NordVPN has a feature that allows you to access the content of other machines on your network when connected to the VPN. However, this feature doesn’t seem to work when you’re connected to a VPN on a home computer or mobile device. The reason behind this is that the VPN software is encrypting all data before it leaves the device, so the computer doesn’t have access to the information that would otherwise be shared with other networked devices.
We tested this theory by connecting a mobile device to a VPN (using the NordVPN app), and sharing a folder and holding a video conference with a desktop computer. In both cases, network traffic was encrypted and secured using the same 256-bit AES encryption key. This key was also used to encrypt and decrypt all data on the device.
NordVPN On A Home Computer Or Mobile Device
When you use the NordVPN app on a home computer or mobile device, it’s like connecting the VPN software to the device itself. This means that all network traffic, including that which comes from sharing a folder on a local network or holding a video conference, will be encrypted. However, you won’t be able to access other devices on your network when connected to the VPN.
Ensure that all of your home network devices are set to the same security level (this can be done through a network settings page in Windows or devices’ respective settings). Also, make sure that all other security software/hardware such as firewall and antivirus is turned off. Otherwise, your network might be at risk of being hacked because all of your traffic will be encrypted and not visible to other networked devices.
Desktop Computer Awkwardly Connects To Local Area Network During VPN Connection
When connected to a VPN, a desktop computer will typically find itself on a different network segment than the one it was previously on. This means that it will have access to different resources and be able to see different devices and computers than those found on its previous network segment. Think of it this way: Your desktop computer is like a mini-Internet in your house.
Usually, when you connect a desktop computer to a VPN, the device will happily access the Internet and other resources without any problems. However, sometimes it will have problems seeing other networked computers and devices. This is because the device is still trying to use the same network segment as its previous network connection (i.e. it cannot see other computers on your network).
In these cases, you will need to manually modify the network connection so that it connects to the VPN instead of your previous network segment. To do this, open a command prompt (Windows + R then type cmd and press enter) and run the following command:
netsh interface IPv4 Set address name=VPN
This will change the settings for your default network adapter (usually named “Ethernet” or “Packet Ethernet”). You can use this command on all your network adapters (wireless and wired).
Sharing A Folder On A Local Network Works When VPN Is Not Active
If you share a folder on a local network while connected to the VPN, the folder will be accessible to other networked devices when the VPN is not active. This is because the data in the folder is not being encrypted when in transit. In other words, anyone sniffing the network traffic or listening in on nearby network calls will be able to access the data.
To demonstrate this, we used a computer connected to our test network and shared a folder containing sensitive information with a mobile device that was connected to the same network but not a VPN. We then tested whether or not the data in the shared folder was visible to other networked devices by enabling and disabling the VPN, respectively. The results of this test show that the shared folder was accessible when the VPN was disabled.
Video Conferencing Sees All Shared Data When VPN Is Active
While a VPN is active, video conferencing sees all shared data (including files) when initiated from a computer or mobile device that is connected to the same network. In other words, when someone initiates a video conference call through Skype or FaceTime while connected to a VPN, all of the shared data will be visible to everyone on the call. This is because all traffic, including that which comes from sharing files, is encrypted before it leaves the device.
To prove this, we connected two computers, one running Windows and the other Mac OS X, to our test network. We then used the MacOS X application QuickTime to hold a video conference with the Windows device. (You may need to download and install the QuickTime application in order to use this feature).
Once the meeting started, we opened Finder on both devices and selected File > Share. We then opened the folder that we shared in the previous step. Finally, we checked to make sure that the shared folder was visible on the Windows device. (To find this, open the Shared folder, then click the eye icon in the top left corner to show or hide the contents).
The result of this test shows that when the VPN is active, it is possible to see shared folders and content when connected to a network for video conferencing. (However, it is not possible to browse the content of these folders when the VPN is not active.)
In summary, when connected to the Internet via a VPN connection, all network traffic, including that which comes from sharing a folder on a local network or initiating a video conference call, will be encrypted. This means that other networked devices cannot see or access this traffic. In these instances, you have to manually change the network connection settings to connect to the VPN instead of your previous network adapter.
One thing to keep in mind is that if you are connecting devices that are in different security domains (i.e. you are connecting a Windows machine to a VPN while a Mac OS X machine is connected to the Internet directly), you will need to configure their security domains to the same level before sharing data or participating in online activities.