Today, the world is connected via the world wide web. Within this giant network, clusters of connections called VPNs often appear. A VPN (short for virtual private network) consists of a series of connections in a larger, public network. This network can be the Internet or any other local network.
Over the next page, we will review the intricacies of virtual private networking. We will discuss the basics of how VPNs are built, their purposes, and how we shifted from physical networks to virtual ones.
What Is VPN – Explaining the Basics
Believe it or not, the Internet itself was once just a small network or VPN avant la lettre. Its devices spread out across several volunteer universities in the US and that was it. For someone using the internet today, it’s difficult to grasp just how unevolved it was back then. For a sense of scale, people were excited when dial-up connectivity went from 20 Kbit/s to 56 Kbit/s. Now, the average global internet speed is 5.6 Mb/s.
VPNs are basically mini-internets. Users can send and receive data bulks by connecting to a virtual private network. The network simulates physical connections between its devices. Virtual point to point connections are what makes it work. These function by using dedicated connections, traffic encryption, or virtual tunneling protocols.
The large majority of virtual private networks are extensions of private networks within a company or corporation. They allow the employees to have their computers interconnected in a fast and secure way. This makes home offices possible, as well as assures uptime for employees from out of town, or those that travel a lot.
However, there are several more uses for VPNs nowadays:
- Virtual transactions can be more thoroughly secured by making use of VPNs. It’s a common practice for internet transaction services to use VPNs to secure their services. Examples include internet banking, stock markets, or simple online retailers. Furthermore, simple customers can also employ VPNs for maximum security.
- Circumventing geo-blocking. A lot of websites restrict connections for people outside their country. These restrictions may include blocking videos or some articles, or, in fewer cases, the whole domain of the website. Those against internet censorship (such as the Internet Society) are mostly for this procedure.
- Connecting to specific servers. Also a form of geo-blocking, some domains are restricted to people within a certain geographical area. As such, some users use VPNs to connect directly to these servers. Hackers may also employ VPNs to hide their physical location.
For the last two options, multiple online services offer VPN connectivity. These range from free services that don’t really work for advanced geo-blocking, to paid services that promise you access to any corner of the internet. All these services basically make your computer part of a network with an internet protocol (IP) based in the country that can access the pages you cannot enter from your region.
There are two main types of virtual private networks:
- Remote-access VPNs. These are the most common types of VPNs. They create the link between a computer and a network. What is VPN good for in these situations? Simple as simple goes, remote access networks allow for a user to connect to a larger intranet from a distance. This user could be, as already said, a traveling employee, or a home office.
- Site-to-site VPNs. Connecting multiple networks between one another, site-to-site VPNs are useful when multiple VPNs exist within an organization. Two or more networks can be thus interconnected. For two entities, the VPNs need to share the same protocol (such IPv6). For more than two, one or more of the networks can have a different protocol. As such, multiple combinations of IPv6 and IPv4 can simultaneously exist over a VPN.
The internet protocols they use are only a small part of the general attributes of VPNs.
- Tunneling Protocols. These include Microsoft’s Point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP), the Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), IPSec (Internet Protocol Security), and Socks 5.
- Tunnel Endpoint. Either the network provider’s edge or the consumer’s edge. In networking terms, an edge represents the device used to get into a network (in this case, a VPN). Such devices include switches and routers among others.
- Connection Topology. These are also two: a site connecting to another one, or two or more joint networks.
- Security levels. These are the many steps taken to secure a connection before allowing the user to join the
- OSI Layer. Examples include layer 2 or layer 3.
- Number of users connected. The number of connections happening at the same time is a big indicator of how good a network is.
How Are VPNs Created?
To create a virtual private network, you don’t need too many things. However, as per Microsoft recommendations, the following should be mandatory:
- A user authentication interface. You don’t want everyone on the internet to be able to log into your VPN. That’s why user authentication should be mandatory. Besides simple login, the VPN admin should be able to see who logged in along with the location and time.
- Encryption of private data. All the data on the VPN server needs to be encrypted. Protecting the privacy of your users is of prime concern and something you can get sued for if not done properly.
- Address management. For the VPN to function normally, your clients’ addresses (IPs) need to be stored and secured. Remember, privacy is important so keep them safe from any potential threats.
- Management for encryption keys. Like any keys, these too can be replicated, exposing your VPN to a world of threats. What is VPN that’s unsecured except unsafe and unappealing to users? Fix that by finding a solution to generate encryption keys as you go.
