What is a VPN and What does it do?

General

April 3, 2020 by Harry Hill

What Is A VPN?

You can use a (VPN) virtual private network to keep yourself safe on the Internet. But what is a VPN and why should it be used? In this article, we want to introduce you to the VPNs and related applications that work in this field. On the other hand, we want to say why every person who spends a lot of time on the Internet must use a VPN service.

what is VPN used for?

As the name implies, VPN (a virtual private network) connects you to a private Internet network that is only limited to you, instead of directly entering the crowded and insecure space of the Internet. VPN select your location based on an IP, where it doesn’t depend on yours at all. That’s how you can secure yourself on the Internet.

Another usage of a VPN is to remotely connect staff to a company’s employees on the office’s private network. Even if they are not physically present in the office!

In general, using a VPN in two sections will be useful for you. One is that by activating it, you will be able to access the Internet space from another country by VPN host servers. This is usually to access content that is not available in your country of residence.

Netflix, for example, is one of those servers that are not available in some countries, and you can use it with a VPN. But the second and most important benefit of using a VPN (a virtual private network) is the encryption of all your traffic data on the Internet.

In this way, almost the percentage of people who can follow in your footsteps on the Internet will be reduced to zero. And as a result, you will be provided with higher security. That person could be a regular hacker in the same coffee shop where you use WiFi or an organization that wants to know your status on the Internet and your Internet browsing history.

If you do not want to use a VPN, there will be no problem, but be sure to consider the above.

How does a VPN work?

In 1996, Microsoft introduced VPN as a secure solution for remote employees to access the company’s internal network; also, with companies increasing productivity through this safe and valuable method, it has now become a common practice in the global business world.

With the advancement of this technology, developers realized the possibility of using a VPN encryption tunnel to securely connect the public to the World Wide Web (Internet). Therefore, VPNs have become the main security protectors on the Internet. Today, due to the widespread use of VPNs, many users are interested in understanding how it works, which we will explain below.

When you connect to a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service, the VPN server starts authenticating your client (computer, mobile device, etc.), and the VPN tunnel is established after the VPN server authenticates your client; the server then encrypts all data that is transferred between your device and the server to protect information and increase security.

Before being sent or received over the Internet, data must be divided into smaller parts called packets. Each data packet is protected by the Virtual Private Network encapsulation method, which encrypts the outer packet before sending. So the tunnel is the critical factor of a VPN that protects the external packets of data while sending and receiving. After the VPN server receives the data, decoding removes the outer packet to access the data.

When you connect to a VPN, your Internet traffic (downloads and uploads) is transferred to the Internet by the VPN server and not sent directly to the Internet service provider. Therefore, it seems that the data is transferred from the VPN server to the Internet, and the IP address and your actual device specifications cannot be identified; By acting as an intermediary, a VPN hides your IP address as well as your traffic. In addition, by connecting to a VPN, the user’s data is secured by tunneling and encryption against hacker abuse and penetration.

VPN benefits

 

benefits of a VPN

Connecting to a VPN offers many advantages to users; through a virtual private network (VPN), your data traffic will be impenetrable and protected by encryption. Without encryption, the data can be read by anyone with access to the network. VPN prevents hackers from decrypting data. Next, we will mention other advantages of VPN:

Secure encryption: Connecting to a VPN allows you to be anonymous online activity on the Internet and public networks, and access to data encrypted by the decryption key is possible; otherwise, breaking the code by third parties, even in a Brute force attack, takes years.

Hiding your location: VPN servers work as your proxy on the Internet. It is, therefore, impossible to pinpoint your location because the demographic location data originates from a server in another country. In addition, VPNs do not keep a log of your online activities. Some service providers may monitor and store user behavior but do not share this data with third parties. Therefore, the history of your behavior on the internet network cannot be tracked in any way.

Access to censored content: Sometimes, it is impossible to access certain regions’ web content due to specific laws or reasons. Users are limited in benefiting from specific content and services in certain places, and such services are provided to particular areas. Servers in your country determine your’ location on regular connections. It means that sometimes you cannot access the web content of some countries (international content) from your own country or vice versa. By changing the IP address of the client device, VPN falsifies your location, and by connecting to a server in another country, you can access the web content of that region that is restricted to other areas as a citizen of that country.

Increased security when transferring data: For remote workers, securely connecting to the company network is necessary to access important data. Therefore, VPN services reduce the risk of misuse and penetration of important information by encrypting the data transferred between the server and the client when connecting to internal networks.

disadvantages of VPN

Along with the advantages that VPN has for users, it also has disadvantages that we will explain below:

Slowdown: By connecting to a VPN, data transfer will take more steps than a direct connection, which is why you will experience slow internet speed. Reducing Internet speed by connecting to a VPN is one of the most common concerns of users; for this reason, developers have taken many measures to optimize the performance and speed of VPNs and have been somewhat successful in this field.

