In the emerging world, the Internet was used only by a select few just a few years ago has become one of the widely used medium over the years now. This huge spike in usage has also invited elements like hackers to attack legitimate users. From that perspective, if you are looking for a safer and secure option to work with the Internet, the first thing that would come to one’s mind is a VPN or Virtual private network. But, what is a VPN and what issues does it solve? In this article, we will explain the concepts in finer detail.
Also Read: What are Encrypted Networks (SDN)
What is a VPN?
To begin with, we will try to understand what a VPN is. Well, by definition, a VPN is a secure network over the internet that aids you to access another network on the internet privately and securely. Apart from providing you the much-needed security, VPNs are also useful in accessing region-specific content and shield your online activity from the prying eyes of the hackers.
A VPN works by creating a virtual tunnel between your device and the resources (Videos, ERP, CRM etc.) that you are attempting to access. This will help you protect your communication from anyone else on the network. The data of the interface is hidden even from the ISP, and thus the ISP will not be able to access the logs of your online activity.
VPN Types: The Different Types of VPNs
All VPNs are not created equal. Based on how the data is accessed, the VPNs are classified into three basic types. You will be obtaining each category of the VPN services based on who you are. You will learn more on that while we discuss these three types.
Remote Access VPN
This is perhaps the most widely used VPN type. If you have used a VPN service already, you have used it – the Remote Access VPN. By definition, a remote access VPN will connect you to a remote server through which you will have access to your target network. The service adds encryption to make your data communication secure.
Most of the commercially available VPN services work by a remote access network. You are allowed to use their network to gain access to the internet, thus hiding your data (location, ISP, public IP, etc.) to third parties. This would help you browse your desired content in complete privacy, access even that content which is restricted to your country and make sure that your data is safe and secure from scamsters and hackers.
Site to Site VPN
While the remote access VPNs are most common and easy to configure, these may not be suitable for the large-scale corporates and businesses. These entities opt for the other type off VPNs labeled site to site VPNs. These are again subclassified as an intranet-based site to site VPNs and extranet-based site to site VPNs.
The site to site VPNs is used to provide access to multiple users in fixed locations for each other’s resources. Imagine you are working at X location of a corporate and want to access the information from another user at Y location. The site to site network will help you share the data between you by connection the tow LAN services to one WAN service.
When you expand the same technique for the communication between the two different corporates communicating with each other across multiple locations, you will come across what is known as extranet based site to site VPN.
In essence, the site to site VPNs is best suited for large-scale business establishments wherein they would communicate with each other in a crucial data interaction. However, they are not easy to implement and use. Unlike the remote server, these networks need specialized equipment and resources.
How does a VPN work?
When a computer or any other device is connected to a VPN network, your device will work as if it is connected to the same local network as that of the VPN. The data is sent through a secure network via the VPN, to its destination.
Now that the remote network believes that you are on the same local network, it provides you access to the resources even when you are in a country with restricted access to those contents. Your device will never be accessing the remote network directly when using the VPN service. It will send the request to the VPN server which in turn will send the data further. Thus the remote network sees the server location you have configured on your VPN service and provided access to the content.
VPN Types of Protocols
Each of the VPN services you are using uses different security protocols. The various protocols come with their features, functions, and options.
Let us explore the major VPN protocols to gain enough knowledge into their functionality.
Internet Protocol Security (IPsec)
The IPsec has been considered to be one of the most secure security protocols which we have been using since quite long. A set of protocols designed to secure internet data transmission, it authenticates and encrypts each packet of the data that you communicate all through your session.
It offers you a somewhat secure connectivity option. The protocol can be configured to meet all your needs and is suitable for most of the use cases. The protocol is even supported by iOS making it an exceptional option for most of the essentials.
Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol
Point to Point Tunnelling protocol or PPTP has been ideally one of the longest-serving VPN protocol that has been in use for a quite long time. The protocol is easy to configure and is supported by most networks across the globe.
The protocol creates a tunnel and thus encrypts the data being communicated. As the name itself should be indicative, it establishes a point to point protocol to encrypt the data between the two connection endpoints. It would be worthwhile to mention that Microsoft used the protocol since the days of Windows 95. The protocol is also supported by Mac and Linux ecosystems as well.
Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol
Layer 2 Tunnelling Protocol or L2TP is yet another tunneling protocol used by VPNs. It does not come with its encryption technology. Thus, ideally, the L2TP is used along with IPsec.
The IPsec handles the encryption of the data that enters and leaves the tunnel created by L2TP. The encryption levels used in L2TP are stronger enough, thanks to the IPsec integration. Even the government agencies find it difficult to break the encryption provided by IPsec and thus the L2TP.
