In this post I will be talking about VPN’s and what they can be used for.
Let’s start with what a VPN is. You may have heard of the term “VPN” before but are unsure of what it means. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and there are many reasons that you might want to use one. Some great examples of what a VPN could be used for is location privacy, encrypting network traffic for anonymous/secure browsing and bridging two networks together.
Now that you know the basics of how a VPN works lets dive a little deeper and see how they encrypt network traffic.
A common encryption cipher used by VPN’s is called AES-256 (Advanced Encryption Standard). This is the same encryption standard adopted by the U.S Government and it is also widely used by security experts worldwide to protect sensitive information.
256 Bit keys means 2256 or 1.1 x 1077 which equates to 115, 792, 089, 237, 316, 195, 423, 570, 985, 008, 687, 907, 853, 269, 984, 665, 640, 560, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 combinations! A brute-force attack on a 256-bit keyspace is simply infeasible even if all the world’s most power supercomputers ran for as long as the universe has existed so far, billions and billions of times over.
How can VPN’s be implemented into a business?
VPN’s play a huge part in everyday business. One reason being that VPN’s can be used to bridge two networks together. To give you an example of this imagine your companies Head Office is in the middle of London and you then open a new branch at the top of Scotland. You can virtually bridge the Head Office network to your new branch which will then allow you to send data from one another. An easy way to think of this would be to picture a very long, virtual, ethernet cable that connects both sites together. This could work well if one of the new branches of a company does not have a physical server as the devices there can virtually connect to the Head Office network and access the main server there.
VPN’s are not just used for bridging two buildings networks together. They can be used if an employee is out of the office on a business trip. A good example would be if you’re in an airport and you need to access a certain file which is saved on the Head Office server. Not only would using a VPN connect you to the Head Office network so you can access your file but it also provides the security needed using airport Wi-Fi as the traffic would be encrypted.
Why do cyber criminals use VPN’s?
Cybercriminals tend to use VPN’s for the same reason as you and I would, for security. The unfortunate fact about this means it becomes extremely hard to trace where the cybercriminal committed said crime. If you refer to my video on email spoofing, it’s often very hard to find out where a spoof email originated from. This is because a VPN’s can be used to mask your physical location therefore making it appear like you’re somewhere else.
More information on VPN’s can be found in this Wikipedia article.