Ability to identify and block VPN: With the expansion of VPN use, government agencies and law enforcement have become aware of how VPNs work and know that an anonymous person can bypass the rules set to restrict access to certain content by connecting to a VPN and spoofing their location and IP address. They have complete freedom to view the content of any website. Therefore, to deal with such people, they have added the ability to detect known VPN IP addresses to their systems and block the access of such IP addresses. This will be related to servers used in VPNs, VPN server providers, and more. However, VPNs don’t give up so quickly and trick them again by switching to another IP address.

QoS Issues: Quality of Service (QoS) defines the performance of a particular network or service, but unfortunately, there is no standard for VPN performance reporting and measurement so far. Therefore, to trust VPNs or to analyze them, one should rely on the experience and recommendations of users and professional reviews.

Unable to bypass cookies: While a virtual private network (VPN) can keep your traffic private and encrypted, it cannot prevent cookies from working on your device, as some are essential for websites to function. However, tracking cookies can identify you and track your activity by being stored on your browser. But if you want to avoid being followed around the web by tracking cookies, you can delete these cookies or use Private Browser to override the functionality of tracking cookies.

Does not provide complete privacy: Although the activity and behavior of the user using a virtual private network (VPN) are protected from hackers, the VPN provider will have access to your traffic if they want. By connecting to your VPN, your information and browsing history will be accessible to the VPN developer instead of being tracked by your ISP.So you don’t have to trust them completely and think that you are 100% anonymous on the Internet. But there is a solution for this too. You can configure your own VPN server through the Mikrotik VPS service. Therefore, choosing a reliable VPN service provider that does not track users’ activities is important.

VPN

types of VPN

VPSs are generally divided into three main categories that account for most of the market.

1. Remote access VPN

Using remote access VPN, users can connect to a local network remotely through a private encryption tunnel. If you work for a company, you’ve probably used a VPN before to connect to the company’s network from a remote location. Remote access VPN facilitates and secures remote work for employees of an organization by providing access to company resources and information.

2. Personal VPN

Personal VPNs or consumer VPNs target the general public and have the same function as a remote access VPN in operation, but with the difference that instead of connecting to a private and internal network (such as a company or office), It connects to your VPN provider’s servers to protect your privacy while surfing the Internet.

3. Site-to-site VPN

Businesses and especially large companies are the main users of site-to-site VPNs, in other words, router-to-router VPNs. They provide a secure way for people at specific locations (LANs) to connect to a vast area network (WAN), that is, by creating a private internal network, enabling communication between people in different locations.

Site-to-site VPNs are one of the most efficient methods in the environment of companies that have headquarters in different places. It is a great way to link all workplaces together and facilitate the secure sharing of resources and data between departments and is known as an intranet. If you have two independent intranets and need to transfer files between them without allowing people on each intranet to access the other, a site-to-site VPN is a great solution.

Different Protocols Of VPN

The VPN protocol specifies the exact path taken by the transmitted data. VPN protocols have different specifications based on their features, such as protocols that improve data output speed and protocols that focus on encrypting data packets for privacy and security. There is a wide variety of VPN protocols with different security measures that we have discussed in detail before; Here, we will mention some of them:

  • PPTP

Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol is a VPN protocol that has been used for a long time and is the oldest VPN protocol. Microsoft developed the PPTP protocol for dial-up connections in the mid-1990s, becoming part of Windows 95. But its basic encryption was compromised with the advancement of technology. For this reason, it is known as the least secure protocol. However, it is still used by some users because, although the security weaknesses are compared to other protocols, it offers the best connection speed for users who do not need difficult and complex encryption for their data.

Briefly: strong support, fast but with security issues.

  • L2TP/IPSec

Layer 2 tunnel protocol L2TP/IPSec is a suitable alternative to PPTP protocol. This protocol is usually implemented by integrating with the IPsec security protocol. L2TP/IPSec protocol creates an unparalleled security experience without breach after launch.

Briefly: popular and fast but easily blocked because it only uses one UDP port.

  • OpenVPN

OpenVPN is the most secure open source protocol among all VPN protocols, as it can quickly detect and fix even the smallest violations and bugs in the programming. By providing programmers with access to its source code for free, it is one of the most popular and widely used protocols, which has given developers complete freedom. The increasing presence and popularity of this protocol can be attributed to the invulnerability provided by the combination of AES-256-bit key encryption, RSA 2048-bit authentication, and the SHA1 160-bit hashing technique.

Briefly: open source, high-level encryption, reduced throughput.

  • SSTP

The Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP) is widely used because it works seamlessly with every version of Microsoft Windows, starting with Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (SP1). Authentication in SSTP is via 2048-bit SSL/TLS certificates, and data is encrypted using 256-bit SSL keys.

