Introduction to Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Article (PSA-0009)
Submitted by: Billy Joe Long, Member/Manager
Company: Problem Solving Applications, LLC
Titled: Introduction to Virtual Private Network (VPN)
Original release date: July 17, 2018

Introduction to Virtual Private Network (VPN)

A VPN provides a secure way of connecting to a remote network over a public network (the Internet). This remote network is typically a private network, such as your workplace or home network. A “tunnel” is created through the public network to your private network at the other end. All network traffic through this tunnel is encrypted to ensure it is kept secure and private.

What can you do with VPN?

With a VPN you are able to do a number of things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with a standard network connection. For example:

  • Network Security & Privacy: All network traffic through your VPN connection is encrypted and therefore secure. This allows you to use public networks (motels, coffee shops, etc.) knowing your network traffic is safe and secure. Without VPN it is relatively easy for other people to view your network traffic, see what you are doing online, and possibly steal your information and login details.
  • Access Your Workplace/Home Remotely: You can connect to your workplace/home VPN and have access as if you were physically in the office/house. You can then do things like access file servers, computers, databases, email, internal webpages, and other services you might not have access to outside of your work network.
  • Access Restricted Content: By connecting to a VPN server in another location you can make it appear to websites, using geolocation, that you are physically in the correct location for access. So when you’re travelling overseas you can still view websites you would normally use at home, such as television, movie and music streaming websites.
  • Avoid Censorship: VPN allows you to bypass censorship and access websites and services which may otherwise be blocked. Some countries impose censorship on Internet access while in that country, and a VPN provides a way to still maintain access to the services you would normally use.
    How does VPN work?

    A typical VPN consists of two components: a VPN client and a VPN server.

    A VPN client is software that allows you to connect your computer to a VPN server and establish a VPN connection. It is installed on your computer and communicates with the VPN server to create a secure link for your network traffic. The VPN Client is what you use to control the VPN connection. A VPN server is setup at the location you want to connect to, such as at a workplace or at home. A VPN server performs authentication to ensure only registered users can connect to the VPN.

    All network traffic through the tunnel created between the VPN client and the VPN server is encrypted to keep it private and secure.

    Should you use VPN?

    Even if you have no need to be able to access a private network remotely, a VPN is vital to ensure the security and privacy of your network traffic.

    Public networks, and in particular public wireless networks, provide an easy way for hackers and malicious users to listen in (“sniff”) on your network usage. This may allow them to see what web pages you are viewing, steal username and passwords, steal session information to be able to log into sites as you, and extract other private data. In addition, skilled hackers may perform a “man in the middle” attack. This allows them to not only monitor in depth your network traffic, but also alter your traffic or inject their own traffic in an attempt to fool a user into revealing important data.

    Using a VPN protects you from such attacks.

    If you are thinking about utilizing VPN services, I would encourage you to contact your IT guy (or gal) for their input. “There is wisdom in a multitude of counselors”.

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