A virtual private network, or a VPN, is a system that uses the public
network, like the Internet, to extend a private network. A computer or
a network-enabled device connected to the VPN of a certain company,
for example, will be able to receive and send data through public or
shared networks and act like it is connected directly to the company’s
private network and still get the same security, management policies,
and functionality of the corporate infrastructure.
The VPN technology is commonly used by educational institutions,
large corporations, and government agencies which have individuals
working from remote locations. Like a WAN or a Wide Area Network,
VPN is also used in connecting multiple sites separated by large
distances. It is also often used to allow access to Intranets from any
part of the world reaching a wider user base. Some campuses which
have branches or subsidiaries all over the country or the world can use
VPN for secure connections.
Accessing the private network from outside its physical location
requires a public network connection, a user account, and a password.
Some more secure infrastructures employ the use of RSA tokens for
additional authentication. An RSA token device generates a personal
identification number or PIN that the user must input during the
The PIN expires after a set time and a new one is generated again.
This makes it impossible for a malicious user to access the network
without the RSA token device even if he knows the user account and
the password. VPN secures communication through a variety of
protocols that are used to encrypt the data being transferred. Common
protocols used are IPSec, PPTP, L2TP, SSL and TLS.
VPN use has transcended the corporate environment and is now being
provided by more and more companies that offer secure connection
and anonymity. Although a large percentage of VPN implementations
are still on corporate applications, private individuals who don’t want
people snooping on their connections are using VPN to protect their
security and identity.
VPNs also allow access to sites and applications that are blocked from
some geographic locations. A user might require access to a video
streaming site that is blocked on a certain country and connecting to a
VPN server can facilitate that request. Some individuals also would
want to hide his Internet activities like when visiting personal sites and
downloading files, and VPN can help.