How to Setup an IPSec VPN on Windows Server 2012 R2

While the convenience of establishing a VPN connection between your devices for personal or business use is undeniable, using a VPN service also introduces some security concerns that you need to consider. To help you decide if establishing a VPN connection on your network is right for you, here is some general information about how to setup an IPsec VPN on Windows Server 2012 R2.

Choose Your VPN Service

You have many options when it comes to VPN services, from large companies that provide both free and premium services to smaller vendors that offer only paid plans. Do your research and read reviews to discover the best VPN service for your needs.

The Purpose Of A VPN

A VPN is a virtual private network. The most basic function of a VPN is to provide security for your network by preventing remote access to it. With a VPN, your network traffic is encapsulated, or covered, by security protocols so that only authorized users can access the information that you are exchanging. Encapsulating your network traffic in this way is also known as tunneling.

Features Of A VPN

There are many features that you should consider when choosing a VPN service. These include the strength of the encryption protocol and the effectiveness of the service at securing your network. Consider too the reliability and the performance of the company’s servers, as well as whether the service is IPv6 compatible. Choosing a VPN that supports several platforms is also beneficial as it simplifies the task of establishing a secure connection with multiple devices. For example, if you are using a Mac, you can connect to the VPN server through your browser and access your network resources. If you are an Android or iOS user, you can connect to the VPN server through your mobile device and access your network resources. There are many reasons why you might want to choose a VPN service.

Threats To Be Aware Of

While it is important to be aware of the security threats that you need to be careful of, it is also important to have some sense of security even when you are not. The best VPN services are designed to be extremely secure, which means that you will enjoy the benefits of a VPN connection even when you least expect it. Here are some of the threats that you need to be aware of:

  • Malicious software that is secretly installed on your networked devices. When this software is running, it can monitor your network activity and report back to the owner of the software that you are using. Most modern VPN services will kill or block this software if they discover it, so it is better if you know what it is and can keep it from spying on you.
  • Phishing – trying to steal your personal information through fraudulent emails that look like they are from legitimate businesses. Most people are very eager to provide their personal details to legitimate businesses, which makes them particularly vulnerable to this type of attack. It is highly recommended to use a VPN when accessing private and personal information online. Remember, no matter which VPN you choose, they are not impenetrable and can be hacked or decrypted by a determined individual or group.
  • Fake website domains – It is all too common for unscrupulous individuals and groups to set up websites that look exactly like those of reputable companies. If you are ever unsure of whether or not you are actually on the correct site, it is usually a good idea to check for the logo or uniform of the company you are dealing with. If in doubt, contact the company directly to verify their authenticity.
  • Man In The Middle Attacks – These occur when a hostile actor intercepts and injects malware or bogus traffic into a communications channel between two parties. When this happens, it means that any data shared through that channel could have been tampered with by a third party. If the channel is secured using only Transport Layer Security (TLS) or IPSec, then this sort of attack is often quite effective. As a general rule, always choose a VPN that offers the best end-to-end security and is known for being highly secure. Never use a free service that claims to be secure, as these services are probably not as safe as you might think. If you want the absolute best security, pay for the service.
  • Identity Theft – Sometimes referred to as ‘data theft’, this occurs when someone uses your personal details (such as your credit card number, social security number, and/or birth date) to make fraudulent purchases in your name. To prevent this, you should not disclose any of your personal information online, especially if you’re using unsecure public Wi-Fi. Instead, use a VPN to protect your network and prevent others from accessing your personal details. If you become a victim of identity theft, contact the three organizations that are responsible for maintaining personal data: (1) the Federal Trade Commission (FTC); (2) the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); and (3) the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBB) (formerly the Better Business Association). Also, be sure to monitor your credit report for evidence of fraud. You are not required to watch your credit report closely, but it is advisable to do so.
  • Email Compromise – This occurs when a malicious actor gains access to your email account and uses your email address to send out automated emails that appear to be from reputable companies. These emails often go unnoticed by recipients for years, but when they are finally noticed, the damage has often already been done.
  • Suspicious Packets – Just because your VPN connection is up and running does not mean that all is well with the world. Your ISP or a government agency could be intentionally or unintentionally injecting packets of malicious code into your network traffic. This could allow an attacker to remotely control your computer or to access your personal information. You should be aware of this possibility and take the necessary precautions to prevent it.
  • Botnets – These are large networks of computers that have been infected with malware and are under the control of a single individual or group. It is easy for someone to setup a malware-infected web server that responds to network commands from thousands of infected devices, all acting as part of a single large botnet. Your device could become part of a botnet, allowing an attacker to access your personal information and control your computer remotely. If this happens, simply disable the infected device and contact the authorities to cleanse your system and to investigate the matter.

With all of this in mind, it is clear that establishing a VPN connection is a useful tool for protecting your personal and business information. When used in conjunction with other technologies like email encryption and password protection, a VPN provides a level of security and privacy that is not available to normal computer users. With the right VPN service, the task of protecting your personal and business information can be made easy.

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