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What is VPN in Cyber Security and its Types?

Author : Pankaj Kumar
Last Modified: February 12, 2024 
What is a VPN in Cyber Security Featured Image

Introduction

Nowadays, everyone relies heavily on digital platforms, whether for business purposes or some important transactions. With the increase in digital presence, protecting personal data from hackers is crucial. VPN in cyber security is one approach to stop third parties from obtaining vital data for their benefit.

In this blog, we will discuss what a VPN really is, its history, the need for a VPN, how it works, types of VPN in cyber security, benefits and drawbacks of using a VPN.

Let’s first understand the basic meaning of VPN.

What is a VPN?

VPN in cyber security stands for Virtual Private Network. It is a technology that creates a virtual network over the internet by encrypting your data and hiding your IP address. Your device connects to a distant server managed by a VPN provider when you use a VPN, and this server then serves as the pathway for all of your internet traffic. Online identity and actions are kept secret in this manner from anybody who is possibly spying or attempting to steal sensitive data.

History of VPN

In the 1990s, VPN was developed as a secure connection for distant employees to corporate networks. Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP), developed by Microsoft in 1996, was the first VPN protocol. Later, L2TP (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol), which had additional security measures, replaced PPTP.

Internet Protocol Security, or IPsec, was first launched by IETF in 1998 and quickly became the standard for VPNs. For IP packets, IPsec offers reliable encryption and authentication.

OpenVPN, an open-source VPN protocol that employs SSL/TLS encryption, was developed in 2001. One of the most reliable and flexible VPN protocols currently available is OpenVPN. Firewalls and network address translation (NAT) may be avoided using OpenVPN, which can operate on any port.

We now have a basic understanding of VPN and its history. Let’s see how VPN works.

How VPN works?

A VPN functions by establishing a secure tunnel between your device and a distant server. The tunnel is encrypted with a key that only you and the server can access. In this manner, nobody will be able to see or manipulate your data as it passes through the tunnel. As you can see in the picture below, how VPN really works.

How VPN Works?

Now, the question that arises is how an encryption tunnel works. Let’s understand in detail.

How does the encryption tunnel work?

Encryption tunnel works via a combination of algorithms as well as protocols to protect the data. When we talk about the protocols, it defines how the data is packaged, transmitted, and verified. In the case of algorithms, it defines how data is scrambled and unscrambled. As you can see in the picture above, the encryption tunnel has two endpoints, namely, the client’s device and the VPN server.

Whenever a user tries to connect to the VPN, the user’s device usually initiates a handshake with the VPN server. This process is commonly known as exchanging cryptography keys and parameters that are further utilized in establishing the encryption tunnel.

After the handshake process, the encryption tunnel is established. It is finally possible for the user’s device and the VPN server to exchange data securely. Now that we have a good understanding of the working of VPN in Cyber Security. Let’s understand the types of VPN.

Different types of VPN in Cyber Security

There are different types of VPN in cyber security as per various requirements and objectives. Among the most common ones are:

Remote access VPN

With Remote access VPN, we can connect from a distance to a private network, such as a business or home network. In this manner, we may use the network’s resources—like files, printers, and software—just as if we were physically present there. Employees who work from home or travel regularly and others who wish to access their personal network from any location typically utilize remote access VPNs.

Remote Access VPN

Site-to-site VPN

A site-to-site VPN connects two networks that are located at separate locations, as opposed to a remote access VPN, which enables individual users to connect to a network and utilize its services.

Site-to-Site VPN

Site-to-site VPN builds a virtual link between two or more networks by connecting them over the internet. The networks can safely and effectively exchange resources and data in this manner. Businesses that wish to cooperate with partners or customers or have several offices or branches spread throughout the country often utilize site-to-site VPNs.

Mobile VPN

Mobile VPN is designed especially for portable devices like smartphones and tablets that regularly switch between networks or their network connections. No matter how good or accessible the network is, mobile VPNs provide the device with a reliable and secure connection. People who travel often utilize public Wi-Fi networks or require mobile access to sensitive data and frequently use mobile VPNs.

We have explained how VPNs work and the different types of VPNs that are used. Let’s focus on the benefits and limitations of using a VPN in Cyber Security.

What is VPN in Cyber Security used for?

