What is a VPN?

“A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a network technology that creates a secure network connection over a public network such as the Internet or a private network owned by a service provider.” Many companies, schools, and the government uses it so they can connect securely to remote private networks. By using VPNs, multiple remote sites can easily be networked into one and be accessed from anywhere. To gain access to these networks, the user inputs credentials to login. Often there is also a PIN token that changes based on a set frequency and it must be entered as well.

There are various VPN protocols that can be used to transfer data securely. The main 4 are IPSec, SSL/TLS, PPTP, and L2TP.

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IPSec stands for IP security and works by either encrypting individual pieces of data in packets or “tunneling” which encrypts the whole packet. IPSec is often referred to as a “security overlay” because it can be used as a layer for other protocols.

SSL/TLS stands for Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security. Both of them use a form of cryptography and “handshakes” for authentication. This process involves certificates, which are keys that are stored on the client as well as the server.

PPTP stands for Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol and can be used in order to connect a remote client to a private server over the Internet. This is often one of the most used protocols due to its integration with the Windows OS and easy configuration.

L2TP stands for Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol and can be used to tunnel traffic between two sites on the internet. This protocol is usually used in conjunction with IPSec for a secure layer. Unlike PPTP however, a shared key or certificates must be used.

Until now, I have only mentioned the use of VPNs by various institutions. While it may seem complicated for the average user, it can be very beneficial to them. There are many free and paid VPN services that work with the press of a button to encrypt all your data and shield you from hackers. These services are often very useful on open WiFi networks, such as at your hotel or coffee shop.

Some services include Tunnelbear, Hotspot Shield, ZPN Connect, and the Tor Network. These can be used to secure your traffic or access content designed to be viewed in another region. An example would be using a VPN to connect to the USA from China in order to watch a movie on Netflix.

captureAs you can see, there is no excuse for not using a VPN due to how widely available they are to all users. Without a VPN, your traffic can be easily looked at in public places, which is a huge privacy risk. By using a Virtual Private Network, you can easily connect securely, no matter what conditions the network poses.

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