Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), when used properly, are a great tool for managing data and network access and, thus, reducing data security risks. VPNs are extremely useful for three key reasons:
• “Spoofing” a location so that ISPs don’t track your location and browsing history
• Limiting cybercriminal exposure by encrypting your traffic–even on public Wi-Fi networks
• Encrypting log files and browser history to limit surveillance exposure
Introduced over 30 years ago, VPN began as hardware-only based solutions that enabled secure and remote access to the Internet through a point-to-point connection. It created an encrypted ‘tunnel’ for IP traffic to be carried through and delivered securely from an external device (say, your laptop) with VPN client software and secure network access gateway on a corporate network.
Today, there are many types of VPNs using different security protocols –each different strengths and weaknesses. Consumer-based VPNs are great for at-home users that want to secure their data and connections. However, security experts caution against letting remote workers use these consumer-level VPNs to access valuable corporate network data.
Corporate VPNs can then be categorized into two distinct applications. A remote-access VPN allows individual users to establish secure connections with a remote computer network. Those users can access the secure resources on that network as if they were directly plugged in to the network’s servers.. A site-to-site VPN allows offices in multiple fixed locations to establish secure connections with each other over a public network such as the internet. Site-to-site VPN extends the company’s network, making computer resources from one location available to employees at other locations.
Corporate VPNs typically use SSL or Internet Protocol Security (IPsec) as the secure network protocol to authenticate and encrypts data at the IP Packet Layer. To create a Corporate VPN tunnel, the IPsec protocol negotiates security associations (SA) with the Internet Key Exchange (IKE) management protocol to create an authenticated and secure communication channel between a user, device and network resources.
The IPsec VPN mutual negotiation exchanges keys for end-to-end encryption occurring in two phases. First, users with their devices establish a secure channel that negotiates the IPsec security association (SA). Second, users and devices negotiate the IPsec SA for authenticating traffic that will flow through the tunnel.
The IP traffic that flows between the two components pass between the private gateway and the client thereby creating an IPsec tunnel to establish a secure VPN communications tunnel. The private tunnel and the data traveling over any network (including public WiFi), is encrypted, keeping all data private and secure.
When looking to secure your vulnerable data, you have many options. A VPN is a good first step. Do your research. Check the IP protocols used to reflect the security you need while balancing the service overhead (degradation in speed caused the encryption process). Whether using a cloud-based service or software and hardware-based solution, there are choices to fit almost every need.