What is a VPN?

1 min. read

The internet has changed the way we live. From working remotely to shopping, education and entertainment, practically every aspect of our lives is touched by the internet, and it’s become almost inconceivable to imagine life without it. However, the internet also makes us susceptible to hackers, targeted advertisements and other privacy concerns. A virtual private network (VPN) allows you to safely connect to another network over the internet by encrypting the connection from your device. A VPN makes your internet connection more secure and offers both privacy and anonymity online. Organizations, governments and businesses of all sizes use VPNs to secure remote connections to the internet for protection against malicious actors, malware and other cyberthreats. Personal VPNs have also become widely popular as they keep users’ locations private, safely encrypt data and allow users to browse the web anonymously.  

How Does VPN Work?

A VPN creates a private connection, known as a “tunnel,” to the internet. All information travelling from a device connected to a VPN will get encrypted and go through this tunnel. When connected to a VPN, a device will behave as if it’s on the same local network as the VPN. The VPN will forward device traffic to and from the intended website or network through its secure connection. This allows remote users and offices to connect securely to a corporate network or website. It also shields device IP addresses from hackers and prying eyes.

Different Types

There are two types of VPN:

  1. Site-to-site VPN is used to connect branch offices to a central office over the internet when distance prevents direct network connections.

  2. Remote access VPN allows individual users to remotely connect to a central network. In this case, the devices are referred to as endpoints.

More Details

With a VPN, data traverses the internet through a secure tunneling protocol, where it is encrypted to stop any third party from reading your data as it travels. The two most popular network protocol suites for encryption are:

  1. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) or, more recently, Transport Layer Security (TLS)

  2. Internet Protocol Security (IPsec)

Essentially, encryption scrambles the contents of your information – making it unreadable – in a way that can only be unscrambled, or decrypted, using a key. The tunneling protocol also encapsulates, or wraps, the data with routing information for the receiving user. Once received, the remote access connection is subject to an authentication, authorization and accounting (AAA) server program, which authenticates the user, authorizes access and accounts for all activity for the duration of the connection.

Upgrade for the Enterprise

For enterprises that operate multiple locations and access the cloud, a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) can offer many benefits above and beyond a VPN, including increased flexibility and agility to connect remote networks, improved user experience, and reduced costs. By unifying the management of SD-WAN and security, enterprises can avoid leaving gaps in their security posture. This can also help maintain consistent security policies from the network core out to branches. Learn more here.