Networking

VPN : What is it? How it works? Is it safe to use?

Today’s article will cover the basics of VPN (Virtual Private Network).
First of all lets break down networks (group of computers) into two simple parts, Public networks and Private networks.
Public networks are those networks whose devices are visible to public. Anyone can interact with a computer which is in a public network.
On the other hands, Private networks are private (too obvious lol). No outsider can connect to the computers present in a private network. But why? Because private networks are not connected to the Internet. Confused?
Umm lets say you work for a video game developer company. You work in a team of 150 people, some create music for the game, some draw characters, some write story and some add bugs.
What makes these people a team? Teamwork. They share their creations with each other using documents, pictures, videos etc.
But how do they share it?
Using pen drives? No *laughs*
Internet? No, thats not safe as hackers can attack.
Connecting those computers to each other? Yes.
They can connect their computers, forming a LAN. But what if some hackers breaks into one of the computers and steals data? The hacker will attack from outside* i.e. the internet but what if we don’t connect our computers to the internet? Yeah we are safe and this is what we call a Private Network.
So basically, you can say a LAN which is not connected to the internet is called a private network.
Note: You can call your network a private network if it is behind a NAT which makes it connect to the internet indirectly. Yeah you can call it a private network but I just don’t 🙂
Private networks are hence an integral part of such organization’s security.
But there’s still a problem, what if some employee is at his home but the team needs him to draw a sketch for them? Well he will not be able to send his sketch to the office because he is not a part of the private network of the office.
To solve such problems, we have a technology named VPN (Virtual Private Network). It lets a computer outside of the private network to connect to the private network. Actually VPN seems to destroy the concept of a private network because anyone can use a sniffer to intercept the connection between the computer and the private network.
Well VPN has a surprise, it uses encryption which makes the connection invulnerable from sniffing and MITM (Man In The Middle attack).
Now leave your office because this article truly starts here.

Evolution Of VPN

Years back, VPN technology was only limited to offices and other such places but then VPN got evolved.
It became something more than a technique used to connect to private networks.
Now you can install a VPN client in your device to encrypt all the data going in and out of your device.
For example, if you are visiting a website with normal connection settings, your connection can be represented with this graphic:
surfing without VPN
Normally, when you visit a website, you forward your request to your ISP (Internet Service Provider) then your ISP forwards your request to the website. Website hence receives your request and forwards the answer to your request to your ISP, then ISP forwards the answer to you.
But if you are in a public network you are an easy target to sniffing and MITM attacks.
Now lets install a VPN Client (a program that lets us use VPN services) in our computer and try to visit the website again:
using VPN
Now lets break down the process shown in the above graphic:

Step 1. VPN Client installed in our device encrypts the request
Step 2. ISP receives the encrypted request and forwards it to the VPN server
Step 3. VPN decrypts the request and sends it to the website
Step 4. Website receives the request and sends the answer to the VPN server
Step 5. VPN server encrypts the answer and forwards it to the ISP
Step 6. ISP receives the encrypted answer and sends it to our device
Step 7. VPN Client installed in our device decrypts the answer

You see that? If you are in a cyber cafe, office or using a public hotspot your data is safe because its encrypted.
Now there is something else that’s good about VPN, it also works as a proxy which gives us another layer of security in this big wild world of internet pirates.

Am I Completely Invisible Behind A VPN?

If we ignore factors like DNS leaks then yes, your target will not be able to trace you.
But if you do something illegal using a VPN and the victim contacts police, you will get caught because the VPN Server has users information stored and they will give it police right away.
Many paid VPN providers claim that they don’t store logs. Don’t fall into such traps because they keep logs! Every VPN provider keeps logs!
And never trust a VPN client which is not famous or is cracked version or something because it can lead to privacy risks as your data goes through their servers.
So if you think you can use a VPN to hide yourself during hacking, you are wrong my friend.
That’s all for now.
I know I didn’t tell you which VPN providers are good and how to setup a server because I will write an article about it soon.
So just stay tuned and keep learning.

Also Read: How To Setup And Use Proxy Chains? Are They Safe?


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