VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and it represents, as anyone can realize it from the title, a private network that uses special security mechanisms to make sure that only users who have the proper authorization are able to access it. The VPN acts just like a tunnel that is built using public networks, in order to shield the information contained inside from any prying eye. This type of network is usually implemented by companies and institutions that work with sensitive data to ensure an extra layer of protection when communicating with clients and partners. Also, companies that have headquarters all over the world and need a private channel of communication use VPN systems to send and receive data, voice and/or video.
In today’s world companies are not the only beneficiaries of a VPN system (and also not the only ones who need it). The rapid development of new technologies made it possible for the individual user to have access to a network that is private and offers better data and information protection. As an individual VPN user you have access to a few pretty amazing features like browsing the internet anonymously or using services that are restricted in your country based on geographic location.
Even if you don’t realize it, every user’s online activity is registered and usually there are three main types of entities that follow us online:
- robots specially created to collect data for marketing purposes
- institutions that need data and information for anti-fraud or statistical purposes
- villains who need our data and online habits for various online attacks that can be extremely costly for the victim.
Most users have a general idea about this but you never know who could be waiting for your sensitive data in the network which is why a VPN can be a great investment for both the company and the regular user. The tunnel it creates will keep your online activity hidden from eavesdroppers and all your data transactions will be secured when using an unprotected public network (like public Wi-Fi).
The process used by a VPN system is simple: you first have to connect to the service using your credentials (username and password) and then there’s an exchange of confidential information between your computer and the server you just asked to be connected to. After this exchange, if computers agree on the exchange, your online activity goes through this encrypted and secured server. When you use a VPN you can even declare a different location than the ones you are currently in. For example, if you want to access a server where only US citizens have access, you can simply choose an IP address that will mask the current one, making it look like you are from US.
When it comes to companies and institutions, the architecture is more complex but the system works in a similar manner. Here the security is of extreme importance as sensitive data are usually sent over the public network (the internet) in order to allow remote headquarters or workers to complete their tasks. Let’s take the example of a school that offers students access to online resources. As a student you must use the VPN data provided by the school in order to get the necessary information. This way, the school makes sure its resources are protected and only students have access to them.
Even though it may seem a bit weird, in today’s world, navigating without a VPN system may be harmful for the user. Since these systems are so easy to use and there are so many cost-effective solutions, there’s absolutely no excuse for browsing unprotected!