What is VPN and How It Works?

INTRODUCTION 

Virtual Private Network commonly known as VPN is largely used by internet users throughout the world. So what is a VPN and how it works?

It is a method of connection that provides extra security to the privacy, location and other information of the user. Its usage has increased significantly over the past few years. The fact that VPNs ensure that location and data of the users will remain safe and cannot be accessed by a hackers made them very popular in the business world also. 

Initially, VPNs were developed to be used by large organizations and companies to protect their data. In companies, large amount of data is transferred between different branches and persons on a regular basis. So it was possible that any hacker can easily hack into the system and steal important information.

Therefore, these companies started using VPNs to protect themselves against such possible attacks. This also enabled the employees to connect safely to the server of the organization and carry on their jobs without imposing a threat to overall security of the entire organization’s data.

It was not known to most of the internet users that their data and information online is not safe. As this became common knowledge personal users also wanted to protect themselves. And this is where people started using VPNs to protect their own privacy. VPN also changes the location of the user so a person cannot be traced through the IP address of his device.

How IT WorkS?

This is a very interesting question and causes a lot of misunderstanding in the minds of people. Generally people just say that a VPN protects the privacy of the user and even changes the location, but most of the people don’t know how. Here we are going to discuss on how it is actually done. 

When a user searches for something over the internet the request is sent to the server where the required information is stored and then the server sends back the required information to the user. This is done on public network and anyone can hack into the server and get any information they desire. Especially when using a public wifi it becomes very easy for someone to get your information. Therefore it is advised not to use any bank or similar accounts while using a public wifi. Now this is the point where the use of VPN comes in. VPN prevents any undesired person from accessing the information by using several techniques.

These methods are explained as under:

Routing the Traffic

This is the process through which a VPN changes the location of the person using it. Each device has a separate IP address which is unique from the others and can be easily traced. So users might face difficulty in searching on the topics that are not available in their region. For example, Netflix has a strict location-restricted content policy. Now if a French user wants to watch a show that is available only in US, he can’t. But he can use a VPN to do it.

VPN makes some changes in the basic working of the internet. So when the user sends request for a particular content, instead of sending his request directly to the server, VPN sends it to its own servers. Here the information is then sent to the desired server holding the data but the IP address requesting the information is now changed. Data server assumes that it is actually VPN who requested information not the user. This is the reason how the French user can watch shows only available in US because Netflix assumes that the person requesting this is in the US.

This is also helpful in preventing websites from saving your data. Normally when a user visits a website, the website records all the activity and saves it with the IP address of the user. But if VPN is used, a fake IP address will be shown to the server and the user’s activity is misrecorded, preventing a privacy breach. This is significantly important because of the fact that some of the websites are involved in selling the data of their users to third parties. VPN prevents this from happening.

Tunneling and Encryption

Encryption is one of the most used techniques to transmit data when top secret information is transmitted between two parties.  Basically, encryption involves conversion of the data into a form which is not understandable. Only the individuals possessing the specific key can convert this data back into its original form and make it understandable. VPN does exactly the same. When a user uses VPN, VPN creates a new pathway for the message. This is different from the normal ones, as the data transferred regulary is easily accessible. But with VPN, it is like the data is moving in a tunnel and cannot be reached from outside. A good VPN also identifies the location from where efforts are made to access the data without the permission of the user. 

If a hacker manages to somehow enter the tunnel, the data he gets is unusable to him as it is encrypted. This encrypted data can only be made understandable by using the key, and the hacker does not have it. This is the reason why VPN use is recommended when transferring the sensitive data. It is also advised to always use a VPN while using online banking when you are using a public wifi. This will protect your sensitive information.

Types of VPN

VPN has two basic types;

Remote Access VPN

This is the type of VPN mostly used by individuals. These VPNs can be accessed remotely and internet connection is used to form a link between the user and the VPN itself. This is most commonly used by individuals that use VPNs just for surfing the internet. Employees can also perform their jobs from anywhere using this type of VPN. This is why it is known as remote access VPN.

Site-to-Site VPN

Site-to-Site VPN is also known as router-to-router VPN. This is most commonly used by large corporations and companies who have their offices in many different locations. They have extremely sensitive data which needs to be protected at all costs so they establish their own VPNs to transfer this data safely.

VPN Protocols

These are the transfer technologies used by the VPN service providers. They ensure that the data of the user is safe and that it reaches its destination.

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PTPP)

This protocol is the oldest one ever created. PTPP creates a tunnel for the data to be transferred and encrypts it. This was created by Microsoft and can also be used on Mac or Linux in addition to Windows but it lacks many advanced features as it was created in 90s.

Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP)

This protocol was released to do what PTPP could not. It was able to transmit data on large speed which PTPP lacked. This is why it is never used alone but PTPP is used with it to provide better services. 

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL)

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) and Transport Layer Security (TSL) create a VPN in a device using the browser but the user has access to limited number of websites and applications. No extra work is required as browsers have SSL and TSL by default.

Open VPN

Open VPN is not unsecured as it sounds from its name. It just means that many developers are constantly working on the network to make it a better one.

How to Choose THE RIGHT VPN

There are a lot of VPNs available in the market. And all of them claim that they are the best. But a user should choose a VPN very carefully as he/she will be using it to transport sensitive messages or perform secret tasks. It might be possible that the VPN that should protect your privacy starts breaching it. Following things should be considered:

  • Is VPN paid or free: Paid VPNs usually have better protection procedures as they do not depend on any other source of income
  • What is the privacy policy of the VPN provider? Has it taken appropriate measures to secure your data?
  • Look for the reviews of other users who have already choose those services
  • Does the provider record the users’ activities?
  • The number of servers and the bandwidth that can be provided
  • The encryption protocols

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