is a tunneling protocol that is often combined with another VPN security protocol like IPSec to establish a highly secure VPN connection.
L2TP generates a tunnel between two L2TP connection points and the IPSec protocol encrypts the data and maintains secure communication between the tunnel.
3. Point to Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
PPTP or Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol generates a tunnel and confines the data packet.
Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) is used to encrypt the data between the connection.
PPTP is one of the most widely used VPN protocol and has been in use since the early release of Windows. PPTP is also used on Mac and Linux apart from Windows.
4. SSL and TLS
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) and TLS (Transport Layer Security) create a VPN connection where the web browser acts as the client and user access is restricted to specific applications instead of the entire network.
SSL and TLS protocol are most commonly used by online shopping websites and service providers.
Web browsers switch to SSL with ease and with almost no action required from the user since web browsers come integrated with SSL and TLS. SSL connections have https in the beginning of the URL instead of HTTP.
OpenVPN is an open-source VPN that is useful for creating Point-to-Point and Site-to-Site connections.
It uses a custom security protocol based on SSL and TLS protocol.
6. Secure Shell (SSH)
Secure Shell or SSH creates the VPN tunnel through which the data transfer happens and also ensures that the tunnel is encrypted.
SSH connections are created by an SSH client and data is transferred from a local port on to the remote server through the encrypted tunnel.
What does a VPN do?
Most people will probably agree that the basic tenets of a Virtual Private Network are a good thing.
Here at Cyberatma, we think that internet privacy is more than just a good thing it’s vital to the success of the online world.
That said, many people delay getting a Virtual Private Network, considering it inessential or, worse, unnecessary. They shouldn’t.
A good way of illustrating the necessity of a VPN is to show just how exposed you are when your internet connection is not encrypted.
- Stay private online
- Hide your IP and location
- Encrypt your communications
- Unblock censored websites
- Avoid spying and throttling
- Find deals and fight ads
- Browse anonymously
- Secure your devices
- Avoid throttling
Why should You use a VPN?
Many of you probably first started using a VPN for work, especially when you’re working from home.
There are a few advantages to using a VPN for a company. For example, it lets employees access office servers that aren’t connected to the internet, as you’re all connected to the same private network.
Back in the days before cloud-hosted Office 365 servers or the G Suite, many companies were managing their own email and calendar servers.
IT services could force you to connect to the company’s VPN first to access your emails and calendar events. It’s a good way to protect sensitive information.
But there are a few drawbacks as well. When you use a VPN connection, all network traffic goes through the Virtual Private Network, including your internet traffic.
Your company’s IT service could enforce strict browsing rules and prevent you from using Twitter. Or they could even watch and record your internet browsing habits to find a good excuse to fire you later down the road (too much Reddit, kthxbye).
But office environments aren’t the only use case for a Virtual Private Network. If you live outside of the U.S., you know that a VPN can save the day when you’re trying to stream something from HBO Now, Netflix’s U.S. movie library, Hulu or one of the many streaming services that restrict you from using them abroad.
Many companies provide access to a bunch of servers around the world so that you can pretend you’re in another country.
As I told you, once you set up a VPN connection, all network traffic goes through a tunnel and HBO’s servers will think that they’re sending data to a customer in the U.S.
They’re sending data to an American IP address indeed (the address of the server), but everything is then sent through the VPN tunnel to your device on the other side of the world.
Sometimes, the VPN server doesn’t have enough bandwidth to upload the movie through the tunnel in a good resolution and your movie will look like crap.
Sometimes, content companies like Netflix try to ban IP addresses that belong to well-known VPN servers, rendering this trick useless.
And finally, if you’ve traveled to China or another country that blocks many internet services, you’ve been relying on a Virtual Private Network to connect to Gmail, Facebook or Twitter.
China blocks websites at the network level. You need to connect to a VPN server outside of China to access those websites.
Just like Netflix, the Chinese government tries to ban IP addresses of popular VPN services, making it more difficult to establish a reliable connection with a server outside of China.
What features to look for in VPN
First, what kind of logging does your VPN provider do? In other words, what information do they keep about your VPN sessions and how long is it kept?
Are they recording the IP addresses you use, the websites you visit, the amount of bandwidth used, or any other key details?
