VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, it is a specific mode of data transmission, such as building a virtual network that can be privately used to send one’s packets. The encryption of the information sent and received through the VPN is the feature that can lock the contents and the connection, making this type of transmission more secure than any other. VPNs are a technical forcing that acts above standard network protocols, allowing specific purposes to be achieved.
A VPN, for example, hides the IP (replacing it with that of the dedicated server), which allows you to cancel any user’s geolocation. This will enable you to browse outside of all the limitations that traditional navigation undergoes. For example, you can access the US Netflix catalogue (undoubtedly different and more prosperous than the European one) without the service itself redirecting to the national version with all the limitations of the case. Anonymity is essential for many utilities, while security is necessary for all that is remote work: accessing company servers via a VPN means keeping information safe and avoiding problems for the company, for projects, for internal communications, and your accounts.
VPN is Used For
VPNs are used above all in the business environment and by public administrations, especially for the possibility of reducing costs in the creation of one’s protected network and created, precisely, by exploiting the infrastructure of the public network. However, many private users prefer to surf the net via VPN to explore and exchange data on the Internet safely and without restrictions or geoblocking.
Among the various services available, some providers also offer the possibility to choose which protocols to use for the connection by opting for a VPN server set up within their network (corporate/private) or by connecting one managed by third parties. Below we analyze in detail the types, operating principles, and protocols that characterize a VPN.
Classification of VPN
VPN networks are divided into remote access networks and site-to-site networks:
Remote access VPN connection
Dial-up connections allow users (for example, intelligent working) to access a server on a private network via the Internet. This type of connection can be seen as a link between a VPN client PC and the company’s server. As already said, from the logical point of view, it is as if you had a dedicated and private connection;
Site-to-site VPN connection
A site-to-site connection is used to connect in a private network, always with the help of a public network, offices located in multiple locations, or other organizations, allowing routing and secure communication. In this scenario, each office will have a dedicated router, a node of the VPN network that will route data packets to the same recipients according to a client/server model, sharing information with the remote offices in a completely transparent way. Conceptually, two sub-classes of site-to-site VPN can be distinguished:
- A VPN-Intranet class when joining multiple offices of the same company;
- A VPN-Extranet class when joining companies and offices outside the organization.
How Does VPN Work?
There is absolutely nothing illegal in using a VPN; on the contrary: it is a moral choice that allows you to operate on the network in greater security. It is, therefore, not an escape from legality. Still, a careful way of working online, especially when there is valuable information at stake and the approach to security, is an essential symptom of professionalism (see, to stay current, the cases of cyber-attacks).
The secret lies in the so-called “tunnelling,” i.e., creating a natural tunnel within which one’s data is transmitted. This dedicated channel isolates the information from the rest of the network, protecting it and making it available only to the two ends of the communication in progress: the client’s node and the server of the VPN service.
Understanding how a VPN works are essential as it relies on the security of its traffic packets to external companies. Therefore, it is necessary to choose safe, referenced, solid references: the traffic is conveyed on servers that become the center of gravity of one’s online activities, so it is necessary to analyze every aspect of the chosen service before opting for an offer.
Performance is also significant since servers with low capacity (or positioned too far away) could extremely slow down one’s online experience with deleterious effects on daily work, study or entertainment activities. Furthermore, the encryption protocols used are fundamental as they represent the strength with which the “tunnel” will protect individual packets in transit.
The price primarily reflects the type of VPN chosen: Trusted VPNs prioritize transmission speed; Secure VPNs prioritize its security, while Hybrid VPNs seek the best compromise between the two solutions.
Protocols for VPN Network
For VPN transmission, there are suitable protocols whose choice of use should depend on the needs and the desired requirements. Each of these protocols, with its specificity, contributes to the protection of data packets in transmission. The most common protocols include:
The Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol is a Layer 2 protocol that is based on the PPP protocol (Point to Point Protocol) and is usually used in combination with the layer three protocol GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation).
The Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol is a Layer 2 protocol that does not provide any form of authentication and encryption but only allows the creation of a virtual tunnel.
Acronym for Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), a layer three protocol that allows secure communication over IP networks. The confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity of data traffic are ensured through encryption and authentication mechanisms.
L2TP / IPsec
Implementing L2TP protocols over IPsec is one way to get the best features of both standards. The result is a protocol with a certain level of security, which allows the encrypted transmission of data packets (IPSEC) over a virtual tunnel (L2TP).
SSL / TLS
Secure Sockets Layer (TLS – Transport Layer Security is an updated and more secure version of SSL) is a layer four protocol whose technology can also be used to ensure the security of a VPN connection. One of the software solutions for configuring a VPN using SSL is OpenVPN.
HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), an application layer protocol for secure hypertext transfer that relies on the SSL / TLS transport protocol, can be used by installing ad hoc applications and browser extensions.
How to Use VPN?
Activating a VPN is extremely simple, and anyone can access it with the utmost ease. Each service provides a client that makes every single option available. When the service is activated, the “tunnel” that conveys the packets is enabled, and navigation begins to flow by taking advantage of what the VPN can offer.
Once the client is started and the subscription is subscribed, the VPN adds a padlock to every data packet sent over the network: new possibilities open up, and the doors are closed to external malicious people, making their activities much safer.
Useful in some cases, fundamental in others, the VPN is a generally virtuous tool for anyone who operates online, especially in the professional sphere. But you have to know how to choose: not all VPNs are the same, and understanding their characteristics means being able to entrust every single information coming out and coming from your PC, your smartphone, your TV, or any other connected device to the best services.