A virtual private network, or a VPN, is a system that uses the public network, like the Internet, to extend a private network. A computer or a network-enabled device connected to the VPN of a certain company, for example, will be able to receive and send data through public or shared networks and act like it is connected directly to the company’s private network and still get the same security, management policies, and functionality of the corporate infrastructure.
Common Uses of VPN
The VPN technology is commonly used by educational institutions, large corporations, and government agencies which have individuals working from remote locations. Like a WAN or a Wide Area Network, VPN is also used in connecting multiple sites separated by large distances. It is also often used to allow access to Intranets from any part of the world reaching a wider user base. Some campuses which have branches or subsidiaries all over the country or the world can use VPN for secure connections.
How VPN Works
Accessing the private network from outside its physical location requires a public network connection, a user account, and a password. Some more secure infrastructures employ the use of RSA tokens for additional authentication. An RSA token device generates a personal identification number or PIN that the user must input during the authentication process.
The PIN expires after a set time and a new one is generated again. This makes it impossible for a malicious user to access the network without the RSA token device even if he knows the user account and the password. VPN secures communication through a variety of protocols that are used to encrypt the data being transferred. Common protocols used are IPSec, PPTP, L2TP, SSL and TLS.
Why Use VPN?
VPN use has transcended the corporate environment and is now being provided by more and more companies that offer secure connection and anonymity. Although a large percentage of VPN implementations are still on corporate applications, private individuals who don’t want people snooping on their connections are using VPN to protect their security and identity.
VPNs also allow access to sites and applications that are blocked from some geographic locations. A user might require access to a video streaming site that is blocked on a certain country and connecting to a VPN server can facilitate that request. Some individuals also would want to hide his Internet activities like when visiting personal sites and downloading files, and VPN can help.