More privacy and increased security in public networks - these are the greatest advantages of a VPN connection. It reliably ensures networking between distributed locations and even unhesitating access to important company data via the internet at the airport is no problem. Modern work concepts such as home office or sales 4.0 would hardly be possible without this measure. In addition, VPN access prevents the evaluation of one's own traffic data, which is a plus point that should not be underestimated, especially in our data protection-driven times. Sounds all well and good, but how secure is a VPN tunnel really?
What is a VPN Tunnel?
A Virtual Private Network (VPN) is a closed communication network on a publicly accessible infrastructure. While a free WLAN opens the door to a variety of cybercrime threats, a VPN tunnel encrypts the conversation and thus provides increased security. In addition, VPN access can be used to disguise or change one's location in order to gain access to otherwise blocked information, data and applications - keyword "geoblocking"!
How does VPN Access Work?
The VPN software encrypts all data that the computer exchanges with servers on the Internet. Only the communication partners within this closed network are able to interact with each other. Neither the internet provider nor third parties can view the communication. The provider only recognises that data traffic is taking place; content and data origin are encrypted and remain hidden. If a user accesses a network via a VPN tunnel, it looks to the network and other communication partners as if the computer is located at the company site.
When using a VPN network, the user independently selects an IP address. Unlike usual IP addresses, this is not only used by the user, but by all users. It is not uncommon for this to be several hundred, which poses a great challenge to criminals, for example. The theft of account data becomes a Herculean task, as it is de facto impossible to identify a single user among the multitude of users with the same IP. More information about a vpn tunnel.
How can Secure VPN Tunnels be Recognised?
Those who have the capacities and above all the know-how should (as a company) think about setting up their own VPN server. Since future developments (e.g. company growth, technical progress) often cannot be estimated, it is advisable to think big, but to start small and in line with demand. If it is not possible to build your own server, a software product from the market can be used. For private individuals, this is usually the only practical solution. However, one should question the offer, as not everything that promises security is really secure. But what makes a good VPN software? For a VPN tunnel to be secure, it is necessary to check the authenticity (=unambiguous identification of authorised users) as well as the confidentiality and integrity (=data cannot be changed) of the connection. Reliable providers enable their users to access common security protocols. This makes surfing the net less dangerous. Point-to-point tunnelling (PPTP) should be treated with caution. The network protocol is now considered outdated or no longer secure. In addition to L2TP, modern alternatives include IPsec and IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange Version 2) or OpenVPN. OpenVPN in particular is one of the most widespread options and is available both as a paid and a free option. The software encrypts with up to 256-bit, the highest encryption level available. Users thus remain anonymous on the net. Reliable VPN options also have an emergency switch that temporarily disconnects the user from the internet to prevent possible data leaks. Some VPNs also directly block (potentially) harmful websites and pop-ups before they can cause damage - or annoy the user.
The security of networks is still overestimated today and the threat of cybercrime is unfortunately often underestimated. A VPN offers a pleasantly simple security measure to set up and complements every security concept. The times when the connection had a massive negative impact on performance are over, and thanks to the wide range of products on offer, everyone can find a software product for their own application. Nevertheless, everyone should be aware that the use of a VPN tunnel does not offer complete security. It is a utopia. But with its use, companies and private individuals alike are on the safer side. A very comprehensive documentation on the subject of VPN was written by the NIST.