The biggest weakness of the SSTP protocol is that it does not allow developers access to the underlying code because it was developed exclusively by Microsoft.

Briefly: strong security, sophistication in blocking and detection, and great support for native and third-party clients.

VPS or VPN

Some users confuse VPN and VPS with each other, while the two concepts are entirely different. First, let’s explain VPS, although we have already explained VPS comprehensively. VPS, which stands for Virtual Private Server, is a type of web hosting service. VPS is created by dividing a physical server into several virtual containers, each of which acts like a dedicated server and they have an independent function, resources, operating system, and software. It also has higher access and lower cost compared to other hosting services.

VPN is an abbreviation of Virtual Private Network, a network of servers that provides security and privacy of your activities on the global network (Internet) level.

In fact, by connecting to a VPN, you can hide your identity and real location and bypass certain restrictions related to access to some website content. Most importantly, you can protect your valuable information and data. Therefore, VPS provides the necessary speed to increase traffic on your site and improve your efficiency and performance, and you will have access to more resources.; It also offers more control over the server environment than a VPN. But VPN increases the security of your data and information.

For companies with remote employees, it is the best option for establishing connections and secure access to the company’s network and resources. Still, it reduces the speed of the Internet connection.

As a result, if you have a growing business that you want to host your business website with high traffic and you need to store and keep your data in a safe place; also, if the efficiency of your site is important to you, definitely choose VPS, but if you are a freelancer and your company has remote employees, and a secure Internet connection is essential to protect your data, VPN is the best choice. In general, an option that meets the needs of your business is the most appropriate.

What should be considered when choosing a VPN?

Privacy, security, speed

There are various reasons why users use VPN, but for most users, three factors are important:

  1. Data protection when in transit between server and client
  2. Anonymity of users’ identity and behavior and having privacy
  3. Internet connection speed

Of course, the priority of all users in using a VPN is to establish a secure connection and protect data from hackers and privacy, but it is not possible to benefit from these features without sacrificing speed. Since VPN implements more steps on client connections to the Internet to increase security and data encryption, for this reason, you will face a decrease in site speed. Still, you can choose a provider that does its best to improve VPN performance.

Cost

In terms of cost, there are two main categories: free and paid.

Price has always been an important criterion for all users in benefiting from any service. Free options have always attracted many users, but consider the fact that free VPNs may not meet your expectations in terms of privacy and data security, as well as speed, as free VPN service providers usually do not invest much to optimize their service infrastructure.

For example, they have weaker security protocols like PPTP, and they have few servers to cover the bandwidth; For this reason, free VPN users usually have unstable connections and their identity and IP address are not well protected, which generally exposes their IP address. Also, these providers misuse users’ information to earn income and sell user information in certain circumstances. Even some free VPNs define limits for the amount of user uploads and downloads. Therefore, choosing the best VPN option should not be based on price but look for a reliable provider rather than a cheap one because you use a VPN to establish secure connections and maintain privacy, not to compromise your important information.
Be sure to pay for a good VPN and make sure you won’t find the right service for free. Since providing a VPN to a user requires a fee to provide a server, there is no doubt that those services that work for free will pay for themselves in another way.

When choosing a VPN, research the VPN service provider well to select the most reliable and ensure high-speed VPN service delivery. Also, choose a provider for its VPN infrastructure that has more servers and is close to your location so that VPN performance will be better and your connection will be faster; also, according to the credibility of the server service provider, make sure that private information and Your activities are not monitored, and your privacy is respected.

Choose a VPN that uses the OpenVPN protocol instead of the PPTP protocol, which has the weakest security performance and uses the highest encryption standard, AES-256. It also provides more secure privacy among anonymous users by providing shared IPs.

Finally, according to your needs, choose a VPN compatible with your goals; there are a wide variety of VPNs with different functions, some of which have restrictions on downloading or some of which allow the use of BitTorrent. Also, some of them enable changing their server location or simultaneous connections, blocking firewall and other features. In short, do your best to choose your best service provider and be very strict in making decisions. Try to make the right choice by checking your needs.

FAQ

  • Hiding the identity, real IP address of your system, user's online activity, and user's personal data on any network
  • Protect your important data from hackers and spies on public networks with encryption
  • Bypassing restrictions on access to some content

When you connect to a VPN, your IP address changes, but your online activities will still be visible to every site you have an account on. Your images, posts, and shares are still accessible to everyone. VPNs can help you feel more secure in your online activities but cannot prevent cyber attacks.

Conclusion

We should always use VPN servers. If connecting to different locations is not important for your usage, it will be better to configure your own VPN server. And If you are familiar with configurations on Mikrotik or Linux VPS, it will be really the best choice.

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About the Author Harry Hill

I like to learn and to teach to make things easier

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