All VPNs have to do some kind of logging, but there are VPNs that collect as little data as possible and others that aren’t so minimalist.
On top of that, some services discard their logs in a matter of hours or days while other companies hold onto them for months at a time.
How much privacy you expect from your VPN-based browsing will greatly influence how long you can stand having your provider maintain your activity logs—and what those logs contain.
Some companies disallow torrents completely, some are totally fine with them, while others won’t stop torrents but officially disallow them.
We aren’t here to advise pirates, but anyone looking to use a VPN should understand what is and is not okay to do on their provider’s network.
Finally, does the VPN provider offer their own application that you can download and install?
Unless you’re a power user who wants to mess with OpenVPN, a customized VPN program is really the way to go.
It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any great technical knowledge or the need to adjust any significant settings.
How to choose a VPN?
A smart way to stay secure when using public Wi-Fi is to use a VPN solution. But what’s the best way to choose a virtual private network? Here are some questions to ask when you’re choosing a VPN provider.
- Do they respect your privacy? The point of using a VPN is to protect your privacy, so it’s crucial that your VPN provider respects your privacy, too. They should have a no-log policy, which means that they never track or log your online activities.
- Do they run the most current protocol? OpenVPN provides stronger security than other protocols, such as PPTP. OpenVPN is open-source software that supports all the major operating systems.
- Do they set data limits? Depending on your internet usage, bandwidth may be a large deciding factor for you. Make sure their services match your needs by checking to see if you’ll get full, unmetered bandwidth without data limits.
- Where are the servers located? Decide which server locations are important to you. If you want to appear as if you’re accessing the Web from a certain locale, make sure there’s a server in that country.
- Will you be able to set up VPN access on multiple devices? If you are like the average consumer, you typically use between three and five devices. Ideally, you’d be able to use the VPN on all of them at the same time.
- How much will it cost? If the price is important to you, then you may think that a free VPN is the best option. Remember, however, that some VPN services may not cost you money, but you might “pay” in other ways, such as being served frequent advertisements or having your personal information collected and sold to third parties.
Is a VPN Fully Legal?
Yes, in 97% of countries.
Using a VPN is completely fine in most countries around the world.
However, we fact-checked 196 VPN country laws to confirm that some countries control Virtual Private Network use, while others ban them outright.
Only “Government Approved” VPNs are supposed to be used in:
- United Arab Emirates
Getting caught using one that’s not sponsored could mean fines, jail time, or both.
Beware when in these countries, though. Because you can pretty much assume that “government approved” means they share some (if not all) data with each government when called upon.
Is VPN traffic encrypted?
Yes, traffic on the virtual network is sent securely by establishing an encrypted connection across the Internet known as a tunnel.
Virtual Private Network traffic from a device such as a computer, tablet, or smartphone is encrypted as it travels through this tunnel.
Offsite employees can then use the virtual network to access the corporate network.
Is VPN a Protocol?
No, VPN is not a protocol. Instead, VPNs are applications that grant you access to various protocols, as explained in this article.
To learn more about this type of application, we’ve prepared a series of helpful articles and guides.
For example, make sure to read about what is Virtual Private Network, how VPNs work and don’t forget to read about the benefits of VPN applications.
How does a VPN hide my IP address?
With a VPN, you are effectively switching out your computer’s real IP address with the IP address and physical location of the VPN’s server.
This ensures you do not expose your personal information. Given there are many people using the same server simultaneously, it’s much harder to separate your data from the data of others on that server.
By changing your IP address, you can block people from tracking your location. Understand how IP addresses work and use a Virtual Private Network to protect yourself.
What’s The Fastest VPN Protocol?
The fastest VPN protocols are PPTP and IKEv2/IPSec. You can also get fast performance by utilizing SSTP and OpenVPN UDP.
Our strong recommendation would be to stick to the OpenVPN protocol – as this one currently brings the highest level of security without sacrificing the speed of your Web connection in a dramatic way.
Are free VPNs safe?
Not all VPN services are reputable. You need to make sure you understand how a Virtual Private Network company makes its money.
If you can’t tell how a free Virtual Private Network can sustain its business, then you should be wary about how your data could be exploited for profit.