VPN Connection

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What is a VPN connection?

The question of what a VPN connection is and how VPNs fit into cybersecurity strategy is an important one for organizations concerned about online security – especially when data breaches can decimate your company’s reputation.


Understanding how VPN connections work is essential to protect sensitive information from threats. In this guide, we’ll explain how popular VPN services use these connections to keep your data safe.

What Is a VPN Connection and How Does It Work? Techopedia Explains

A Virtual Private Network (VPN) serves as a bridge between your devices and the internet, providing a secure and private avenue for data transmission.

A VPN connection – using a VPN tunnel  is a fundamental concept in VPN technology. It refers to how data is sent securely from one network to another. A VPN connection compresses data packets within another packet before sending them over the internet.

Encryption – The Cornerstone of VPN Security

The encryption process converts information or data into a code to prevent unauthorized access. Within a VPN connection, encryption ensures that any data transmitted between your device and the VPN server is unreadable to anyone who might intercept it.

Here are the steps involved in the encryption process:

  1. When you connect to a VPN server, the VPN client software on your device initiates a secure connection.
  2. Your device and the VPN server exchange encryption keys, establishing how your data will be encrypted and decrypted.
  3. As data is sent from your device, it’s encrypted using the agreed-upon encryption standards before it travels through the tunnel.
  4. Upon reaching the VPN server, the data is decrypted and then sent to the final destination, such as a website or online service.

VPN Protocols – The Different Paths for Your Data

VPN connection protocols

VPN protocols are standardized sets of rules that define exactly how your data will be encrypted, authenticated, and transmitted through the VPN so that both ends of the connection can work together.

The VPN protocol you select will affect your VPN connection’s speed, security, and reliability. Common protocols you can use include:

  • OpenVPN – An open-source protocol that offers a good balance between speed and security.
  • IKEv2/IPsec – Known for its strong security and stability, especially on mobile devices that switch between WiFi and cellular networks.
  • WireGuard – A newer protocol praised for its simplicity and high performance.

Each protocol has its own method for handling encryption, authentication, and data packet transmission, influencing the overall VPN experience. Selecting the right protocol depends on your specific needs, such as speed or security.

There are also legacy networking protocols like the Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) and Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP), which are less widely used today and are considered to be less secure.

How Does a VPN Connection Help Keep You Safe?

A VPN connection safeguards your online activities by creating an encrypted tunnel for data to travel through. It offers two key benefits:

  • Privacy – External entities, such as internet service providers and other third-party interceptors, can’t easily discern the contents of the data as it’s encapsulated.
  • Security – The encapsulated data is encrypted, which means that even if it’s intercepted, it would be indecipherable without the correct decryption key.

When you initiate a VPN connection, your device communicates with the VPN server using encrypted signals.

This encryption is typically facilitated by protocols, such as OpenVPN or IKEv2, which employ advanced cryptographic algorithms.

For instance, AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) with a 256-bit key, often referred to as AES-256, is the gold standard for encryption and is considered virtually impenetrable by current computing capabilities.

The Bottom Line

A VPN connection creates a tunnel that encapsulates your data when it’s transferred over the internet. Encrypting your internet traffic and masking your IP address ensures your digital presence is secure and your information remains confidential.

VPN Connection FAQs

Will using a VPN connection affect my internet speed?

Are there any limitations or restrictions when using a VPN connection?

How can I ensure my VPN connection is encrypted and secure?


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Richard Sutherland
Technology Expert
Richard Sutherland
Technology Expert

Richard brings more than two decades of computer science, business operations, and full-stack development experience to Techopedia. A Computer Science graduate and former Samsung IT support manager, Richard has taught courses in Java, PHP and Perl, and created code for the public and private sectors. A prolific B2B and B2C tech writer, Richard has worked for Samsung, TechRadar Pro, and more.