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April 11, 2017updated 12 Oct 2022 4:35pm

What is a VPN?

By Joao Lima

VPN stands for virtual private network. VPNs are used to increase security in networks that are not so safe for data to travel around by encrypting connections.

A connected VPN (Image: Shutterstock)

Why use a VPN?

VPNs are used to bulk up privacy in public networks, like internet and Wi-Fi connections. This makes them a favourite with businesses when it comes to protecting their data.

Businesses can for example set up VPN connections so their employees can still access company data, via an intranet portal for example, while away from the office.

They also have personal uses among people who wish to keep their web browsing activities private in sensitive locations or access information that is geo-locked in their part of the world – for example under China’s ‘great firewall’.

What are the security protocols for VPNs?

VPNs also have authentication capabilities and tampering alert functions.

Security protocols included in VPNs are Internet Protocol Security (IPsec), Transport Layer Security (SSL/TLS), Datagram Transport Layer Security (DTLS), Microsoft Point-to-Point Encryption (MPPE), Microsoft Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol (SSTP), Multi Path Virtual Private Network (MPVPN), and Secure Shell (SSH) VPN.

VPNs have also given way to the creation of virtual private LAN services (VPLS), and layer-2 tunnelling protocols.

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