- Support for Multiprotocol. Not everyone connects to your VPN via IPv6. Many browsers still rely heavily on IPv4 protocols. Tailor your VPN to suit the needs of the many.
While not optimal, small VPNs can be useful for homes a lot of devices and users or for small offices. The requirements for a private virtual network at home are the following: a fully-functional and strong internet connection, a PPTP-compatible router, and a VPN account with your internet provider.
1. Connect Your Router to Your Main PC with a Cable
Cables may seem obsolete, but once upon a time they were the only ones that could secure a connection. If you want to reduce the number of possible issues with your VPN, cable connections are a must. Ethernet cables are everywhere; you can find one in your router’s packaging, or at just about any tech store.
2. Connect to Your Router’s Control Panel
Simply type in your router’s address into a browser window. Then you need to log in. Most routers come with a standard username and password. We recommend changing these as soon as possible and then jotting down the new details on a piece of paper.
3. Make a New PPTP Connection
To create a VPN on your home router, you need a PPTP connection. Find the menu where you can create a new connection on your router. There should be a drop-down menu allowing you to select the connection type. The usual connection is either DHCP or PPPoE, but for this one, you will need a point-to-point tunneling protocol (PPTP).
4. Select Appropriate Settings
Next, enter the login data provided for your VPN account by your provider. The settings should be as follows:
- DHCP: On (use DHCP).
- PPTP Encryption: On.
- Packet Reordering: Disabled.
- Additional PPTP options: Type in “refuse-eap”.
- STP: Disabled.
- DHCP Server: Enabled.
All other settings should be set to default. After entering all the above options, apply them.
5. Connect to the Network
We’re almost through. Now you just have to connect to the network yourself. After doing so, check internet connectivity. If everything is okay, you should let your family, friends, or coworkers know that the network is ready.
Technically, any home network is a VPN – even the wireless network. While not being as secure or private as a fully-fledged virtual private network, it will still work for general intents and purposes (such as playing a video game with friends).
To do this, simply have all your friends connect to the wireless network. Make sure the router settings permit for the number of simultaneous connections that you want.
What Is VPN’s Advantage over Large Networks Like the Internet?
Virtual private networks have many advantages over traditional connections. Here we will explore what is VPN’s advantage over other types of networks.
In a world where everything is interconnected, it’s nice to have something that is not up for grabs. For a company or small office, operating over a VPN instead of the internet provides that extra security that’s so desperately needed.
Firewalls and antivirus software are very helpful. However, when your livelihood depends on it, doubling it with a few extra steps goes a long way to securing your sensitive data. What is VPN here? Think of it as an extra gate defending a castle. Chances are nobody will get through. However, if one hacker manages to, all they will see will be a long string of senseless numbers.
Remember how Facebook and Google survey your search history via cookies to target ads correctly? This is only a small sample of what a hacker can know about you by attacking your computer. Not only are you very vulnerable, but your close friends and coworkers (those with whom you often connect online) are also susceptible to have their online privacy invaded.
Choosing a VPN is the most effective method to guard against this type of aggressive internet attacks. None of your details are public when you use a VPN. Instead, the hacker will see the IP address of your internet provider along with their location and details.
Still, don’t think you’re safe using a proxy. VPNs through internet proxy servers don’t really work as well. While they do guard an IP, they keep some information from the original client.
A lot of online services work via VPN. Radios, TVs, news websites sometimes restrict access depending on geographical location. We’ve mentioned this before. Others even require users to create an account to log into their corporate VPN.
Services such as Netflix require an account. Using your login details, you basically access their client VPN. This network allows you to watch your favorite TV shows in a secure way. It also lets the company see how many devices are using the same account at any given moment. That’s how it locks you out when everyone in the house is using it.
When you connect to websites far away, your bandwidth tends to sway. Local connections (town, county, state) tend to do well. However, try to download something from a website on the other side of the world and your speed may be way below optimal.
VPNs can easily bypass this if done through the ISP. Most providers choose to allocate high bandwidth traffic towards international websites and keep the local on the low side. By creating a VPN account with your provider, you get the best speed for whatever site you want to reach, no matter where they’re from.
What is VPN good for? Any type of connection for which you want security, privacy, reliability, and fast internet speeds. Within this overlook of VPN technology, we’ve highlighted the basics about what is VPN, what it’s good for, and how you can create your very own virtual private network at home. If you have any more questions relating to this topic, let us know in the comments. We value your input and would greatly appreciate any feedback!
All images have been obtained from depositphotos.com.