Again, just like PPTP, the L2TP is also capable of faster set up functionality that is quite easy to understand. However, if a government agency or an ISP decides to block a VPN, it would be quite easy and straightforward to block L2TP. The technology uses a few numbers of ports, and it would be easy enough to block these ports.
The protocol uses the AES standard, and the AES 256 protocol is much challenging to crack.
OpenVPN is one of the most fastest growing VPN protocol in recent times. It has been considered to be the best thing that has happened to the online privacy ever. The technology is continuously evolving and has been one of the safest options to work with.
It makes use of OpenSSL and TLS. There are other obscure systems used as well, but they aren’t as important enough. The OpenVPN does not come with any operating system support as such. That would mean you will need to opt for a VPN client for using the OpenVPN service.
Open VPN protocols are typically used by the premium VPN service providers that netizens opt for. They would be able to develop the VPN clients, and thus the device or platform that you would be able to use the VPN service is entirely a prerogative of the service providers. In case, the service provider does not want to develop a client for a particular operating system; you will not be able to use it!
Internet Key Exchange (IKE, IKEv1 or IKEv2 based on version)
Internet Key Exchange or IKEv2 is a platform designed for the secure key exchange between the two connected devices. Again, it does not come with its encryption function. It combines the individual tunneling options with IPsec.
Initially developed by Microsoft and Cisco, it is ideally one of the latest VPN technologies in recent times. It is still in the process of getting approved and accepted by the industry at large. The protocol should help you achieve the best performance if you are in a corporate environment. Incidentally, Blackberry makes use of IKEv2 and comes with native support for the protocol technology.
The protocol is built with a focus on mobile technology. One of the excellent functionalities observed with the protocol is its ability to switch the networks without dropping the VPN tunnel. The protocol uses a technique known as multihoming for achieving this capability.
Another feature that goes in its favor includes the ability to provide faster connectivity. IKEv2 is considered to be the quickest VPN protocol ever available. However, even with greater stability and excellent speed, the protocol has been able to garner not much platform support. It is widely used in corporate sectors to a greater extent. Windows 7 & 10, as well as their Server OS’es (Windows Server 2016 & 2019), support these latest standards based on the IKEv2 (Agile VPN) system.
Secure Socket Tunnelling
It is designed to transport PPP (Point to Point Protocol) traffic over SSL & TLS (Transport Layer). Since it uses the standard port 443, it does not need any particular ports to be opened by the firewalls, except proxies. The authentication effectively happens at the SSL/TLS session initiation phase or the PPP auth phase. Other advantages of using PPP is the support for common authentication methods, such as EAP-TLS and or Microsoft’s MS-CHAP.
Operating systems like Windows, Linux and BSD support the SSTP protocol.
It is one of those protocols that is possibly protected with no VPN blocking vulnerability. But, first things first, MS-CHAP implementation of SSTP is ideally associated with Microsoft, and thus you may be out of luck if you are looking for any other options than Windows. Of course, there is slight compatibility with Mac and Linux, but the functionality may not be worth it.
The protocol uses SSL 3.0 standard for encryption. It is over fifteen years old and can make it a lightly vulnerable option in its own right. The SSL 3.0 is indeed an older technology and is known to have a few issues. Even Microsoft & Goole has confirmed it. However, one of the enormous advantages it offers when compared to the other protocols is it provides you with a high degree of protection against the VPN blocking. Since it uses the most commonly used ports, it stands the test off VPN blocking effectively. Eventually, the future is with TLS encryption protocol, and that is where we are currently headed.
So which Protocol should you go with?
Well, each of those protocols does come with their pros and cons. Like we already have discussed while we were examining those protocols above, a few of them come with a high degree of vulnerability. Let us check out these protocols for a better understanding.
To begin with – PPTP or Point to Point Tunnelling Protocol has become somewhat obsolete and is not being developed anymore. Or we suppose! So, if a VPN service claims that it uses PPTP as the VPN protocol, it may not be a good option to go with, unless security and privacy are not a concern for you. The protocol works efficiently in unblocking the restricted content. So, if you are only looking for accessing the restricted content, a VPN service with PPTP protocol may be a good one to go with.
L2TP is good enough, thanks to the robust encryption service provided by IPSec. But, it runs a higher vulnerability for VPN blocking. In essence, if you are someone who is looking for a decent performance, and an additional layer of security – it can be your best option.
SSTP is an excellent option and does not get bogged down quickly with the VPN blocking spree. However, the use of SSL 3.0 as the encryption standard may not be something you would be comfortable with for obvious reasons. Moreover, some of it comes with a closed functionality with Microsoft.