Here are a few uses of VPN –

  • You need to keep your IP address hidden when downloading copyrighted content through torrenting. So, a VPN helps you hide your identity without any potential risks with a protective and private torrenting experience.
  • VPN is used to protect your online activities from ISP throttling. It means that when your Internet Service Provider (ISP) deliberately slows down your Internet speed, a VPN protects you from this and adopts much faster speeds.
  • Public Wi-Fi networks like coffee shops, airports, or hotels are often vulnerable to cyberattacks, so a VPN is important to maintain security when using those networks. In other words, when you connect to an untrusted Wi-Fi hotspot using a VPN, your data remains safe from potential hackers and eavesdroppers.
  • A VPN allows you to access your gaming potential with the help of its security and convenience. It protects you from competition interrupting your gameplay and increases your ping for efficient and lag-free sessions. Additionally, with a VPN, you can access exclusive games that may be restricted in your region, offering endless gaming possibilities.
  • A VPN is used to unblock your streaming platforms like Netflix and Hulu. It provides access to all your favourite shows and sports for as long as possible, without delay.

Is VPN Secure?

Yes, the VPN is secure as it uses cryptography, which guarantees the user’s security and privacy and provides all the three features of the “CIA Triad”.

  • Privacy: Encrypts all data running on public networks.
  • Message integrity: All modifications or problems with shared data can be traced through the message authentication code (MAC). It means that intentionally or unintentionally interfered messages can be detected.
  • Authentication: Identifying both endpoints of the VPN connection, along with the initial authentication and key-sharing process, proves authenticity, which protects against unauthorized use of the VPN.

VPN Protocols

If the underlying network infrastructure alone cannot provide security, the VPN protocol allows connected systems to provide the right level of protection.

Here are various protocols that provide secure and encrypted data:

  • IP Security (IPsec)
  • Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security
  • Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP)
  • Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)
  • OpenVPN

Benefits of using a VPN

Users and businesses may benefit from VPNs in a variety of ways, including:

  • Secure Connectivity – A VPN’s encrypted connection prevents third parties from listening in on the connection without the secret keys needed to encrypt and secure the data while it is in transit.
  • Simplified Distributed Networks – Either directly or via Network Address Translation (NAT), any machines that may be accessed from the public Internet must have public IP addresses. A site-to-site VPN enables them to utilize private IP addresses for internal communication by simulating a direct link between the two networks.
  • Access Control – Every business has resources and systems that are solely intended for internal users to access. Since the VPN endpoint is behind the network firewall, a VPN gives a distant user or site “internal” access, allowing access to these resources to approved remote users without making them publicly visible.

Limitations of using a VPN

Even if VPNs are made to play an essential part in modern business, they are not a perfect solution. VPNs have some limitations that affect both their user and business cybersecurity, such as:

  • Fragmented Visibility – VPNs are designed to provide private point-to-point connections, with each VPN user using their own connection. The security team of a business finds it challenging to retain the complete network visibility necessary for efficient threat detection and response.
  • No Integrated Security – An enterprise must employ additional security solutions behind the VPN to detect and prevent hazardous information and apply additional access restrictions.
  • Poor Scalability – VPNs scale poorly when used as a point-to-point security solution. For instance, in a fully linked network, the number of site-to-site VPN connections increases exponentially with the number of sites. As a result, there is a complicated network architecture that is challenging to establish, manage, and safeguard.

Is VPN legal or illegal?

VPN services are legal in many countries and always remain legal if not used for illegal activities like online fraud, cyber theft, or downloading copyrighted content in certain countries. Therefore, the legality of a VPN also depends on the country and its geopolitical relations with other countries.

For example, according to a Bloomberg report, China will ban all VPN services. Some users use VPNs to access websites restricted under the “Great Firewall” of China. It is done to prevent rival countries’ data leaks and protect security systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1 – What is VPN and its type?

Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a technological advancement that provides safe online connections to private networks. There are mainly 3 types of VPNs. These are –

  • Remote access VPN
  • Site-to-site VPN
  • Mobile VPN

Q2 – Why VPN is used for security?

VPNs are used because it makes it difficult for hackers, snoopers, or even govt. agencies to access or modify data as per their benefit. In order to do that, a VPN provides a secure tunnel and also hides the user’s IP address, which might disclose their location and identity.

Q3 – What are 3 uses of VPN?

Some of the uses of VPN are:

  • To access geo-restricted content or websites that are blocked in your region.
  • To protect your online privacy and data from hackers, snoopers, or government surveillance.
  • To bypass internet censorship or firewalls that restrict your online freedom.

Q4 – Who needs a VPN?

People who value their online privacy and security need a VPN. A VPN encrypts their internet traffic and hides their IP address from prying eyes.

Conclusion

VPN in cyber security is a technology that establishes a secure connection over the internet using data encryption and IP address masking. It may provide us with a lot of benefits as well as some limitations. Because of this, we should use a VPN responsibly and for the intended goals. In this blog, we have discussed what is a VPN, how VPN works, its advantages and disadvantages.

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