Tunneling

Definition - What does Tunneling mean?

Tunneling is a protocol that allows for the secure movement of data from one network to another. Tunneling involves allowing private network communications to be sent across a public network, such as the Internet, through a process called encapsulation. The encapsulation process allows for data packets to appear as though they are of a public nature to a public network when they are actually private data packets, allowing them to pass through unnoticed.

Tunneling is also known as port forwarding.

Techopedia explains Tunneling

In tunneling, the data are broken into smaller pieces called packets as they move along the tunnel for transport. As the packets move through the tunnel, they are encrypted and another process called encapsulation occurs. The private network data and the protocol information that goes with it are encapsulated in public network transmission units for sending. The units look like public data, allowing them to be transmitted across the Internet. Encapsulation allows the packets to arrive at their proper destination. At the final destination, de-capsulation and decryption occur.

There are various protocols that allow tunneling to occur, including:

  • Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP): PPTP keeps proprietary data secure even when it is being communicated over public networks. Authorized users can access a private network called a virtual private network, which is provided by an Internet service provider. This is a private network in the “virtual” sense because it is actually being created in a tunneled environment.
  • Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP): This type of tunneling protocol involves a combination of using PPTP and Layer 2 Forwarding.


Tunneling is a way for communication to be conducted over a private network but tunneled through a public network. This is particularly useful in a corporate setting and also offers security features such as encryption options.

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