A VPN (Virtual Private Network) provides a secure connection between two or more devices or computers (e.g. endpoints) that are connected to a public network (e.g. the Internet). Using a VPN allows for full privacy and security within communication and data exchanges between the connected devices.
While VPNs provide many advantages to users, they do require some configuration and setup in order to work effectively. In this blog post we will discuss some of the steps required to fully establish a VPN connection in Windows Firewall (see note at the end of the post about a free, open source VPN solution that can be used).
Step 1: Install and Configure the VPN Client
The first step in configuring a VPN is to install and configure the VPN client on each individual device or computer that you wish to connect to the VPN. The VPN client is a small application that provides the cryptographic security mechanisms needed to encrypt and authenticate all data sent over the VPN connection. It also handles the routing of traffic and provides a user interface to allow for easy setup and configuration of the VPN connection.
Installing and configuring a VPN client on your endpoints is a fairly simple process and can be done through the use of any web browser. Most VPN providers offer simple to use web-based clients that can be accessed from any device with a web connection. These clients can be accessed simply by entering the website address [URL] in the address bar of your browser. Once accessed, you will be presented with a login screen where you can enter your username and password to access the VPN (see Figure 1).
Step 2: Install and Configure the VPN Server
Once you have your VPN clients set up and are able to connect to the VPN, you need to proceed to the next step. The next step is to install and configure a VPN server on a device or computer that is connected to the Internet. The VPN server is a software application or module that maintains the encrypted connection with the clients (see Figure 2).
VPN servers are typically installed and configured on devices or computers that are already functioning as servers (i.e. have other applications installed and running on them). For example, if you have a web server [IIS] installed on your computer that is connected to the Internet, you can use this device as your VPN server. In this case, all of the devices within your network can utilize the services provided by the IIS server to securely access the Internet through the VPN connection.
Step 3: Establishing a VPN Connection
Once you have your VPN server set up and running, you can proceed to the final step which is to establish the VPN connection between your endpoints. In order to do this, you will need to log into your VPN server and define the IP (Internet Protocol) addresses and the secret keys (i.e. the pass phrases) for the devices that you want to connect to the VPN. You can do this by following the instructions provided by the VPN server.
After you have entered the required information, you will be provided with a Certificate Authority (CA) certificate that can be used to verify the identity of the VPN server. You can click on the CA Certificate to be taken to the website of the Certificate Authority (CA) (see Figure 3).
Why Should You Use a VPN?
There are a number of benefits to using a VPN in addition to the security and privacy it provides. Some of the most common benefits include:
- Increased Privacy – By connecting to a VPN server, your personal data is securely hidden from view. Even if your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is logging information about your online activity, they will not have the required encryption technologies in place to be able to read your private communications.
- Protection Against Computer Attacks – A VPN server prevents computer attacks by actively defending your system against hacking attempts. The VPN software installed on your device will monitor and block suspicious activity such as port scans, brute force login attempts, or DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. These are the most common types of attacks that are used by cybercriminals to gain unlawful access to individuals’ personal data.
- Improved Security – A VPN connection acts as a security blanket ensuring that your confidential information is always protected. VPNs are extensively used by businesses and organizations to securely access their email servers and other corporate networks from outside of the organization.
- Location Privacy – A VPN connection can be set up to automatically encrypt and authenticate all Internet traffic, thus keeping location information hidden even from the ISP. In some cases, this feature is entirely free, while in others it requires a paid subscription.
- Increased Freedom – Many countries have started restricting the freedom of speech and expression online. For example, in China, using a VPN is often considered an act of terrorism, as it can help users avoid government censorship.
- Faster Internet Access – Many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) charge exorbitant fees for an “unlimited” data plan. However, by using a VPN, you can access the Internet with far fewer limitations and restrictions. Some ISPs may even offer free VPNs to their customers.
Whether you are a business or an individual user, the benefits of a VPN are clear. An encrypted connection is never a bad thing, and in this day and age, it is certainly worth the small effort required to set one up. Just remember to configure your VPN with a reputable provider offering good security and coverage where you are located so that you can feel protected and comfortable when utilizing the service.
A VPN Is A Valuable Tool In A Gunman’s Arsenal
The most effective way to deal with a would-be hacker or cybercriminal is to employ a combination of security software [anti-virus, anti-malware, VPN, etc.] on your computer. A VPN should be a part of your arsenal of tools used to protect yourself from cybercriminals and other online threats. It can be used as a standalone product or in conjunction with other security measures.
Since its inception, the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol has been the backbone of the Internet. SSL is a security protocol that was designed to be used in conjunction with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) to create a secure connection between a web server and a client. The effectiveness of this protocol cannot be disputed, with billions of dollars worth of online commerce taking place every month based on the security and reliability of the SSL protocol.
The most notable difference between the HTTP and the SSL protocols is found in their construction. While HTTP is a “pull” protocol where the client “requests” data from the server, the SSL protocol is a “push” protocol. In other words, the server “pushes” data to the client. This data may then be stored on the client for later use. In most circumstances, the client device will not store any unencrypted data in plain text on it. This is because the data being pushed by the server is usually considered to be highly sensitive or confidential information.
How Does a VPN Work?
The working principle of a VPN is quite straightforward. All data sent between the client and the server is encrypted. This encryption is handled by the cryptographic algorithms maintained by the VPN service. For example, the OpenVPN protocol offers very strong encryption with AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and ChaCha20. This algorithm was designed by U.S. government experts and it is one of the strongest algorithms currently in use.
The encrypted data is then routed through the use of IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. This can be done either through direct connection or through a series of devices (i.e. nodes) known as VPN “hops.” The destination address of the packet will then be replaced with the IP address of the VPN server. This process creates a secure connection between two devices (or computers) and prevents any third party (i.e. sniffers, hackers, state actors, etc.) from accessing the data traveling between the two endpoints. This encryption and tunneling of data through an IP network is what provides the security and confidentiality of the connection made via a VPN.
The Importance of Password Security
Passwords are one of the most common methods cybercriminals use to gain access to private and confidential information. In the event that your username and password are compromised by a third party, this information can be used to log into your account on the VPN and to access all of your personal data. If this happens, you will need to change your password immediately and reset your account (e.g. via email). Changing your password is usually quite easy, however, you should never use the same password for multiple websites or accounts. This is a sure-fire way to create a password that is easily hackable.