Most people are well aware of the importance of keeping their personal data secure online. After all, data breaches are all the rage these days, and it’s not hard to understand why. To that end, many companies and organizations deploy VPNs, or virtual private networks, to provide secure connections between remote locations and sensitive systems. However, setting up and using a VPN can be a complex process that requires a certain degree of technical knowledge. To make matters worse, there are numerous differences in the encryption methods and techniques that network administrators must understand to ensure that the data remains secure during transit. For example, some VPNs can be configured to encrypt the data in-transit while other VPNs only encrypt the header information. Still others may use certain encryption algorithms while ensuring that the data is not protected until it is stored in a secure database. This can be a recipe for disaster if implemented incorrectly, and it’s important to understand the implications of each type of encryption before deploying it.
Header-only encryption is when only the header information, or metadata, is encrypted during a VPN connection. In this case, all the data that is sent between your computer and the VPN service is unencrypted. This can be a good choice for users that are new to VPNs or those that do not have the technical know-how to implement more complex encryption methods. It also provides a minimal amount of security, which is great for those that are simply looking to protect personal data online or those that do not have the means to properly secure their network.
Full tunnel encryption is when both the header and the data, or payload, are securely encrypted during a VPN connection. In this scenario, the entire connection is encrypted, including the metadata. This is the default setting, as it is the most complex and offers the best level of security. When selecting this type of encryption, make sure that you have the proper infrastructure in place to ensure that all the data remains secure, as well as the knowledge to properly set it up. It is also the most recommended type of VPN as it prevents man-in-the-middle attacks, or eavesdropping, by intermediaries that may exist between your computer and the VPN server. This type of encryption is commonly used by large organizations with numerous branches that need to securely communicate with each other.
Finally, we have clear text encryption, which simply means that all data sent during a VPN connection is not encrypted. This can be a useful tool for those that need quick and easy access to sensitive data or for those that wish to keep their personal data private. While this type of encryption provides for great security for the data being transmitted between your computer and the VPN server, it does not provide any security for the metadata. Once the metadata is unprotected, it can be easily accessed by anyone that is able to intercept the connection. It is also easy to accidentally transmit data in the clear, so make sure that you are aware of this fact and have proper precautions in place. This type of encryption should only be used in situations where the data being protected is extremely valuable and needs to remain secure, but the added complexity and computational burden of encrypting the data is not warranted. It should be noted, however, that clear text encryption is sometimes mandatory, especially when using public Wi-Fi networks. In these situations, clear text is the only available option for encrypting the data.
Hopefully, this article has helped you understand the various types of VPNs available and how to choose the right one for your specific needs. By understanding the differences in the various types of encryption methods, you can ensure that the data that you are sending remains secure throughout its transit, no matter what.