For greater security and privacy, many professionals now recommend the use of a VPN – but what is a VPN, and why would you need one? What types are there, and what are they for? We’ll be answering a few of these questions over the coming weeks.
The acronym VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. Simply put, A VPN is a way to securely connect to another network over the internet, and for users to appear as if they were on the same physical network as the server.
These are very useful for a number of reasons, for example, in organisations with members in different physical locations, a VPN can allow that organisation’s members to access their server and its contents without compromising on security, and as if they were all in one physical location.
The data is encrypted in both directions (bidirectional encryption) – meaning that both the data you send and data that is sent back to you from the server is encrypted and secure. Data is sent in what is known as a “VPN tunnel”. It’s called a tunnel because it’s a secure connection between two points, where none of the data is visible or intelligible to outside sources. If someone was to intercept encrypted data, it would be indecipherable to them, as they do not have the key to decrypt it. Only the server on the other end of the VPN tunnel has the decryption key, allowing it to decipher the data and deal with it accordingly.
All of the encryption and decryption is handled by the server and client software. Especially over the past decade or so, the evolution of VPN technologies means that now, a lot of network traffic is almost as fast over a VPN as it would if the data was not encrypted – the difference between them can be virtually unnoticeable to most users.
Next week, we’ll have a look at one of the types of VPN available – VPNs for business – and explore why you might want to use one, along with the benefits they provide.