What Is VPN Encryption And How Does It Work?
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Let’s start at the beginning with breaking down what a VPN Encryption is and what it does. Firstly, a VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which allows you the user or client to ensure that your network activity is known only to you and the provider. This works similarly to a home private network. Just like a home network the information and files shared through a VPN Encryption are secure and kept separate from the rest of the Internet.
A Virtual Private Network is handled as the name implies, virtually, whereas a home network does this same process through a local router that is able to guarantee that your information will remain secure and protected.
How Do VPNs Work?
So now we know that a VPN is able to secure your information in a way similarly to the security that a home router provides. The only difference is that a local network shared over a common router is not dependent on the Internet to function. While a VPN Encryption is done exclusively over the Internet with this lies inherent risks that need to be mitigated with additional security protocols.
VPN Encryption In A Nutshell
A VPN Tunnel is an encrypted connection between you the client and the host or server. This tunneling process ensures that your information will be encapsulated so that no one will be able to intercept alter or even monitor your activity. Tunneling does more than just hide and tunnel your data from the rest of the Internet. Tunneling also ensures that your location will remain only known to you and the server that you are connected to. This is done by sending out the IP address of the host server that the VPN Encryption is running through rather than your own IP address, thus ensuring complete anonymity.
These protocols may include:
- Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP): PPTP is one of the oldest protocols around. Due to its simplicity this protocol is able to be set up quickly. However due to the fact that it is based on the authentication protocol of MS-CHAP-v1/v2 its introduction has been proven faulty in security analysis testing and may not be recommended if security is of paramount importance.
- Layer 2 Tunnel Protocol (L2TP): L2TP was rolled out as an improvement upon PPTP. L2TP uses an upgraded version of Layer 2 Forwarding Protocol while simultaneously utilizing IPSec ability to encrypt and authenticate individual IP packets. Another issue that may come up is the communication being blocked by some firewalls that do not allow activity on User Datagram Protocol 500 Port.
- OpenVPN: OpenVPN is an open source software application that utilizes point-to-point or site-to-site connections that use both SSL and TLS for key exchange. This is one of the most secure and failsafe protocols around. Unlike L2TP OpenVPN is able to run through UDP or TCP ports allowing it to bypass any firewall. As with any open source software OpenVPN is highly customizable and ever-changing.
- Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol: Even though SSTP is only able on Windows machines it is considered one of the most impenetrable protocols out there. Even though it is more accessible to the average windows user than L2TP it still lacks some of the advantages that the open source software that OpenVPN provides.
- Internet Key Exchange: IKEv2 may just be called IKE for Internet key exchange depending on the version in use. IKEv2 is one of the newest protocols around therefore it is able to be run on some of the newer platforms that we are seeing day-to-day such as Android iOS Windows and MAC.
VPN Encryption Protocols: Pros & Cons
So now that we have gone over some of the most common security protocols out there for your VPN Encryption here are some pros and cons that may help you in choosing the right one to use:
- Pros: Easy to set up, widely available and able to compute quickly.
- Cons: Not very secure.
- Pros: Easy to set up, widely available and proven to be more secure than PPTP.
- Cons: Blocked by some firewalls.
- Pros: Proven to be the most secure able to bypass firewalls and highly configurable due to the open source nature of the software.
- Cons: Complicated setup process due to the required third party software.
- Pros: Able to bypass firewalls, proven to be very secure.
- Cons: Only supported on Windows.
- Pros: Highly secure increased stability speedy.
- Cons: Not openly available to all platforms limited configurations available the untrustworthy nature of non-open source implementations.
This tunneling process is a great start to ensuring that you and your data are protected on the Internet but it is not all that a VPN does to ensure complete security. The next layer of security is implemented by VPN encryption.
Packets are the bits of your information that are sent through the tunneling process. Although the VPN Encryption tunnel is able to secure your information more than without it the VPN does not stop there.
The information that is sent through the VPN tunnel is encrypted to guarantee that it remains even more secure. VPN Encryption ensures additional security by encoding the data packets in a way that can only be read by you the client and the server that you are connected to.
Although there are a number of different security protocols that the encryption process may follow to encrypt your data the most common is the Internet Security Protocols, and OpenVPN. Both of these protocols work in two ways.
Firstly, encrypting the data packet with a VPN encryption key that is known only to the VPN client and the server. Secondly by using a sub-protocol called Encapsulation Header that omits certain information from the transmission such as the user IP address.
Almost everyone I know habitually locks up their homes at night. To accomplish this, make it a habit to lock your front door behind you whenever you leave the house, use a passcode on your mobile device, and double-check that your car is locked whenever you use it.
The typical user can avoid having their internet activities tracked and identities revealed by connecting to a Virtual Private Network. The user must evaluate the different VPN services accessible to determine which one would work best for them.