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Last Post by Rose Ab
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A virtual private network, or VPN is used to create a secure connection (tunnel) over an unsecured or untrusted network.

A VPN connection is generally referred to as a tunnel, because the packets that are sent between the VPN end-points are encapsulated. From the point of view of the two VPN endpoints, there is a layer-2 tunnel. Packets go into the tunnel from one endpoint and come out of the tunnel received by the other end-point.

If VPN packets are intercepted, they will not be readable because of the securtiy features built into VPN.

Edited by JorgeM

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JorgeM is spot on, but I'd like to add a few key characteristics and uses of a VPN. Virtual Private Networks exist when a private network (such as a corporate or home network) extends to another geographic location through the use of the public telecommunications infrastructure (I.E. The Internet).

One of the biggest uses for a VPN in the current digital age is for corporation to allow their staff to remotely connect to their private network from home, cafes or just about anywhere with an internet connection!

Two LANs will use a WAN to connect to eachother, however to the two LANs will access their network resources differently and their resources, such as printers, scanners or network drives are not shared. The beauty of a VPN is that all users share their resources as though all persons connected are sitting on the same LAN.

Most VPNs are secure and utilise some of the latest protocols and technologies such as IPSec, SSL/TLS, SSTP, SSH, MPPE and more.

For accurate and trustworthy authentication network to network connections often rely on a password or digital certificate - this allows the VPN to establish automatically without any user intervention. The password or signing of the digital certification must be the same on both ends of the tunnel. Before a tunnel is established both ends of the tunnel must authenticate.

The most popular authentication method used by corporations for their users are SecureID tokens, followed by a standard password and then biographic/cryptographic authetication.

I hope some of the above helps you out,
Michael

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People technically discribed VPN very well, so I'll focus on some important uses of it:

1) Use Public or Hotel wi-fi securely:
Some people use VPNs at Wi-Fi hotspots to prevent snoopers from collecting private information. Generally, the most effective way to keep your data from entering the wrong hands is by using a VPN service which makes all Internet use totally private and secure.

2) Secure Communication Between Sites:
Many businesses today have branch offices, and connect these branches to the main office over the Internet using a site-to-site VPN connection. For example, a businesses can enable workers with laptops on the road or at home to connect to the company network as if they were sat at a desk in the office.

3) Bypass the Web Censorship and Content Surveillance:
Some countries put up firewalls to restrict what their residents see, hear, and share with other people within and beyond their borders. Connecting to a VPN server will enable you to 'tunnel out' of the censorship restrictions and access the full World Wide Web.

4) Access to the restricted contents:
By using a VPN account, you can manipulate your machine's IP address to specific location like US, therein you can unlock access to Netflix and Streaming Content from Outside the USA. (As a TV freak, I used to watch Netflix on purevpn.com but don't have free time to watch it anymore, what a pitty! :) )

You can rent your own VPS and config it as a VPN server Which is fairly easy to set up especially on windows server.

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