What is a VPN?
If you want to browse internet anonymously and privacy is your high priority, then VPN is the right solution. The best method to hide your IP. It is possible in different ways. A virtual private network (VPN) is a secure tunnel over the internet from your PC or mobile to another ISP network. This secured connection makes sure that confidential data is safely transmitted.
Using VPN can prevent hackers from breaking into your internet traffic and allows the user to conduct their operations privately. VPN technology is mostly used in Office environment, though it is not uncommon for home users.
Uses of VPN in different Environment
People using systems from home try to hide their IP, to browse secretly without letting know their IP to the other users. This is because, once your IP is known, hackers can take advantage to target your computer or make serious attempts to gather your important data.
VPN is used to protect your internet traffic from snooping, interference and censorship. If you are connected over a LAN and somebody tries to access your photos and personal files, VPN can protect you. On the other hand, some sites are blocked by your ISP, due to government rules. For example in China, Facebook is banned. To access such censored sites, you can use VPN.
It lets you access your web safely and securely by routing your connection through a different server and hides your internet actions. This connection method can bring added security and privacy to different networks. These include private and public networks like “Home and Work”, WiFi hotspots and Internet. VPNs are widely used by corporations to protect their private information. Using VPN is becoming more intense as more social media interactions are increasing.
Pros of VPN
The advantage with VPN is that the user’s starting IP address is replaced with one from the VPN provider server IPs. Once you subscribe to a VPN network, you can get an IP address from any gateway of VPN service providers.
For example, you may live in Houston, United States. But with a Virtual Private Network, the end users may see you in Paris, France. This is because your VPN will route the traffic through their servers which are different from where you are living.
How VPN works?
To know the working of a VPN, we need to understand a few terms. Though it is not hard to understand the mechanism of how VPN works, it makes your mind clear if you know the inside details. You can get to know some of the protocols in layman terms. These are used by VPNs to provide a secure tunnel network.
- SSL (Secured Socket Layer)
It is an encryption method which uses 3-way handshake method. This makes sure proper authentication takes place between your computer and the server machines. The authentication process is based on cryptography algorithms. It includes verification of certificates. Cryptographic keys already stored on the client and server sides are used for starting the connection.
- IPSec (IP Security)
It is another protocol that can work in two different modes. It does the job of securing the VPN connection.
- PPTP (Point-To-Point Transfer Protocol)
It is used to connect a user located at a different location with a private server in a VPN network. It makes sure your identity is hidden and prevent unauthorized users from accessing your location.
- L2TP (Layer Two Tunnelling Protocol)
Is used for tunneling of data in combination with the IPSec protocol. This adds another layer of security to your VPN.
With the understanding of the basic terms, we can see how the VPN technology works.
There are basically two types of VPNs – Remote Access VPN and Site-to-Site VPN
How Remote Access VPN works?
This type of VPN makes sure home users can establish an encrypted connection with a remote computer network. This is like using a set of remote network IPs to access the Internet or anonymize your identity. It can also be used in a corporate environment. Remote Access VPN is generally used by large firms with hundreds of employees.
Another name for this type of VPN is virtual private dial-up network (VPDN). There are two components involved in a remote-access VPN. To understand its working we need to know about network access server (NAS, also known as “nazz” formally), also called a media gateway or a remote-access server (RAS). It can be a dedicated server or also can be a service running on a shared server.
Initially a user connects to NAS from the Internet to use the VPN. It requires that user provide suitable credentials to sign in to VPN. To authenticate the user, NAS uses its own proprietary authentication process in corporate world or a separate authentication server running on the network.
The second component of remote-access VPNs is client software. In dummy language it is nothing but a software required by the users to install on their system to use the VPN. This can be a built-in software in some OS or can be a particular application required by the VPN provider. The main purpose of this client software is to set up tunneling connection to a NAS. This is identified by the IP address.
Corporate world on the other side maintain their own remote-access VPNs. They also outsource their requirement through an enterprise service provider (ESP). This is useful for individual home or employees, but with organizations having thousands of employees? For them we have site-to-site VPN.
How Site-to-Site VPN works?
This type of VPN uses the Internet. The NAS is maintained in a central office. Employees in the branch offices can connect through secure connections using Internet. This is cost-effective and widely used by SMBs. For example, if there are lot of retail offices around the world, then this type of VPN connection is ideally suitable.
There are two types – Intranet-based and Extranet-based
If a company wants to use a single private network to connect different branch offices, they can create an Intranet VPN. When two or more companies have mutual understanding like a partner, supplier, customer, they can use extranet VPN. It connects these offices through their LANs in a shared network environment.
How to Set Up VPN?
This includes three phases
In the first step, data packets are covered up inside another packet. Along with it, we have some headers and other kind of things. This conceals the identity of the data packets. Now when a user makes a request to the VPN server, it authenticates by asking for user credentials.
In the second step, an imaginary channel or tunnel is created between you and the connection point through internet. Any kind of data can be transferred using this tunnel.
The third step, encryption of the data is done. Some providers give free VPN which do not have protection for your information. The data packets that are sent through the tunnel are encrypted in this stage.
What does VPN Hide?
The normal home users use paid VPN to hide different details from their employers or from hackers. It includes browsing history from ISPs, online activities from bad persons, data-thefts, prevent bank fraud, access inaccessible sites, your passwords saved in browsers, IPs, hide usage of unwanted sites etc.
So if you are working in an office environment, the network administrators will only be able to see encrypted data. The same thing works out for ISPs also. The websites that you visit will see your paid VPNs IP address, instead of your real address.