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 VPN services use these connections to keep your data safe.
What Is a VPN Connection and How Does It Work? Techopedia Explains
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
Here are the steps involved in the encryption process:
- When you connect to a VPN server, the VPN client software on your device initiates a secure connection.
- Your device and the VPN server exchange encryption keys, establishing how your data will be encrypted and decrypted.
- As data is sent from your device, it’s encrypted using the agreed-upon encryption standards before it travels through the tunnel.
- 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
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.
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.