OpenVPN is one of the most flexible and the best technology to piggyback on. Just take care of the service provider to ensure that they correctly implement the functionality. In case you can find an excellent VPN service with OpenVPN protocol, you should go with it.
IKEv2 is yet another excellent option for the VPN protocol. It integrates with IPSec making it a great tool to go with. That will be the best one if you are on a mobile platform. However, it is vulnerable to VPN blocking. Moreover, you may not get the requisite support for the functionality as the protocol is still not receiving the necessary support from the platforms.
What advantages does VPN service provide you?
Now that you have enough information about a VPN service and the protocols used for supporting the service, how about checking out advantages you stand to gain with a VPN service?
Let us check out a few advantages that it offers you.
Access the Blocked Content from virtually anywhere
VPN is an excellent option for getting past the geo block. This can be useful in many cases. Imagine you are traveling to a foreign country and want to access the content from your home country. VPN will help you achieve it without issues.
It can also be an excellent option for gaining access to blocked content if you are living in a country where you are forced to live with heavy censorship. With a VPN service, you can hide your IP address and make the remote network to think you are from another country.
Remember, every service will not be able to achieve the task. You need to go with a VPN service that comes with server locations in your desired country.
VPN provides you a safer access
In the digital era that we are living in, we tend to share a lot of personal information. Imagine the situations where you are sharing your banking information or those instances where you may be having a private chat with your friend or family member. You would not want anyone to snooping onto your data.
VPN lets you achieve the task. VPN will help you encrypt the data that you are sending onto your network. It safeguards your private information and keeps your private data truly private in every respect. You will have umpteen security concerning the safety no matter whether you are accessing public WiFi or sharing private information.
It helps you save money
Since VPN helps you fake your IP address, the free access to the content across the globe lets you save money. If you are a die-hard online shopper, you would be aware of the fact that the E-Commerce sites have different pricing for different regions. In case, a product is expensive in a particular geographic location and is available at better pricing elsewhere; you would find it an excellent option to use VPN so that you can opt for the better deal.
It can even help you book a hotel or a flight ticket with this option to help you save money. A VPN that serves a large number of server locations will be an excellent option from that perspective.
They are affordable
Even when you are going with the premium VPN services, a VPN service is more affordable in comparison to the other security options you would want to go with. What makes it a great choice is it does not need any hardware installations. You don’t even need the assistance of a technician.
And that brings us the nature of free VPNs. We would not recommend opting for a free VPN as they may not provide the security that a VPN service is designed to come with. Contrary the too saving you from compromising your personal information, some VPN services may sell your personal information.
So, are there any Disadvantages as well?
Well, naturally. Like with any software or hardware, VPNs to come with their own set of cons. If you want to get a clear understanding of the technology, it would be essential that you keep yourself abreast with the issues as well. This will be helpful in using the services with basic care.
They tend to slow down your speed
A VPN encrypts your data when you are communicating through the network. This can result in slower internet speed. That is the price you need to pay for the security.
Pay attention to make sure that you are choosing a VPN that offers you an excellent speed without compromising the security aspects.
The Connection can suddenly drop
VPN services are bound to experience connections drops now and then. Of course, that isn’t a huge issue and the network may resume almost instantly unless there are severe issues that affect the service. But it comes with an inherent problem.
The moment the VPN service drops, you will end up exposing your actual IP address. However, many VPN services come with Kill Switch which disconnects the internet as soon as you lose the connectivity with your VPN service. But, all VPN service may not have efficient Kill Switch functionality.
Setting it up may be difficult
A VPN service comes with several functions and features. If you are a beginner, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of settings and configurations. Servers, protocols, and encryptions – that is indeed a considerable complication in itself.
Configuring your VPN is an essential element regarding ensuring perfect online security. If it isn’t set correctly, you may run the risk of making your data accessible to the hackers. If you are worried, you can check out the VPN services that provide an easy to set up functionality.
If you are looking for the complete information on VPN and the services that it can help you with, we assume the knowledge shared here should help you out to a considerable extent. Of course, VPNs do come with a few downsides and issues, but still, if you choose the right kind of service and use it correctly, you stand to gain a better advantage.
Which VPNs do you use? Share your reasons for opting for those services. If you want to know anything else than that explained here, feel free to get in touch with us for addressing your doubts, concerns, and problem. We will guide you to the appropriate resources.Disclaimer: The Questions and Answers provided on https://www.gigxp.com are for general information purposes only. We make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on the website for any purpose.